Far too many toys, better options

Many children are given far too many toys. It isn’t good for them, and the costs is not good for families. Simple old fashioned play endures.

A toyshop owner in Dunedin who is getting out of the business makes these points in: Toyworld story coming to an end

A Dunedin toy shop owner is set to end a 14-year career of ‘‘fun’’.

Linda Verity bought Toyworld Dunedin when it was in the Golden Centre in 2004, then moved it to Vogel St for a year in 2010 before space in Arthur Barnett in the Meridian Mall became available to sub-lease seven years ago.

Now she is closing the store.

Owning a toy shop was ‘‘fun’’, she said.

‘‘It’s cool to sell toys.’’

As any kid will know it’s also cool to get toys. But too many toys has been a problem for a long time.

I remember a family Christmas last century, actually the second Christmas event of the day, an afternoon gathering. After another round of present opening some nephews started chanting “we want more presents, we want more presents”.  At Christmas it can be more common to see a child looking for the next present rather than enjoying and valuing the one they just opened.

Parents give more presents now, and present giving circles have widened substantially to what I experienced as a child – now it’s not just children but also siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunties – there is relentless pressure for the present list to grow.

Ms Verity:

Over the 14 years, children had stopped playing with toys at a younger age

In the past, toys could be sold to children aged up to 14 but now older children preferred cellphones or video games.

‘‘We struggle to find something for an 8-year-old girl.’’

A 10-year-old boy was a struggle to buy for if he didn’t like Lego or science kits.

She’s right. Boys in particular from 8 onwards want something electronic, preferably game related.

She wished people would buy their child one quality toy for Christmas.

‘‘Obviously it goes against the grain because I want to sell them toys but it would be nice not to swamp kids with too many toys, but they do — they want to spoil them.’’

But kids are increasingly swamped, and decreasingly appreciative of what they get.

It’s hard to resist the commercialisation of Christmas, and birthdays, and movies, and just going to get a burger.

I know of one 6 year old who has now over 70 cat toys, ranging from large and expensive, to cheap repeats, where sets and series purchases are pushed, both by marketers and by children.

It is nuts.

I’ve had grandchildren staying over the past couple of weeks. They have really liked a couple of RC cars. But things they have enjoyed over and over:

  • Feeding the hens and collecting eggs, this is a daily compulsion
  • Tree hut
  • Trolley (well used for years)
  • ‘Monster swing’ made from hanging a rope between two trees
  • Digging – a grubber has been popular
  • ‘Tree trampoline’ – a pile of gum tree branches
  • Tree stumps
  • A collection of wood offcuts have been recycled yet again
  • I sliced some branches of different sizes to make some wooden money
  • Back yard cricket
  • A 4 year old has used a fly swatter for a number of things (not swatting flies)

We have visited six different beaches, several playgrounds, gardens, aviary, all only petrol cost. At one playground the most popular thing was a tree for climbing for two children, and the third played most with a branch (at one stage it was a TV, and sticks were rempte controls).

The only significant expense has been $47 for four adults and four children for four hours at the fifty years old Moana Pool. Wave pool, water slide, river, diving boards, inflated obstacle course. This facility is better than any pool complex I have been to in Brisbane (and there the queues for the water slides are awful, strictly controlled and long).

Battery fueled plastic crap usually has a short life span. Some old play pastimes are timeless.

The best thing you can give children is time and engagement. And it’s a lot of fun for adults too.

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  1. Blazer

     /  15th January 2018

    so true…’The best thing you can give children is time and engagement. ‘…the toy trip is imprinting materialism and consumerism,so the kids will grow up to be good hamsters as they enter the…wheel of….capitalist life.

    • Corky

       /  15th January 2018

      Like rust, a good socialist never sleeps,

    • Gezza

       /  15th January 2018

      That’s true. What drives this increasing supply of presents and toys is parents feeling they have to “keep up with the Joneses”. The Jones’s kids have got everything and you notice, & your kids notice & tell you. If you don’t get the same things for your kids, they’re “deprived”.

  2. Corky

     /  15th January 2018

    Can’t disagree with anything said here. I have experienced it. While the kids are playing video games, I’m playing with their toys they have no interest in…and have never played with.

    • Blazer

       /  15th January 2018

      you do have a tendency to throw them out of the…cot….now..and..again.

    • Sunny

       /  15th January 2018

      It’s even harder with the second child, as you want to be fair but you already have all the stuff. For Christmas and birthdays we bought a few special experiences this year instead of things. A trip to the Vero water park, a horse riding tip at the beach, a pass for the mountain bike park etc.

  3. Pickled Possum

     /  15th January 2018

    Learning to chainsaw fire wood for winter
    Sighting the gun n for the possum hunt hehe
    Chopping wood for the fire to cook the kai
    heat the water to wash the dishes

    All the while their Technology devices thrown to a far corner,
    Become avid readers again, having conversation about sexism and bigotry
    and racism, at their prompting.
    ages 6-11-12.

    Weeding the garden, picking fruit straight off the tree
    and into their mouths. Swimming till way after dark,
    in the para pool sent from an angel.

    Watch a movie on netflix and or listen to the story of
    te Nga Manu in Gezza Stream.
    Especially bout that cute furry little comedian Pickles. 😎

    I sometimes wonder when some of these tweeny tech heads grow up
    will they be pointing the delete button at their, gone past their use by date … Partners?
    Will Trade Me have a trade-up partner page, has it already.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  15th January 2018

    Learning to do things and make things. A ball and a bat or racquet. A pet to play with and look after. Exploring. Real world stuff separates the sheep from the goats.

    • PartisanZ

       /  15th January 2018

      Yep, and that’s what we want to do, separate them into categories to commence profiling …

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  15th January 2018

        They separate themselves into those who can cope with the real world and those who can’t, PZ.

        • PartisanZ

           /  15th January 2018

          Each of them is relating to the ‘real world’ as they perceive it to be Alan … How can it possibly be otherwise?

          Just like each person, each of us, has our own ‘truth’ …

          And yes, there are commonalities. To you and I the tree looks substantively the same, but who can say what it looks like to a bird, or a beetle … or a three year old?

          Next in your ‘real world’ trope comes “humans compete intensely on every level to gain individual superiority and hence status over one another” … et al ad Ludwig & Milton … eh?

          “It’s a jungle out there” …

          Well …….. it is FOR YOU if you perceive it to be ….

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  15th January 2018

            Skills, experience and confidence separate them and dictate their lives, PZ. You can wish it otherwise but evolution doesn’t care.

  5. robertguyton

     /  15th January 2018

    I gave home-grown fruit trees at Christmas. My son made his son a swing from a slab of macrocarpa and rope, and a weta-hotel from an interesting chunk of barky pine. My daughter baked delicious cakes as gifts.
    Which are better, sheep or goats?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  15th January 2018


      Some boys near me made a tree house that they proudly showed to me. Yesterday I stood and watched boys eeling in the nearby stream and gaving a great time. A few summers ago I saw one in a really old, beautifully kept pedal car. Children are still doing this sort of thing. Little girls still have dolls houses. I see tyre swings in trees (painful on the bum unless something was on them)

      One of my favourite things as a child was a large piece of driftwood. Tiny dolls could use it for all sorts of things, my brother’s soldiers could use it as a fort or battleground. We had blocks that were a sort of Lego, but I found these palled-they could only do so much and never looked different.A box of wooden offcuts was far better, much more imaginative things could be done with them. My mother once taught in the ‘hospital school’ and found that fancy toys lost their novelty quite soon-there were only so many times that a helicopter could fly before it became boring.

      People have been saying forever that this generation has too many toys !!! In a 1947 book that I have, Aldous Huxley is cynical about the commercialism of Christmas and how this is what it meant then,

  6. Im guilty of the toy thing, we picked up 250 bux worth of someones thomas the tank engine train set for 60 bux on facebook.second hand, and now I am constantly prowling on trademe to expand his/my collection 🙂

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  15th January 2018

      (turns away in horrified silence at this shameless commercialism)

      • Pickled Possum

         /  15th January 2018

        But miss you gotta admit the kidz got style, those glasses, that hat and
        not only does he say loud and proud he buys Second Hand,
        he also plays with trains and is a trade me and facebook freak…
        Now that takes gutz. Got to admire the man.


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