Remember, It's The Kids You're Buying The Toys For

I guess you could say that I’ve liked toys since I was a child, but since I became a parent my love for them has diminished rapidly. Instead of being things that give me  great pleasure their role in my life has transformed. They are now “things that I put into a box a hundred times a week”, “things I stand on in the dark”, “things I hope will entertain the kids long enough for me to make a phone call”, “things I find under the cushion when I sit down”, “things that cause my children to fight” and things that we have too many of.

That said, more toys come into this house every year and I’ll support that, Santa is welcomed with open arms.  Santa around here “gets” that toys are for kids. They’re the ones that are supposed to get the enjoyment out of them and that’s what he brings them.

Therefore, I laugh, almost hysterically, when I hear toys being described as “beautifully crafted”, or “hand-painted”. I consider the way that my children play with toys and I pray for the poor toy that ends up being subjected to such rough love.

I see beautiful shops selling “artisan toys”, handmade scooters, wooden kitchens, stunning rag dolls. Gorgeous. For grown-ups.

Here’s the deal. Kids, in my experience, don’t much care for the love and attention that went into making a toy. They are not crazy for the monochrome trend.  They like plastic. They like noisy. They like bright colours. They like the characters that their parents dislike most.


I’ll just leave this here

If your daughter asks for a doll she probably wants the same one that everyone in her class has, not a one-off bespoke one.

I’m not saying that pastel pink hand-painted wooden kitchen isn’t beautiful, it is. And it would look stunning in the corner of your kitchen. But toys aren’t about you. They’re about your kid. Adults need to think of the kids when buying toys.

After all, an adult is unlikely to hide a half-eaten apple or almost-finished yogurt pot in the toy fridge.  Your child on the other hand will probably do that within an hour of owning it. When you’ll discover it is another matter, and  antibacterial spray isn’t kind to handpainted wooden finishes.

I’m not saying that children shouldn’t be encouraged to like or appreciate beautiful things. I’m saying that kids should be allowed to like hideous lumps of plastic and we should embrace them into our lives for the short years that we have young children.

So, if your child is fixated on an awful plastic ugly toy, and really, really wants it from Santa, and if you can afford it and have room for it, then you know what to do. If the kid wants the plastic one, get the kid the plastic one.

And if Santa brings the amazingly beautiful family heirloom mock-tudor doll’s house instead of the poor quality Barbie mansion that your eight-year-old daughter asked for, prepared yourself for the fact that while she might be blown away by it initially, inside she might in fact be a little  disappointed. 

She’ll realise in time how beautiful a gift it is, and you’ll realise how much she wanted the plastic crap. She’s not ungrateful, honest. And when she’s nine, she’ll ask for it again, and Santa will bring it. And someday when she’s got kids of her own she’ll make sense of it all, and perhaps even move the family heirloom into her own house.

 Sorry, Mam and Dad, thirty two years on.

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  1. As you know I have a deep hatred for all things plastic. The sound of it, just sitting there. The smell. The door that comes off in your hand, again. I hate it I hate it (bah humbug). All I can say is I am eternally grateful that a) my girl had asked for a wooden kitchen (cue mammy looking at all those fancy ones for €200) and (even more exciting) b) she specifically wants the €80 IKEA one. Yessssss.
    I can also day that if in the future she does want that chagrin-inducing plastic heap of shite, I will come to you and I will get you to give me a good dramatic slap and force me to send santa the cheque. Then I can always say to her that was the reason I started drinking. 😉

  2. I waxed evangelical about how much better the lovely wooden stuff was for our children when really it was because I couldn’t stand it. (Still can’t) but with two 5-year-olds who know EXACTLY what they want – Santa knows what side his bread is buttered on and brings the ugly stuff regardless.

    I’ve kept the wooden stuff though… it’s too nice to get rid of!

  3. Sorry Sinéad.
    But you’re right. Glad you could say it and it is more important to look at the world through the eyes of the seven year old . And it does make a big difference..
    But Santy did eventually get you magna doodle- even though you were twenty!

    • 🙂 I think I was “only” 16 when I got magnadoodle, and I was delighted with it. I understand both sides now, back then I didn’t. Miss L will love the dolls house in time, we’ll just build an extension on for it:)

  4. This made me chuckle! We bought a vtech activity table for one of our children for Christmas and my partner’s first comment was, “Oh, it’s vtech. It’s going to have a really annoying voice isn’t it? At least vtech also have a sound control button.” The sound control button is actually listed on the box as a ‘parent friendly feature’.

    • All the v-tech ladies have annoying voices, but they’re great toys and that volume control is brilliant. (And I’m glad that my kids are almost past them!) Peppa has a more annoying voice than Vtech lady though !

  5. Some of our Vtech toys may have had the batteries run down and not be replaced… I just can’t deal with the bloody songs starting by themselves and the wrong words! This year we’ve gone the wooden route (Lidl style, yay) but its things like a train set and a car park, so as long as his tiny things with wheels can make their way around them we shouldn’t have a problem. As a former owner of a plastic kitchen which lasted YEARS, they may be ugly but they’re definitely easier to wipe down…

  6. I definitely thought I’d be all about the wooden toys before I had kids, and I remember Santa brought a gorgeous wooden house to my eldest for her first or second Christmas and she never played with it once, and from then on, we embraced the plastic. Well, you know, embraced with barely concealed horror 🙂

  7. I have to admit to loving some of our kids’ obnoxious plastic toys, especially the vtech play computer and the electronic cash register. Thankfully my husband became adept at stealing noisy toys away after bedtime, retrofitting them with sound attenuators, and returning them to their proper places before morning. No joke. It was a life saver.

  8. We’ve been embracing the plastic for years with the exception of a wooden dolls house for Caoimhe when she was small that Abbie & Harry still play with now and a wooden kitchen for Abbie’s 2nd birthday (decision based on the countless plastic kitchens we went through with 3 older kids) Kitchen is played with everyday along with a gazillion plastic teasets. I also picked up one of Lidl’s wooden train sets for Harry this year, it’ll go great with his very plastic but very sturdy garage I think 🙂

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