Mid year marks the occasion of the big chain stores’ toy sales. At this time each year, K-Mart, Big-W, Target and the like compete for your dollars as parents scramble over the latest plastic fantastic toys for their children. Literally, parents line up by their trolley-fulls (even commonly in the plural form) around the perimeters of the stores for the lay-buy counters, aiming to purchase ahead for Christmas. I should know, because I’ve been one of them.

Gemma was still shy of six months old when Clinton and I were enthusiastic participants in the consumer frenzy. Two hours and $150 later, and our precious cherub was set for Christmas and birthday. Could I tell you which of these toys we still have? No.


I’ve since wisened, and perhaps my change of heart may inspire your own. The stark truth is, we’ve lost the plot when it comes to the toy sales. We’re buying over-priced, under-quality, seasonal toys that will no doubt find their wrongful place in landfill.

My change of heart was rather thrust upon me, when we financially suffered for most of last year. I simply couldn’t partake in the toy sales even if I had wanted to. Thus, I had to become creative as to how I could fulfill the role of Santa/spoiling parent for my two children. As it turned out, it was a rather enjoyable experience.

Kmart toy catalogue

Through visiting garage sales, and some online thrifting, I spent around $60, and every single one of those toys they still have, and still enjoy. Some of them included:

  • large roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex – $2
  • brand new in the box sealed maraccas – $5
  • matchbox cars, including uber cool ones like a mini moke – 50c
  • wiggles stuff including books, DVDs, plush toys, and puzzles – $20
  • various puzzles – $1 each
  • wooden train set – $5
  • thick cardstock quality flash card/activity sets (I’m talking thick puzzle-board type quality)- $2-5 each
  • Pooh bear activity/sound toy – $5
  • Bicycle – $20

The one toy I bought brand new was an Emma Wiggles doll from Big W for $40. I thought this would be the winning big-ticket item for Gemma. Within a week, the clothes the doll came with were falling apart, the bow in her hair had come apart, and the limbs were anything but secure, often finding them scattered throughout the house. I was not impressed.

Since that experience, I have been a huge advocate of second hand toys, especially those that are wooden/quality made. I love the idea that these toys have already been played with, and now my children will receive joy from them as well. In fact, it is now a principle of mine not to buy a new toy, if I can source it secondhand. I save a bucket load of money in the process, and don’t add to the huge amount of resources that go into producing new toys.

So I ask you to just consider the necessity of buying those new plastic toys for your child this year. Will your child care if it’s second hand? If they do, do you care if they care – is this telling you something? Will this toy just add to landfill by next year when it’s no longer ‘popular’? Will this toy last being handed down to another child? (There are certainly ones that will – particularly Fisher Price and Lamaze). And lastly, does my child really actually care if they get this or not?

Are we buying for our children, or for ourselves as parents, to ‘feel good’ about providing things for our children?

I’ll end the post with this common knowledge:

  • the box the toy came in will be more fun than the toy

Perhaps we should place more faith in our child/s imagination, and leave them to their creative pursuits?