Don’t get any toys

Having read this article on the connection between business and the mommy wars, I’ve been thinking about how so many posts on parent blogs are geared towards getting people to BUY stuff. I’m therefore starting a little series called “Don’t get…” offering a light-hearted look at some of the things new parents perhaps don’t need quite so badly.

One of my most persistent Christmas memories is going through the Obletter Christmas catalogue. For those who didn’t grown up in Bavaria, Obletter is Munich’s answer to FAO Schwarz. It has life-size cuddly bears in the entrance, at least it did back in the day when I was a kid. These days it’s probably transformers or vampires.

Back to the catalogue. It was awesome. It had everything a child could dream of and many things more. So every year I sat down to the complicated task of marking the things I wanted. I remember feeling that this was quite a serious endeavour. Which items were necessary for my next year? What would make me happy? What was my identity? Was I more of a Barbie girl or Playmobil house builder (truth be told, my parents forbade Barbie dolls so that soul-searching question was answered for me). I’d hand the marked catalogue back to my parents and, being the spoiled only child that I was, got about 10% of what I asked for. I of course forgot all those life-changing toys the moment I closed the pages.

Two decades later and I’m a parent. The toy industry has gone berserk. Many toys that were unthinkably expensive back in the day are now available in bulk at the supermarket. There are toys for fine motor skills, for listening, for reading, for gross motor skills. There are miniature cars that you can actually drive, miniature cooking sets…

As so many things in modern parenting the amount is overwhelming especially because you soon realise that:

a) the box the toy came in is usually more interesting than the contents and

b) the stuff you currently own in your house is even m
ore interesting than anything you could ever buy.

These are my sons favourite toys at 1+:

  • the glass TV cabinet filled with DVDs – he loves taking them out, putting them back, stacking them, ripping the covers to shreds..
  • the kitchen cabinets – on good days I can steer him away from the pots (noisy) and glassware (breakable) towards the Tupperware and baking accessories
  • our bidet – water on, water of. Repeat.
  • any bottle, cup or plate that I or my husband are holding – needless to say the item looses it appeal once the scalding/messy/poisonous substance is removed from the receptacle.

It makes me wonder why we buy any toys at all. In fact, we should all just stop buying toys. I’m pretty sure Einstein didn’t have a Duplo set, nor did van Gogh have an etch-a-sketch. Much better to invest in a nice bidet.

As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Has your house been overtaken by toys? Do you have an absolutely favourite, must-have toy for your baby or toddler?

More of the same: Don’t get a wrapDon’t get a cribThe stroller-free baby, The five essential baby items you don’t need

This time last year: Ode to the ring sling

Happy Mama Happy Baby


  1. Oh, I totally agree that there are some AWESOME toys (lego being one of them). In the “real toy category” baby boy’s favourite is a pretend hammer, screwdriver, nail and screw set from IKEA

  2. Haha! The remote is a classic in our home as well (especially as it can be used like a phone!). I know relatives want to show they care but it sometimes seems overwhelming, doesn’t it?!

  3. Sigh. I’m considering being elected “meanie of the family” and limiting toys to ONE gift per household per occasion. I’m pretty ruthless about eliminating electronic toys from the house and am going to inform relatives than any extra toys will be stored for a future date or given away. They can’t say they weren’t warned!

  4. It’s so true! For his first birthday, baby boy had a whole table of presents (thanks to relatives) and was oblivious to most of them.

  5. Glad you enjoyed this! Love the title of your guide, will definitely check it out. I have a ban on beeping toys so my son goes wild when we visit friends!

  6. I am quite ruthless when it comes to clearing out toys baby boy doesn’t seem to enjoy but I’m not sure how that’s going to work when he gets older…

  7. Do you have any tips for dealing with relatives and toys? Sometimes it feels like our words fall on deaf ears…

  8. You forgot to add “messy” to the list… 😉

  9. The Tubblet loves Lego and it really is a new toy every day. It keeps her occupied for hours and is great for the imagination #advicefromtheheart

  10. We’ve been so lucky with the toys we’ve been given that we’ve hardly bought any (although he still has loads) and Roscoe’s favourite things are definitely the things he sees us using – keys, kitchen equipment and lots and lots of empty plastc bottles. People think I’m trying to be maverick because we haven’t bought him birthday or Christmas presents so far but he doesn’t really understand yet so it seems a waste. As soon as he does we will be teaching him the importance of donation to others 😀 #fromtheheart

  11. This is so true! Up until Baby Girl’s first birthday I felt like we didn’t have enough toys because our living room wasn’t packed the the rafters like some of my mummy friends. This was rectified when she turned one (mostly through being spoiled by our family and friends) but she still has her favourite toys on daily rotation. 1. The remote 2. Plastic cup 3. Her comb 4. Plastic cup. Along with her new fave 5. The hammer that came with her new xylophone x #fromtheheart

  12. “Has your house been overtaken by toys?” Oh man, Yes! We didn’t plan for this to happen. But she’s an only child and an only grandchild and an only great-grandchild. Plus, the extended family only sees her around the holidays, so they all want to give her stuff to remember them by. Four years of this and her stuff now takes up one third of the apartment. Oh, and it just got worse. In the past, I could sneakily weed out the old and unused toys in advance of a gift-giving event but now she remembers. She remembers every single toy she has laid hands on and refuses to part with it. So we’ve implemented two new policies: one for her and one for family. My daughter has been informed she does not get any new toys until she gives away some of the toys she doesn’t use. And my family has a limit to the number of gifts they can give her this coming Christmas. Still, I’m pretty sure nobody is going to listen to me. #fromtheheart

  13. This is a great post. My eldest was not impressed with toys. He loved pots and pans, boxes, spoons, books to stack, dvd’s. My youngest however loved toys that beeped. I would never be without toys altogether but I do think that we don’t need the millions of them that the toy industry suggest we do. We have gone for creative toys like train tracks and when they got a bit older marble run. Other than that we have things that are either good for getting them active or fuelling their imagination. Love your post. I will share it on my Face Book page The Guilt Free Guide To Motherhood. Thank you

  14. I was thinking just the other day we need a clear-out before Christmas – my plan is to put old toys on eBay and use the proceeds for this Christmas! #fromtheheart

  15. We don’t have many toys in our house, and on reflection the other day a conversation with hubster mirrored your words above. Twink is happy to play with anything and everything that is not a toy so why go crazy buying everything advertised – yesterday the only thing that would amuse her in her ill state was to play with a breast pad! I mean, really!
    This is not to say she won’t be getting toys for christmas, but just that they will be considered and monitored – family are on strict instructions to follow our wish list and not fill our house with random crap!



  16. This is just great and so true. For little children it seems almost impossible to pick which toy will be a favourite and which will never be used. Except if said toy is not in fact designed to be a toy (and especially if it is valuable and/or dangerous) then it will always be a hit. 🙂

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