Toy Shopping and the "Need to Have"

By , October 29, 2007 9:54 pm

One of the things that bothers me about shopping for toys is that “need to have” feeling. It seems that there are two ends of the “need to have” spectrum.

One end is the commercial, media and advertising-driven branding that occurs, where children “need to have” the latest Tickle Me Elmo, or Bratz doll. As an unplugged household, my children are not subjected to the same barrage of ads so this is not such a problem. They do pick up some information on the playground at school (even at their small Montessori school). They know who Sponge Bob and the Disney Princesses are, but they really don’t know much about all the character toys out there.

Even if we venture to the toy aisle of Walmart or Kmart (unfortunately our only two local “toy store” options), they are interested in looking, and sometimes express interest, but don’t “need to have” those popular toys. They love inspecting toy catalogs that come in the mail and often see something in there that they “need,” especially my son (age 5) and especially if it involves a weapon (I feel another post coming on about that subject!). But they are blissfully unaware of what is truly popular.

The other end of the spectrum of “toy need” is that of the “natural” toys, Waldorf-inspired toys, or Montessori-inspired toys. I believe that this “need” is driven more by parents than children. Many parents, myself included, want to supply their child with good quality, non-toxic (hopefully), long-lasting, educational toys. We “unplugged parents” don’t believe in the huge wave of new electronic toys marketed as being educational. We believe in simple, classic toys without noises or flashing lights. Toys such as blocks, playsilks, simple wooden vehicles or dolls for example, are what we choose to buy for our children.

As a member of this second group, I love all those “Unplugged Toy Stores” that I link to in my left sidebar. The truth is however, that these toys are expensive for what they are, and the toys are often imported from Europe (which of course leaves a larger carbon footprint). Amanda of The Rowdy Pea recently wrote a wonderful post with some suggestions for making many of these toys yourself.

– Fun! (“Unplugged Project” anyone?)
– Inexpensive, or even free in some cases.
– And quality you can trust because you made it yourself!

I guess I’ll still seek out those websites, and buy those toys, but if I can make it easily myself, then I should really try to do that and feel a lot better about the whole “unplugged toy” shopping process! Thanks Amanda!

A few interesting toymaking links:

MotheringDotCommune-Toys and Dolls Page (discussion forum of – interesting posts and suggestions for making your own Waldorf dolls and toys.
– plans for making your own playstands – $17.99 (but honestly, as Amanda points out, playstands seem pretty simple and a semi-decent handy-person should probably be able to figure it out.

(*Great blog!*) Echoes of a DreamBasic instructions for making a Waldorf doll, her hanging fairies are lovely too!

Waldorf Doll photo from Wikimedia Commons, photographer Sebastian Sprenger, click here for full license information.

5 Responses to “Toy Shopping and the "Need to Have"”

  1. Ragnar says:

    I was just thinking about this the other day. I have a 10 week old, and I’ve bought two toys a week for the last two weeks. This weekend Papa and Big Sister and I were in one of those educational toy stores looking at the 0+ toys. “I want one that vibrates,” said Papa. “I want one with a mirror,” says me. “I want one with a squeaker,” said Big Sis. We spent almost $40 on toys for a baby that doesn’t even grab things yet, although he does seem pretty entertained by us waving them at him.

    Of course he’s pretty entertained by lights and bouncing as well and we have those already.

  2. Jenny says:

    I enjoyed Amanda’s post a lot too, and it was so well-timed, as yours was. It’s so easy to fall into the expensive natural toy trap, isn’t it? Like you, I’ll probably still buy some of that stuff, but I wish I had greater confidence in my ability to make more things. It’s an issue I need to deal with, because I have a feeling CJ wouldn’t care if it was “perfect”. I’d love to have my semi-handy husband start on playstands, but I wonder what kind of equipment you need to make those? Thanks for the links and thought-provoking post!

  3. amanda says:

    Hey thanks for the shout out, lol/

    I love this post, it is so true!! You really hit the nail on the head here. There is pressure toward consumerism on both sides of the high-tech/low-tech toys. I’m with the rest of you, I’ll probably be buying a few things but trying not to get caught up in the hype. My “dream playroom” has everything to do with me and my interests, anyway. I have faith that my son can grow and thrive with and/or without all of the “essential” toys, whether they are the Disney/Barbie/Legos or the Organic/Waldorf/Natural.

    Oh by the way, those playstands were so easy to make. We traced an ironing board to get the shape, cut it with a jigsaw (under $30) and laid the shelf across the sides with two little wooden braces and some screws and glue. Then sanded them a whole bunch. easy, easy, easy! They won’t be mistaken for the $300 ones if they were side-by-side, but they are sturdy and safe and look nice. My son loves them. Even if you had to purchase all the tools they would still be under $100 for a pair. Plus you MADE them, so that’s a great example for the kids, and a really good “unplugged project” too! Don’t be fooled by the “mystique” of expertise. We have a lot more abilities than we usually give ourselves credit for :)

  4. Bill Pine says:

    I was looking through you list of great unplugged toy stores and thought I would recomend one in MN. It is called Wonderment and it is just amazing. One of the owners teaches classes from begining needle felting to wooden sword making to waldorf water color painting. I thoght you might want to check them out and add them to your list if you like what you see.



    Bill Pines last blog post..1

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