How To Balance Buying Toys For Your Kids With Your Budget And Prudent Parenting

by David Bakke

As a parent of a four-year old son, I always try to be the best parent that I can in every situation. Well, lately, I have had a lot of personal angst over what is the right amount of toys to purchase for my son. There are, in reality, a lot of factors that go into how many toys you purchase for your child(ren). First, can you really afford what you spend on toys for him/them? Second, if you do buy quite a few toys for your child(ren), what affect does that have on them as far as their early impressions of money? You may think you are being a good parent by showering your child(ren) with toys, but is that really the case?

I’d like to examine this topic a little more in depth, and go through some of my thought processes regarding how many toys you should buy for your kids.

How Many Should You Buy?

To begin with, this is a question that I really can’t answer for you. I think that my son slightly more toys than the average child, but I could be wrong. My wife thinks that he has too many toys, and we recently came to an agreement that we will buy him two new toys per month. This is quite a departure from what he is used to. I’ll explain that more in a minute. You’ve really got to answer this question for yourself, but before you do, keep in mind the effect that it might have on your kids in other areas.

My Toy Buying Standpoints

I’ve taken a variety of different stances on how much and how often I buy toys for my son in the recent past. At one point in time, I decided that I would buy toys for him all the time, but would limit most of this to buying toys from the dollar store. Certainly, if this is the only place you shop for toys, then you could probably afford to buy a new  toy for your child each and every day. However, this leads to some bad impressions, in my opinion. First, after awhile, my son came to “expect” a new toy every day. Second, the quality of the toys he was getting was severely limited, compared to the toys you get at typical toy stores. I mean, let’s be honest, 90% of all toys available at a dollar store are for the most part, junk. At best they are toys that your children will not play with for very long. They’ll either break, or they simply won’t have enough features to hold their attention for very long.

Then, I looked to toy buying as almost a means of bribery for my son. “Clean up your room and we’ll go get a new toy.” “Finish your plate and we’ll go to the toy store.” Well, these concepts are all fine and dandy, but they also send the message that every time your child does something that you ask of them, that a new toy is coming. It makes it difficult to impart the much needed lesson for children that some tasks must be completed (without reward) and are just part of life.

The Financial Aspect

Next, you need to look at the financial effect that toy buying has on your monthly budget. Unless your credit cards are paid on time and in full at the end of every month, and all your other bills are up-to-date, and you’re putting away enough for retirement, then you may also be doing a disservice to your children. Make sure that what you’re spending on toys for your kids is truly expendable income. If your own personal financial house is not in order, you may want to look at some of these things before blowing any money on the latest and greatest toy on the market.

Attention Span

I’d also like to re-visit a point I touched on earlier—the attention span of your kids. In today’s society, where it seems that even us adults have a severely handicapped attention span (24 hour news, up to the second updates, emails, text messages, etc.) it is my personal belief that a fostering healthy attention span in your children is also a key point to parenting. If your son or daughter has 50 different toys with which to play with, how does that promote an extended attention span? I see it every day with my son—even if he has a toy that he really likes to play with—since he knows that he has 49 others (so to speak) that he can play with whenever he wants, his general schedule is to play with each to for a few minutes at most–then its on to the next one. Would you not be a better parent by limiting the number of toys that he/she has to ten or so—that way they can learn to concentrate on something for more than a few minutes at a time? I don’t know, maybe I’m overemphasizing the point. But at some point in time, my son is going to need to learn how to concentrate on one thing and one thing only for an extended period of time, especially once he starts school.


I know that this post may not have brought you any definitive answers on the topic, but it really wasn’t designed to do so. My goal in this article was to get parents to think a little more in-depth before they haphazardly fill up their shopping cart at the toy store. On it face, it’s an honest opinion to think that by buying your kids a lot of toys, that you are merely providing for them, but, as my personal experience has shown, buying an unlimited number of toys for your children can have some detrimental effects.

What are your thoughts on how many toys you should buy for your kids?

Your comments are appreciated below.

{ 1 comment }

1 jackson rodgers April 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

My kids are seven and five. How many toys to buy is a question every parent faces. The more toys I buy, the more they seem to want and the less special each toy seems to become.

I buy them toys when they have been especially good and during the holidays, birthdays, etc. Sometimes we go to Walmart or Target to “look, not buy” toys. This teaches them patience and restraint. You don’t always have to buy when you are in the store.

Kids love to play but playtime can be inexpensive. What kids really want is to spend time with mom and dad. To read together, take walks together and to play together. Yes, we also have a Wii and the kids love it.

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