Do you remember your heart skipping a beat when you saw the price tag of your child’s desired toy? Man, it must’ve been a real upset saying no and seeing their face transfigure from a look that glimmered with longing to an unpaintable downcast, enough to make Picasso tear up.
But if there’s any consolation, I believe you made the right call in skimping the expensive toy. We often buy into the wrong kind of toys when we give in to the eye-catching marketing tactics of companies and as a result, we shell out more money than we should.
But what’s wrong with expensive toys?
The Deal with Expensive Toys
Aside from the brand, the cost of toys is determined by several other factors, including:
The cost of production
The number of features; and
The electronic property
And this steep pricing is disheartening to most parents, including Jenn Choi, founder of Toys are Tools, as she said:
“Toy stores, it turns out, are the worst place to buy toys. The educational aisle is even more upsetting, filled with battery-operated toys with cartridges, sounds, and styluses.”
Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with battery-operated toys, they rarely add intellectual value to children that play them. They may look enticing at face value, but there’s an inverse correlation between the cost of the toy and the number of learning that kids can get from them.
The fact is, toys are more than pastimes. Instead, they should be a source of fun and invaluable learning for kids. And you don’t need expensive, electronic, battery-operated toys to do that. We’ll dig more into this in a bit.
Here are five reasons to skimp expensive toys and choose affordable options instead.
5 Reasons Not to Buy Expensive Toys (and Choose Simple Toys, Instead!)
1. Inexpensive retro toys are healthier for children
Simple retro toys are better for children, but they're often kept behind shelves because they're not as marketable to parents. Developmental psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek explains that these simple toys often lack the enticing features and fancy boxes that expensive toys have.
Expensive electronic toys have specific designs and manners of play. So instead of controlling the flow of playtime, kids become the audience while they press some buttons and sit mesmerized at a toy’s flashing lights. These expensive toys dumb kids down by suppressing their independence and culling their inquisitive nature.
All too often, we want toys that keep kids occupied and astonished so we can attend to our tasks. But if we wish toys to be an educational investment, inexpensive and open-ended toys that get them involved, actively thinking, and working are the best ways to go.
2. Expensive toys often limit a child’s creativity
The developmental psychologist believes that children are creative problem-solvers and active discoverers. So they’ll need toys that will reinforce their already inherent characteristics, not toys that command what your child does, but ones that enable children to take the lead and be imaginative.
Prof. Roberta Golinkoff gave actionable tips to toy shoppers. According to the child development expert: walk past expensive electronic toys and choose puzzles and blocks instead.
There’s no room for children to be creative when toys do all the work. Expensive toys only want kids to discover all their hidden features, but that’s as far as their involvement goes. On the other hand, simple toys with no instructions enable kids to engage their senses and burst with creative bliss as the playtime ensues.
So ideally, toys should be 90% child and 10% toy. That means their imagination facilitates the majority of the playtime.
3. They’re often a big marketing placebo to get parents to buy
Developmental psychologists say more expensive doesn’t mean more educational.
Professors Golinkoff and Hirsh-Pasek disagree with expensive electronic toy companies claiming to give kids a head start. What parent doesn’t want to provide the best for their child? Toy manufacturers play with this inkling fear that kids will be left behind if they don’t get the latest flashy toy in the market.
But it doesn’t work that way.
Prof. Hirsh-Pasek recommends that parents look closely at the box or read the description. She added:
“If the toy is promising that your child is going to be smarter, it’s a red flag.”
All the more so, companies are now marketing their toys as capable of teaching calculus, coding, or new languages. But experts say the probability of this is slim to none, even with tremendous parental intervention.
4. They rarely encourage social interaction
Finding out which is better between playing alone vs. playing with friends is debatable. But one thing’s sure, engaging in both are vital pillars for a child’s healthy and normal development.
Social skills are essential attributes of children, but in a tech-centric era where expensive electronic and screened toys dominate the market, it has become increasingly difficult for kids to socialize with their peers.
Expensive toys are often embellished with shimmering lights or shrill music to maintain children's undivided attention. This means there's little to no social interaction involved during play.
When playing with simple, inexpensive toys, your child reclaims the lead and controls the playtime’s flow, making them more aware of their surroundings. And when simple toys are played among peers (or with parents), kids learn to compromise and respond to others’ emotions, thereby honing their emotional intelligence.
5. Kids lose their interest quickly
Most expensive toys have dedicated designs and functionality, relying on their flashy features to keep kids playing. But, the toy will no longer hold any appeal to kids once all the features are exhausted.
A light-up robot toy will always be a light-up robot toy despite its many gradients and patterns. But a kid’s microscope, though it serves a basic purpose, doesn’t lose its value so long as there are specimens and environments worth discovering.
Your child’s interest in a toy will remain if it still piques their curiosity and imagination. Prof. Hirsh-Pasek emphasized that children would revisit a toy repeatedly if it’s good. Otherwise, the box will be more exciting than the toy.
Toys are educational investments, more than they are pastimes. And the right kind of toys is those that keep kids imaginatively engaged without breaking the bank. But inexpensive isn’t always ideal, especially if the quality is sacrificed to give way for affordability.
So finding the sweet spot between a friendly price tag and an excellent quality open-ended toy is the key!
Buy Affordable But Not Cheaply Made!
In this era where expensive toys corner the market, don’t think your child is missing out on anything because they don’t have the latest console or electronic toy yet. Instead of battery-operated devices, they need to devote more time to exercise their imagination and build bridges with their peers through open-ended, inexpensive, and simple toys at a young age.
The STEMscope kids’ microscope is a great place to start if you're looking for one. It’s lightweight, portable, and pocketable — perfect for outdoorsy and adventurous kids. Feel free to read more about it in our STEMscope full review and check our other science gadget collection to see more products.