Beg, Borrow, and Swap

Remember the 1970’s special Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town?  Sometimes, I could take on the role of Burgermeister Meisterburger.  After tripping over and cleaning up piles of toys that are not being played with, I want to gather them all up, torch them, and put a permanent ban on cars, blocks, and train sets.

Ok, I’m not really that much of a cold-hearted cat.  But it can be frustrating to be in a house full of amazing toys, and have kids who seemed to be bored with all of them.  The worst is when I relent, buy some new gizmo that I’m sure will spark their imaginations, only to have it discarded after a couple of minutes- you know, just long enough so that it is out of the packaging, played with, and can’t be returned.  In true infomercial style, I want to shake my fist and shout “there has to be a better way!”

There is- borrow and swap!

At a play date a year or so ago, my son became fascinated with a toy car that transformed into a dinosaur.  When it came time to leave, he was reluctant to let the car go.  I removed it from his hands and attempted to distract him with putting on his shoes.  To my surprise, the hostess asked him “would you like to borrow the car?”

Such a simple idea, too simple.  Why had I never thought of it?  I guess I assumed loaning and borrowing toys was a bad idea.  The child loaning would not want to give up the toy.  The child borrowing would not want to return it.  The toy could get broken.  We might forget to return it.  It turns out, none of those things were really an issue.

The mother advised that she tries to teach her kids to share (like we all do), and that includes borrowing toys.  Early on in the loaning process, her son had a bit of trepidation with lending toys, but as he saw the items come back to him, the reluctance went away.  It also helped when other mothers began to reciprocate the process, and let him borrow toys from their children.

This past week, a girlfriend and I swapped train sets- both high dollar items.  Their family had Chuggington.  We had Geotrax.  Both families had new toys to play with for the week.  When we swapped the sets back, it was like getting a new toy.  My boys who hadn’t played with the Geotrax in a month, were once assembling trax and making towns.  New toy, not a dollar spent.

It’s also a great way to try out a toy, to see if it worth buying.  I love building toys because they can be played with in multiple ways.  I’ve been looking for a new system to try, and came across a set of geometric shapes that could hook together.  My friend had a set and let us give them a go for a few days.  I saved myself $40 because it turns out my son had zero interest in playing with them.

Another great idea is to have a toy swap.  If you have been to a clothing swap, this is the exact same idea.  You and your friends get together with all the toys your kids have outgrown or don’t play with anymore.  You swap your items.  Everyone leaves with new toys.  Anything not claimed gets donated.

The first swap, the other mothers and I were so worried that the kids would not want to give away their old toys, even though they didn’t play with them.  We needn’t have stressed about it.  As everyone puts out their items, the room filled with toys.  The kids did not care about that old block set they haven’t looked at in ages- they were be too busy laying claim to some new item of fascination.  Of course the more families you have participating, the better the haul.

If you are fortunate, your city might have a formal toy library that loans toys, or a swap and play facility.  A quick google search will have the answer.

Yes, you’re still going to be cursing when you step on some toy or doll that should have been put away- but at least you won’t have to pay for the privilege.


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