If you're a parent, you might sometimes feel as though you spend half your life picking up after your kids. And, when you consider the huge number of toys Brits buy for their little ones, it's hardly surprising that our homes are often overflowing with stuff. Every year in the UK, we buy around 381 million new toys — that's enough to stock Hamleys, the world's biggest toy shop, 847 times, and enough to fill the O2 Arena nearly three times over.
But, where does it all end up? Kids don't stay kids forever, and before long, they will have grown out their favourite toys. By treating our little ones to the latest must-have toy, are we inadvertently creating a huge waste problem?
Here at Plastic Box Shop, we crunched the numbers and found that the average child has owned:
· 190 toys by the age of 5
· 342 toys by the age of 9
· 493 toys by the age of 13
By the time they hit their 13th birthday, the average UK child will have owned a staggering 493 toys over the course of their childhood — enough to fill 34.2 wheelie bins. When you think about it this way, it's easy to see just how much waste can be generated when a child grows out of their toys.
To add to matters, lots of modern toys are made from plastic and other non-recyclable materials, meaning most of those toys will most likely end up in landfills, where they may take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose. So, how can families cut down on waste without missing out on the fun of buying new toys?
The answer may lie in making mindful purchases and finding ways to re-home, re-purpose, or re-cycle toys once your child no longer needs them. Here, we’ve shared how you can cut the environmental impact of your little one's playtime in three steps.
Having too many toys might be harmful from an environmental perspective, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should stop buying them completely. Besides keeping the kids entertained, toys can be incredibly beneficial: they stimulate imaginative play, help develop motor skills and co-ordination, and many also have educational benefits too. And, birthdays and Christmases would certainly be a lot less exciting without a few new toys.
So, how can we balance the need to buy new toys with reducing consumption and waste? One solution might be to try to shop more mindfully. That means thinking carefully before buying new toys and trying to choose things that you know will be played with often. Where possible, buying vintage or second-hand toys can also help to prevent perfectly good items going to landfill simply because a child has grown out of them.
Having toys all over the house isn't just messy — it also increases the likelihood of a favourite toy getting trodden on or broken. Putting toys away properly can help to keep them in good condition for longer. Not only does this reduce the need for replacements, but by keeping the toys in a decent condition, you ensure they can be sold or donated when they're no longer needed, too. So, invest in some quality toy storage boxes, and get organising!
Lisa Lyons, mother of two and Ecommerce Manager at Plastic Box Shop, recommends creating a storage system that's easy for children to use: "Try not to overcomplicate things. Ideally, you want a system where the kids can just grab their stuff and put it in a drawer or tray with minimum fuss. They're much more likely to actually tidy up if you make it easy for them.
"Plastic drawer storage units are great for this, especially those with transparent fronts. This way, your kids can see what's in each compartment, so they won’t make a mess pulling everything out next time they want a particular toy. If you want to go the extra mile — and you think your kids will stick to it — you could also add labels to show which bits and bobs go in each compartment, like train sets in one drawer, farm animals in another, and so on. This can be very helpful if the kids are always hassling you because they can't find a certain toy.
"Finally, make the most of every nook and cranny! Those awkward spots, like under the bed or on top of the wardrobe, are great for stashing toys that don't get played with very often. I'd recommend looking for storage on wheels for under the bed, as these will be easier for the kids to access."
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to reduce the environment impact of your kids' toys is to dispose of them in a responsible, ethical, and eco-friendly way. There are a number of ways to get rid of old toys without sending them to landfill.
Selling your unloved toys will ensure they go to a new home rather than the bin. Plus, you could make a bit of extra cash this way. There are plenty of places to sell old toys online these days, like eBay and Depop, but you can also sell them in-person at car boot sales or garage sales.
Before selling, you might want to check what price similar toys are fetching online. Some vintage toys can fetch a lot of money these days, so you could have a goldmine gathering dust in your loft. You'll generally get a better price by selling through a specialist site, like Toy Hunter or In Demand Toys, so it’s well worth checking whether your items are eligible.
Not all children are fortunate enough to have an overflowing toy box. By donating your kids' unwanted toys to charity that helps children or families, you can bring joy to vulnerable children while also ensuring your old stuff isn't going to landfill.
If you donate your old toys to a charity shop, you can be sure that any money raised from the sale of your unwanted goods will be going to a good cause of your choice. If your kids are a bit older, you may find that they enjoy getting involved in the process of choosing a charity and learning about how their unwanted toys will benefit those in need.
There are always lots of places seeking donations, including:
· The British Heart Foundation accepts in-store donations and has a collection service for bulkier items, like climbing frames and Wendy houses.
· Toys 4 Life, a charity that focuses on recycling and reusing plastic toys.
· The Toy Project repurposes toys for children in the UK as well as throughout India, Africa, and the Caribbean.
· Charity shops in your local area may be open to accepting toys in a good condition.
· Family shelters and domestic violence refuges in your local area may be interested in donations.
Your little one might have grown out of their toys, but they might have friends, neighbours, or family who would love to play with them. So, next time you have a clear-out, ask around and see if anyone would like to take any of your unwanted toys. If you live in a neighbourhood with lots of kids, it could be as simple as placing them outside your door in a box labelled "free toys" — they'll disappear before you know it!
Sometimes, old toys might be in too poor a condition to donate or sell, especially if they were a much-loved favourite. But, before you bin them, take a moment to think about whether you could find a way to repurpose them in some way. With a bit of creativity, lots of toys can be given a new lease of life or used in craft projects — take a look at this list of ideas from DIY & Crafts to get some inspiration.
Looking to cut the environmental cost of your kids' playtime? Try following the three steps we've shared here and you should be able to reduce the number of toys you're sending to landfill.
Here at Plastic Box Shop, we offer an unrivalled selection of home storage solutions for every room in the home, including storage boxes for girls and boys that are just right for kids' bedrooms. So, you can find everything you need to get on top of all those toys cluttering your home.
Average toy ownership figures based on annual UK toy sales (Statista) divided by UK child age group populations (Statista) in 2014–2018. Average toy size based on the top 10 best-selling toys for Christmas 2018 (Mirror); dimensions taken from Amazon. To see all sources, data, and calculations, please click here.