Money Spent on Toddlers: New Age, New Needs, New Market
Ah, the golden age of the toddler: they’re outgrowing their clothing, trying to stick their fingers into light sockets, generally running amuck, racing around on tiptoe, and giggling madly. In the meantime, parents are being bombarded with messages about all the new, developmentally critical stuff they need to buy to ensure their child is healthy, happy, and can qualify for a scholarship to Harvard.
Okay, sure. There are some new purchases that must be made – new clothes, an appropriately-sized bed, and electric socket covers being the most obvious. True confession: I could not have made it through my toddler years without my stuffed lamb and pink blanket (imaginatively named, Lamby and Blanky). But American children have too many possessions and most of do not serve them. Here are four reasons why much of it is a waste of money:
- They won’t love you more. Little kids may love the gift (for a day or two), but at that age they can’t possibly appreciate where or who it came from.
- What lessons are they really learning? Think about what an inundation of toys and tech really teaches children: stuff matters; or worse: gimme lots of stuff.
- The expense. On March 16th I saw an article in the Wall St. Journal about which designer clothes to buy for kids and thought my head would explode. Designer clothes for a kid who’s going to outgrow it in a few months and will probably spill ice cream down the front? No, thank you. The same goes for the latest toddler “must have” toy. Nine times out of ten, this stuff represents money better spent towards your child’s education fund or your own retirement.
- They won’t miss the stuff. Little kids don’t know what they don’t have. So why bother?
What toddlers really need is less stuff and more quality time with mom and dad. Forget the over-priced developmental gadget for 2-3 year olds, and instead just buy some books to read to your child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the foundation for literacy is laid well before kindgergarten. Children introduced to reading as toddlers tend to have higher literacy skills and do better in school.
It’s about balance – for both the parent and toddler. Resist the urge for the latest toddler “essential”, or at least think twice. When it comes time to shell out for college, you’ll be grateful for every dollar saved.