It’s not easy being a parent. From working hard to ensure that your kids have a roof over their heads to making sure that you aren’t irrevocably bestowing them with childhood trauma, much of your life is spent worrying that they are happy, healthy and not little monsters.
Toys can often represent a major expenditure for parents. From growing out of them to simply losing interest, many toys, apart from perhaps one choice childhood companion, are destined to only maintain a child’s interest for a matter of months, if that.
Toymakers and advertisers also play to children’s susceptibility to advertising and encourage constant consumption and new purchases. This week, there has been a surge in advertising and offers on toys ahead of the Day of the Child, celebrated in Argentina this Sunday. Between this, Christmas, birthdays and even general gifts, parents can often find themselves forking out weighty sums for toys that will soon lie forgotten.
The founders of PickaToy know how this feels. Lucila Anderson, Constanza Pérez Genovesi and Carolina García Roggero are a group of entrepreneurial Argentine mothers who have found a solution to this vicious cycle of consumption by setting up a service offering parents the opportunity to rent used toys on a rolling monthly basis.
“PickaToy came about out of our daily lives,” they say. “We are mothers and we know that our children’s enthusiasm with toys only lasts a certain period of time, they grow quickly and their abilities change. These toys then just end up in a cupboard.”
“This led us to think that the best thing would be if we could have these toys for just a while, while our children are interested in them. This is an economic solution, without unnecessary accumulation and having to pay excessive prices.”
The idea is simple: parents sign up to Pick a Toy’s subscription service and receive a monthly package of toys and games aimed at their children’s age group, which they return when the new set arrives. The idea already exists in the United States and in Spain but the company is the first of its kind in Argentina.
The company offers various price ranges. For AR $500 per month, parents and children can pick four toys, while AR $800 per month allows them to pick up to six toys, with postage included for Buenos Aires and Zona Norte.
At a time when older children turn increasingly towards technology, this initiative demonstrates a commitment to learning through play that taps into a growing trend in Argentina today. Clarín carried out a Google survey that showed in Argentina last year there were 1.7 million searches for educational toys, an increase of 28 percent the year before. However, since by their very nature such toys quickly go out of date as children learn, PickaToy offers the opportunity to support a child’s learning, from mobility to music, without the clutter of outdated items
Toy manufacturing and distribution represents an important industry in Argentina, which has bucked worldwide trends to see toy stores opening, rather than closing. While the US toy behemoth Toys R Us finally closed its doors this year, Argentina still has a large number of physical toy stores, who thus far have not had to ward off competition from Amazon and other internet suppliers. The average purchase, both online and in physical stores, stands at around AR $700.
The entrepreneurs behind the initiative told Clarín that their company represents a considerable saving for parents. “In toy stores, for AR $500 you can buy one really simple educational toy. In this sense, we calculate that by renting, parents can save 30 percent to 50 percent. If the child really likes a particular toy, you have the option to renew the rent or buy it,” said Lucina Anderson, one of the company’s founders.
In addition to the economical cost of constantly buying new toys, it is also important to consider the ecological impact. Packaging professionals have named the toy industry as the worst offender when it comes to packaging waste and many unwanted toys are sent to landfill once the child has grown out of them.
It is no secret that the environment is in a pretty bad state, and one way that we can all make a difference is to re-evaluate our consumer habits. Initiatives such as PickaToy promote a more responsible consumer model with less emphasis on acquisition and more on shared experiences and learning.
By embracing a more ‘borrow-centric’ culture, we can reduce the environmental impact of key industries through lowering demand for items with a short utility lifespan and shifting emphasis from buying to sharing. And since it’s the youngest generation who will have to live with our current-day decisions, toys seem a pretty good place to start.