Is your home drowning in a sea of soft toys?

Is your home drowning in a sea of soft toys?
Stock photo of soft toys

Are soft toys really that much of an environmental problem?

Compared to the big issues of climate change, pollution, and extinction of whole animal populations, the subject of too many soft toys seems too low level to worry about. Why am I even thinking and writing about it?

I think that soft toys are one of those items that are a symbol of how we are encouraged to buy more and more ‘things’ to make us happy. And yet, more and more ‘things’ don’t necessarily make us more and more happier!

Minimalist Joshua Becker wrote about this in a post about why buying more stuff won’t make you happier. And although this article has a headline that buying stuff does sometimes make you happier, when you read on, it says the purchase needs to be in sync with your personality. So not just spending on any things, but buying things that have meaning for you.

Why are there so many soft toys?

Getting back to the subject, there is a tendency to buy or gift lots of soft toys. There are so many reasons for this:

  • They are an easy gift for a new baby, as they are often so cute.
  • Soft toys are sometimes part of a range or collection. It’s tempting to buy another one to add to a set.
  • You can buy soft toys as souvenirs at tourist attractions and to celebrate sporting events, such as the Olympics, or as mascots to support your favourite sporting team.
  • Soft toys are sometimes giveaway freebies, as promotional material or advertising from companies.
  • Some soft toys are collectible or nostalgic, so they appeal to adults too. I bought myself a Bagpuss wheat pack soft toy a few years ago – I didn’t really need it but it brought back good memories!
  • Whenever there is a new kids movie out, there always seems to be a range of merchandise to go with it – toys, bags, party ware, clothes. The movie industry encourages parents to give their children the whole package of the movie plus the merchandise.
  • Last and most important: soft toys are cute and cuddly, and I feel that every child needs a soft toy or teddy, as it really is comforting for them as they grow up.

Soft toys are cute, cuddly and comforting

I feel that my last point there is important – soft toys are cuddly and comforting. And every child should know that feeling of warmth and comfort you get from cuddling a teddy.

During hospital visits for various illnesses or injuries, my children were given a couple of teddies each. I was extremely grateful to the hospital staff for giving my children something that helped comfort and distract them through a difficult experience. I’m glad my children have soft toys, but they probably don’t need 50 or so each. I’m not ‘anti’ them in general, just the overload of them!

Soft toys are secretly breeding

If you have children, and are anything like my family, I bet you have a lot of soft toys. These little softies seem to breed in the cupboards (which is not a pleasant image). They seem to spill out of the storage boxes or shelves. The answer isn’t ‘buy another toy box’ as it will easily fill up with new teddies!

I don’t really know how we ended up with so many of them. And whenever we have a sort through them, it is hard to part with any! They all seem to be the most important teddy in the box. And I won’t force my children to give them away, or secretly sneak them out at nighttime.

For the meantime, we will keep most of them, until my children are older and want to part with them. It’s likely that they will keep a few of the special ones. I have kept my first teddy, named ‘Pippa-Look’ (as my brothers and sisters said ‘ Pippa, Look’ when I got it for my first birthday).

Ways to reduce and reuse these toys

Visit any second hand or charity / op shop, and you’ll find a display of soft toys, looking for new homes. So many soft toys are donated to charity, yet I wonder how many they can actually sell? Shoppers may not buy these toys, and they could end up in landfill eventually. Although, it’s encouraging to see this project by Eco Solutions in Whangerei, where soft toys are diverted from landfill – 4,000 toys per year!

To avoid soft toy overload, I think we need to stop buying so many in the first place. And secondly, find ways to reuse them or recycle them.

Reduce the purchases

  • First of all, if you are buying a gift for a new baby, you could ask the parents if they have enough soft toys already! If they have enough, you could buy a different kind of toy, or book, or any clothing they might need for the new person. Or even gift them money – it’s becoming a more popular option, with $5 birthday parties for older children more common now.
  • You could also ask people who want to buy gifts for your children to buy something other than soft toys.
  • Similarly, you could buy something different as a souvenir. I’ve bought my nieces and nephews souvenir toys in the past – in future, I will buy something else like pencils or books. Or maybe just a postcard with a photo of a beautiful place.
  • Say no to promotional giveaways – like all freebies, they become your problem to deal with. You also end up advertising a product that you might not really want to. We had teddy bears advertising headache medicines, which is kind of weird really!
  • Don’t buy lots of soft toys for our own children. They are lovely to cuddle and kids can play some games with them, but there are plenty of other toys out there.
  • Resist the temptation to be a ‘completist! Our children don’t need a soft toy version of every character from Frozen, or Minecraft, or Harry Potter!

Reuse or recycle

  • I have broken my own ‘no more soft toys’ rule, when my children saw some lovely Ty Babies in an op shop. They bought these for a $1 each, and they have enjoyed playing with them. So buying second hand could be an option to reuse something already in existence, and spend less money. When I have bought second hand soft toys, I have put them in the freezer for 24 hours, then tumble dried them for 15 minutes inside a pillow case, to kill any bugs. Actually, this is recommended for all soft toys that your children have, as dust mites can build up in toys over time.
  • If you have collectible teddies that are hidden in boxes, you could sell them, to release a bit of cash.
  • Some dog owners and pet rescue centres appreciate old soft toys for their animals, so it is worth asking them if they’d like them. They will still end up in the rubbish, but at least the animals play with them!
  • There are many craft upcycling ideas on Pinterest such as making teddies into door stops, puppets, or even using their ‘skin’ to make rugs – see photo below! You could also reuse the stuffing for craft projects.
You could make a rug from the skins of soft toys –
or maybe not.

What are soft toys made of?

Many of the cuddly toys we have are made from synthetic materials. Thinking about it more closely, I don’t really know what these materials are. I will need to do some research into this.

There are toys made of natural materials like cotton or wool. You may want to buy those instead of toys made from synthetics.

There is information online that says don’t put soft toys and teddies into cots with babies under 12 months. Please research this for yourself, if you have a young baby.

What do you think? Am I being a spoilsport or killjoy by stopping my children from buying even more teddies?

I’d love to hear your comments!