How Much STUFF Does a Kid Really Need?

A couple of people I know are buying their children those little TV’s with the built in VCR’s for Christmas this year. Now, I had a TV in my room when I was a kid (pre-Sega days), and I’m sure that someday I’ll get my own kids a little TV of their own.

But this got me thinking. I know some parents who’s kids could live happily in their bedrooms until the next millenium. They’ve got not just TV’s, but the latest video games, VCR’s, stereo equipment, and all that jazz. I even saw one lady on Oprah a few years ago who’s kids had their own refrigerator & microwave.

I like to buy my children things, I really do. I’m not one of those parents that’s going to say “Well, I didn’t have it, so you can’t have it either.” But I’m not going to go haywire and say “well, I didn’t have it, so here, you must have it.” I was a middle-class kid. My parents didn’t spoil me, but I sure didn’t hurt for much.

Please don’t misunderstand me here–I have nothing against parents who buy all the latest gear for their kids (I mean, some of that stuff really is cool). But how much do they need? Is there a point where it’s too much?

(end of my tired-of-the-commercialization-of-Christmas-inspired-rant)

[guilt] If my kid wants something and I can get it for him, I’ll get it for him. Spoiled? No, just making up for the time I don’t get to spend with him.[/guilt]

My kids do NOT have any of that fancy stuff in their bedrooms, I am proud to say.

Besides, with a bedroom like that, what’s the point in threatening to send them to their room?


Ididn’t have much stuff compared to kids nowadays. Legos, lincoln logs, books, Dinky trucks (a few), and drawing stuff were the major things. One of the things that it taught me was to appreciate what I have. Quite often I woukd hae to save my $2 a week allowance to get what I wanted. I quickly learned what my priorities were.

Now that I’ve grown up a bit, I know how to go without. I still don’t have a vcr, and I don’t know of any movies I would want to rent anyways. But I did manage to buy a house all on my own ( okay, so I lived at my parents house until I was 33).

Buy stuff for your kids? sure but if they don’t know how to value and appreciate what they already have, why bother…

Melin: you got it. When I was sent to my room as a kid, I just read my paperbacks and my comic books. If I had all that hi tech stuff in my room, I’d have been a real asshole when I was a child.

P.S. A little off topic, but a great punishment for a misbehaving child who has plenty of stuff in his room. Sit him down at the table and put an egg timer in front of him/her. set the time to 5 minutes and make him/her sit still and watch the timer until it dings. Then tell him/her that the next time, it’s going to be set for 10 minutes.

My mom only had to do to me once.

You say “cheesy” like that’s a BAD thing.

I never had a TV in my room. I had huge amounts of books and magazines, and that was how I killed time there. The big deal was on my 13th birthday I got my own CD player. If I’d had all that hi-tech stuff in there I never woulda come out.

Plus, I think it was good because I could do my homework in my room. The rest of the house was always too distracting, with people running back and forth and talking, not to mention the distractions of the TV and computer. I think it was good to have my room as a sanctuary from everything…it was somewhere I could go when I wanted to concentrate.

On a side note: A phone in the room can be just as bad as a TV, if not worse.

I have found the biggest hits with my kids are drawing supplies (Mr. Sketch markers – available at Sam’s, chalk, colored pencils) and lots of blank drawing paper. My 7 year old is going to get an electric pencil sharpener this year and will probably be thrilled to get it.

Also, make sure they have access to a library or a bookstore.

Biggest wastes of money, IMO, are stuffed animals and trendy toys (Furby’s, Tickle Me Elmo, etc.) that will be heaped in the dumpster next year.

When I was a kid, when my parents would punish me by sending me to my room, they would make me leave the door open. I wasn’t allowed to do anything remotely fun. If I had homework, I could do that, but that was it.

There is one more thing, though. A large part of the reason I didn’t have a lot of this stuff is because it simply wasn’t available at the time. If it had been, I very well may have had it.

As for guilt, well, I do feel a little guilty for not wanting to give my kids all these things. It’s a parental-peer-pressure thing, I suppose (“all the other parents are buying it for their kids…”)So what’s a parent to do? My kids are really young (one aged 2 years, one aged 2 months), so I don’t have to worry about the expensive stuff yet. But someday it will be an issue. Argh.

PS: I’d like to get my daughter a Tickle Me Elmo, but not because it’s hot. She is an Elmophile, and I think she’d really like it. :slight_smile:

Aren’t there law prohibiting Elmophilia?

I had a TV, a few nintendo systems, and a stereo in my room as a kid. Because I bought them.

Don’t worry.

If you read Consumer Reports, those combo tv-vcr gadgets burn out quickly, and require expensive repairs.

They’re really not doing the kids a favor. :slight_smile:

The nature of the house I grew up in (no interior doors except on the bathrooms and the stairs down to the basement) meant that from my room I could still hear the TV in the front room or in my grandparents’ bedroom, and if I positioned myself just right I could even still WATCH either of them.

When I exhibited some problems getting my math homework done, I was sent to the travel trailer out back to work on it. No TV, no music, no noise of any kind that I didn’t personally make, and much more to the point no books: after two weeks of this, I’d read everything there was to read in there (instructions on operating the gas refrigerator, an old bass fishing magazine, medicine bottles, a few other assorted odds and ends) multiple times and didn’t have anything to distract me from homework.

Tell your kids what my mom told me–that when SHE was little, all she had to play with was a milk bottle and a few clothes pins. That made my crappy watercolor paint set look pretty good.

When I have kids, I will raise them to be communists or perhaps socialists that way I will never feel guilty about not getting them anything. If they want any toys, I will send them out into the dirt/sheet metal pile and say “fun up, little homies” or some such thing. Perhaps if they are really good I could do what Judy Tenuda said her father did…I would make them hotdog soup. First I would boil the hotdogs, then they could drink the juice. WOOHOO! When I was younger, I didn’t really have anything like that in my room. I had an old stereo that a cousin gave me (it had an eight track and a record player in it). I am probably one of the few genx’ers that knows what an eight track player looks like because of it. Other than that, I just had a bunch of books and RPGs. I had a Nintendo when I lived in Japan about 4 years before they came out over here; however, I could not take it back because it did not work on American frequency tvs. I also had several different video game machines, but those were all in the living room. I could only use them when no one else was around, or when no one else wanted to watch the TV.


PS. Sarcasm alert…if you don’t know where the sarcasm lies, go home. 8Þ~~~

Gasoline: As an accompaniement to cereal it made a refreshing change. Glen Baxter

A few of my friends have kids, and I’m pretty appalled at the amount of sheer crap they accumulate. I remember having a few toys that I cherished (read: beat to a pulp), but I go to one of their houses, and I have to wade through the sea of toys. And I never see the kids playing with them… except to pull them out of storage and throw them on the floor. Now, I know my kid (god forbid) is going to have more toys than I did, but that is mainly so I can play with them (legos!). The majority of kids I’ve seen just have too much stuff.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Sqrl - Hotdog soup! My mom used to tell me about eating cauliflower soup; same deal, break up the boiled caulifower, put it in a bowl with some parmesan cheese, and there’s dinner.

MadPoet - Legos are the greatest. Or at least they were. Nowadays they seem to be toys with some assembly required. I used to throw out the directions that came with the sets and just dump the new ones into the pile. Construx (sp?) were great too, for building stuff on a larger scale. Anybody know if those are still around?

Hey, how much stuff does an aged parent really need? Do I have to buy my parents anything for Christmas this year, or can I just draw cards for them on typing paper? I’m broke people!

How you folks with kids get by, I don’t know. When I was a young’n, I wanted everything. I didn’t get it all, so somewhere in there, my parents must have culled my wish list. Which is probably a good thing.

Here are some absolute truths, told to me directly by Shiva, Amaterasu, Yahweh, Osiris and Coyote (they’re all on the same committee, go figure):

  1. A toy that the kid builds things with is on a completely different level than one where everything’s already done. Building a Lego universe is 54.2 times as intellectually stimulating as pulling the string on Talking Barbie. The same goes for watercolor sets and Play-Do and stuff - very provocative.

  2. If it has batteries, it’s probably not as cool as you think. I never had to replace batteries in my toys as a kid, not because they lasted, but because they got boring before the batteries wore out. Electronics make good toys for grownups, not necessarily so for children. The exception might be, a nice family computer, since getting children computer-savvy provides a lot of real life skills. They usually get computer savvy on their own though.

  3. If you buy your kids expensive toys because you feel guilty for not spending enough time with them, you must:
    (a) get sterilized,
    (b) quit your job,
    © sell all your material possessions, except ones certified as Indispensable by the aforementioned Five God Committee, and
    (d) get used to reading The Teddy Bears Have a Picnic over and over.

Hey, I don’t have any kids, but I bet the Committee has a lot of kids between them.

I felt the same way for the last 10 years, but I think that the modern blocks are going back to that ideal. I don’t think they will ever approach that great time where the weirdest block I had was the 1x3, but they are getting closer.
And the electronic legos kick ass. Best x-mas present I ever got. I gots to get the droid kit.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

MadPoet. I’m a lego kid from the 80’s. They were the single greatest damn toy I ever had. Mmmm. I don’t have to work this week. I just might dig them out. I remember getting my very first kit, my very own, when I was five or six. We were so poor. My mom got it from a garage sale for like $5. It was a big investment. It was missing a few pieces, and a page of instructions, but we still got a pretty damn good moon base built. I remember how proud mom and my brother were as they sat, watching me, waiting for me to open their present. Man. That was the greatest.

One day, when I was probably 11, I divided all my legos into different types. 1.1.1, 1.2.1, 1.3.1, 1.4.1, 1.1.3, 1.2.3, 1.3.3, etc. I did this so I could know just what I was working with when building my robot. He ended up being fully articulated, about a foot tall, very humanlike, very very cool. I kept him for about a year, maybe a year and a half. Every few weeks I would make some advancements on him, make him ever so much better. By the time I was done, I was surprised he didn’t walk and talk. He was the coolest. I have a three gallon bucket about 2/3 full, and a smaller suitcase completely full of them. The bucket is for mixed sets, no instructions, and the suitcase is for full sets, instructions and boxes. Yep. Even sets from the 80’s still have full instructions and boxes, in most cases. Any buyers? :slight_smile:


We are the children of the Eighties. We are not the first “lost generation” nor today’s lost generation; in fact, we think we know just where we stand - or are discovering it as we speak.