“Watching Toy Videos Just Makes Me Want Stuff.”

It was around 8:30 and my daughter was bouncing around the room. My husband and I flinched as she bounded closer and closer to sharp-cornered furniture and the TV. I needed to distract her and get her settled down before she hurt herself.

“Why don’t you come cuddle on the couch? It’s time to relax, you’ll need to go to bed soon.”

“Mom, I’m dancing!”

“It’s time to calm down, honey. Can I read you a book?”

“I’m a Rock Star!”

Feeling a little desperate, I came up with an idea for a quiet activity she generally enjoyed, though it wasn’t my favorite.

“Kiddo, it’s getting late. You need to settle down. Maybe you should just watch some toy videos on your Kindle.”

“Mom, watching toy videos just makes me want stuff.”

Did she just say that?

Remembering Saturday Morning Cartoons

I remember the Saturdays of my childhood. I would get up early and watch TV all morning, because Saturdays were pretty much the only time non-PBS TV was dedicated to kid shows. The shows were loads of fun: Scooby Doo, Laffolympics, Captain Cave Man, Shazam and Isis.

They were also accompanied by tons of commercials for sweetened cereal, candy, and toys. In the commercials, Barbie had hundreds of outfits and a dream house. At home, she might have 3 outfits and a shoe box. GI Joe had a perfectly contoured outdoor battlefield in the commercials, and at home, a hole my brother dug in the garden.

Later, someone figured out that cartoons were a great way to popularize toys, so they designed toys and cartoons together. It’s hard to even tell which came first: the Transformer toy or the Transformers cartoon. (According to Wikipedia, it was the toys.)

Commercials made you want things, often things that weren’t so good for you. So regulations tightened up, and now even though kids can watch cartoons 24/7, there aren’t nearly as many kid-oriented commercials for Captain Crunch and Trix. Heck, Disney Junior and Nick Junior don’t even show commercials…until you consider that the shows themselves have so much related merchandise that, like Transformers, they are essentially 22 minute commercials.

Remembering my own childhood, I was prepared for Little Bit to want a lot of toys. What I wasn’t prepared for was how she was learning about them.

Those Darn Toy Videos

My daughter has been obsessed with toy videos on YouTube for a couple of years, and she’s far from the only kid to be obsessed with them. She started asking to watch them about the same time she started preschool, so I can only assume they came up in playground conversation.

Unfortunately, she quickly went from asking to watch “C is for Cookie” and the Carmen-singing orange to clicking through videos that put those commercials from the Saturday morning cartoons of the Seventies to shame.

There are two basic kinds of toy videos that Little Bit loves. The first kind is pretty innocuous. The video maker uses toys to act out a story, like this one from Disney Cars Toy Club.

Story videos aren’t that bad. They use toys from various different play sets to tell a story. It’s not unlike what kids do with their toys naturally, just with lots of very nice toys. If this was all there was to toy videos, I wouldn’t mind them very much.

Unfortunately, the toy videos she really likes are the unwrapping videos, like this one from the FunToyzCollector.

Yep, that’s just someone unwrapping a brand new toy and telling you what’s in the box and demonstrating the toy in action (All of a sudden, I know why so many of my kid’s dolls have play doh in their hair.)

There are hundreds of these on YouTube. Some just show the toys. Some review the products. (Little Bit loves the Mommy and Gracie Show, which reviews lots of Monster High products, so much she’s been begging me for a year to do a YouTube show with her.) Others focus on collectibles like Kinder Surprise eggs and Shopkins, where you don’t know what you get until you open the package.

(Shopkins are tiny plastic anthropomorphic items that you would buy when you go shopping, like tacos or purses. They come in mixed random packages, with a new set issued every so often. In each package is at least one “Blind Bag” item, so you never know exactly what you get. Little Bit happily received about 7 packages of Shopkins for Christmas from various sources. I still don’t get how they’re a fun toy, they look like something you might get in a Happy Meal.)

As you would expect, a lot of the “I want” conversations in my house originate because of the toy videos.

Taming the Kid Consumer

Our kid is pretty fortunate. She has plenty of clothes, toys, and activities. She’s an only child, so she doesn’t have to share.  She’s the only grandchild/niece on one side, so she gets lots of presents.

Taming the “I wants” isn’t always easy. 

I do give her an allowance, which teaches her about money (some is for spending, some for saving, some for giving away.) An allowance also allows me to dodge arguments arising out of “I want.” 

“Mom, I want a hugglepod.”

(A hugglepod is a tented hammock. The one Little Bit wants is about $200. Naturally, she discovered it through a toy video.)

“Well, I guess you’ll have to save your money. If you save most of your allowances for a year, you should have enough.”

“A year?”

“A year. Until you’re six and a half.”

“That’s a lot of allowances.”

“Yep, you’ll have to decide if that’s what you want to do.”

“Okay.”

I thought that was the end of the hugglepod, but it keeps coming up in conversation. I guess it’s the Red Ryder BB Gun with the compass in the stock and this thing which tells time of Little Bit’s dreams.

So, at the moment, my little consumer focuses on saving money for her dream, at least on an intermittent basis. She’s realizing that wanting extra stuff is getting in the way of her hugglepod. I’m not sure I realized the same thing at her age.

"Watching Toy Videos Just Makes Me Want Stuff."

It’s no slam dunk for kid minimalism or kid frugality. Little Bit is five and a half. She’s still breaking down after a couple of weeks of saving and using her money for something else, like the pink Power Ranger doll she had to have this week. And, since it’s her money, we let her buy it. Her money, her choices (within reason.)

Foolish Momma, Wiser Kid

Two days after making her wise pronouncement about toy videos, Little Bit was back watching them again. It’s still not my favorite form of entertainment, and I’ll think twice before suggesting them again as a way of winding down in the evening. 

My daughter was right. Toy Videos just make her want stuff, and I’d rather she want a little less.

At least now I know that she seems to be reaching the same conclusion.

Any suggestions for minimizing a kid’s consumerist tendencies?

Top Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

12 thoughts on ““Watching Toy Videos Just Makes Me Want Stuff.”

  1. I think you’re on the right track. My mom’s deal was that I had to save half of any major toy purchase. I have no memory of what that constituted. But if you read my “Baby Heather was possessed” post you’ll see that I learned a valuable lesson about commercials versus reality.

    I think she’s still pretty far ahead of most kids her age (and far, far beyond her age), so it seems you’re doing something right. Just pat yourself on the back. And maybe leave some troll comments on the unboxing videos. I seriously hate those.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…9 money lessons from the Deadpool movieMy Profile

    • Thanks, I’ll have to look for that. I remember several toys that didn’t live up to their marketing when i was a kid. While I hate the unboxers, i do think that you get a decent view of what a toy is really like as opposed to a commercial…what parts move, what comes in the package, etc. It’s about the only positive thing about them.

  2. Wow, how incredibly astute of your daughter to notice how the toy videos affect her!

    I had never heard of these toy videos before, but like you, I definitely remember those Saturday morning cartoons super clearly. (Side note: I actually remember telling my parents that I liked watching commercials because they made me feel “American”, which…I don’t even know how to fully analyze that, but it feels super weird in retrospect.)

    In any case, wow, this is a whole new world that I was not aware of…But then again, marketing has been around for a while; I suppose this is just its most recent iteration.
    Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless recently posted…Chicken-CountingMy Profile

    • Until my daughter started watching them, I’d never heard of the videos either, but most parents of similar-aged girls I know have experience with them. I don’t know if they are as prevalent for boy-skewing toys. (I’ve got a rant about gender-specific toys to make, but I’ll hold off.)
      I do see what you meant as a kid. Toy/cereal commercials and Saturday morning cartoons were very universal in the 70s and 80s. It’s what American kids did. We all watched the same 3 channels, and therefore we all had the same experiences. Now that there’s no special time block for cartoons, only special channels, and many more of those, there’s less of a shared experience among the kids than there used to be.

  3. I remember wanting certain cereals as a kid based on the toy inside and that was just from seeing the commercials occasionally on TV. Children today have so much media at their finger tips. I’ve been dully aware of the videos for some time. My young son who’s now 13 was a big fan of the unboxing/ unwrapping videos. Sounds like you are on the right path with the allowance/saving/spending with your daughter. It’s just a constant conversation with them nudging them along to make good decisions and when the don’t helping them understand why.
    Brian @ debt discipline recently posted…The Fill the Bucket List ChallengeMy Profile

    • I definitely picked cereals based on the prize in the box, and remember fighting over them with my brother. I’m kinda glad they don’t put them in anymore, since my daughter is pretty happy to eat generic Chex and Cheerios most of the time.
      So, I guess this confirms the unboxing videos are an equal opportunity trend. I do think there are some disadvantages to all of the media kids can take everywhere. (although technology makes waiting rooms a lot easier to handle.) The toy videos are one of the disadvantages.

    • It’s always good when your kids understand your limits. I like that I can say “save for it” most of the time with the things she wants rather than a flat out “no,” but some things (in app purchases, pink dyed hair, staying up late, skipping teeth brushing) gotta get the straight up “No.”

  4. Is that your daughter in the picture? She’s really mature for having said that toy videos make her want more stuff 🙂 It’s difficult curbing the consumerist tendencies of kids and i really like what one of my relatives told me about how they train their kids. She said that sometimes they go to the toy store to only look at stuff and not with the intention of buying anything, even if they find something they really like. I really liked that idea. Toy shops are so much fun to visit though…
    fehmeen recently posted…Debt Free at 26 – How Cassie Repaid Her Student DebtMy Profile

    • Yeah, the kid in the hammock is my daughter.
      Your relative is brave. I will occasionally go through the toy aisle at Target to let my daughter browse, or let her look around a Barnes and Nobles (I keep hoping she’ll look at books, but she goes straight to toys). Those are easier than toy stores, though, because I can limit the browsing time more easily than in a toy store. Now that she can read, though, she’s figured out how to browse Amazon on her Kindle, so I’m glad I have everything password protected.

  5. Wow, I had no idea they had toy videos. My daughter is 6 and it seems as if we live in our own well crafted bubble over here. People ask me why she never asks for the latest toy and it’s simply because we don’t know about them. I’m hoping to keep it that way, lol!

    • I hope so too! I wish we’d never started, but some of our issue with the toy videos is probably my fault. Little Bit has her own Kindle and we don’t really try to limit her screen time too much except to tell her she has to be in the same room with us. She goes from video to video on YouTube. discovering new channels full of stuff.
      On the one hand, she wants new toys. On the other, she is becoming aware of her “want”triggers.

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