Are You an Adult Who Still Plays with (and Buys) Toys?

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Face it: For many adults, sports equipment, luxury automobiles, electronic gizmos, fancy, rarely-used kitchen utensils, and even power tools and smartphones aren’t necessary, practical expenditures, but toys you buy for your own amusement. And aren’t you a little old to be playing with toys?

Is it no wonder that kids have so many toys nowadays? (An American child receives 70 toys a year, on average.) Kids learn from what they seeā€”and what they see all around them are adults with lots of toys. So you can’t blame them for refusing to be shortchanged.

In the WSJ’s Yoder & Sons column, Stephen Kreider Yoder offers some guidelines for when it’s OK for an adult to buy what amounts to a toy, while trying to set an example for his kids:

- Don’t turn necessities into toys. A car is a tool, I’ve told them; buy anything nicer than a midrange Honda and you’re buying a toy.

- Toys that save money are more virtuous than ones that don’t. When I bought myself new skis six years ago, I calculated for Isaac how this would save money over renting (leaving aside the fact that skiing itself is conspicuous consumption).

- If you have a toy that’s good enough, don’t be tempted by something better. Our 11-year-old stereo is a little outdated. But it plays CDs and the radio just fine; so, no, we won’t get a new one, I’ve told any son who asks.

- Buy toys that won’t lose value. When my eldest, Luke, got interested in machining at age 15, I bought an old South Bend 10K lathe and a Clausing 8520 mill that came from a retired machinist. “These are investments,” I rationalized them to Luke, “because they’ll save us money, and I’m sure we can sell them for more than we paid 10 years from now.”

- Buy toys that enrich others’ lives, too. My camera bag, stocked with Nikon toys like my dad’s, has helped fill three decades of family photo albums.

Though the guidelines don’t say it explicitly, I think it’s safe to say that things like video games and water guns are toys, no matter if the owner is 9 or 39.

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