by Sally Peck, The Telegraph, December 15, 2017
We are in the eye of the Christmas shopping storm, with parents feverishly scanning every site from Amazon to Argos for the perfect gift. And, of course, there are lots of fun things to be had.
But before you click “order now”, it may be worth strolling through your child’s room, and adding up the cost of all of the unused toys you discover there. Britons tot up the second-highest annual spend on toys in the world, with parents shelling out an average of slightly more than £500 a year per child.
Why are trips better than toys?
Worse, still, this impressive spend is a waste, according to one of Britain’s leading child psychologists, who says parents should be spending their money on family holidays instead.
“The whole business of providing material commodities for kids - in ever more expensive forms as they get older - is entirely, 100 per cent, about propping up the industry that profits from it,” said Oliver James, a psychologist whose best-selling books on the relationship between children and their parents include Love Bombing: Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat.
“On the other hand, family holidays are definitely valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterwards in their memory. So if you’re going to spend money on something, it’s pretty clear which option makes more sense.”
So if toy shopping is an exercise in futility, what you should be browsing this Christmas are holidays.
One in five families will spend between £100 and £200 on Christmas gifts for each child this year, according to a survey by Skyscanner.net, with a further seven per cent of parents planning to spend between £200 and £300.
Add to that kitty the cost of a spouse’s Christmas gift (a third of those surveyed estimated that they would spend between £100 and £200, and 12 per cent expected to spend between £200 and £300), and you have a respectable sum with which to play.
So if you skip the toys, a family of four would have a budget of £400 to £1,800.
And how much do toys cost?
Yikes! Toys are expensive.
Which holidays should I buy instead?
For the Easter holidays, the lower end of the budget would buy an iPad for the family… or a a trip for a family of four to Legoland Denmark, which has all of the charm but none of the queues of the Windsor theme park .
If each child is demanding an Apple Watch, you could buy those, or plan a trip for four to Disneyland Paris this summer.
Family fun breaks What if you’ve already bought a few gifts for the family, but want a trip without breaking the bank?
If you’ve already bought the main items your child wants but are casting about for a few more ideas, try one of these fantastic and relatively inexpensive breaks:
- Dinosaurs and dining in: for £281 you could have a four-night stay at the Durdle Door holiday park, on the beautiful Lulworth Estate along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, which is especially moody and beautiful at this time of year - a break will do much to cure winter malaise.
- Woodland adventures: You may think you know your Butlins from your Center Parcs… but have you visited Kingswood? Figure out which British holiday camp is best for your family: Kingswood has prices of £248 for a family of four for a night and two days, including meals and activities.
- Finally, if you’re worried that tickets look a bit sad under the tree, wrap it up with one of our favourite bits of travel kit for children.