Would you rent your children’s Christmas presents? Meet the mom who does

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Jen Otter with her daughters, Lilly and Rosie in December 2020 (Collect / PA Real Life).

The long wait for Santa Claus, the hopeful clatter of boxes under the tree … for children, there is no better time of the year than the time when they are finally allowed to tear up their presents and find the toys they dreamed of.

However, most kids expect to keep them forever, even when they get too big for the Barbie house or tire of the Leapfrog rug; which means a huge amount of unwanted plastic is languishing in UK homes.

A 2019 British Heart Foundation survey found that, on average, children lose interest in a new toy in just 36 days. About 20% of parents said their child lost interest after 11 hours of play, while 8% said their children were bored within an hour.

Jen rents her daughter's birthday and Christmas presents (Collect / PA Real Life).

Jen rents her daughters’ birthday and Christmas gifts (Collect / PA Real Life).

Kids have an average of four toys they’ve never played with, which is around 162 million unused toys in the UK, which is bad for parents’ handbags and bad for the planet.

That’s why single mom Jen Otter, 34, was determined not to fill her new home with unloved toys when she returned to England in March 2019, after living in Thailand for seven years.

Her daughters, Rosie, two, and Lily, four, have a lot to play with – they just don’t expect to keep their toys forever.

Jen joined the Whirli toy exchange website, which allows parents to rent a box of toys for £ 13.33 per month (£ 160 per year). A recent Nationwide Building Society survey found that parents spend an average of £ 100 per child on Christmas alone.

Jen rented this sand table valued at $ 17.99 for Christmas (Collect / PA Real Life).

Jen rented this sand table worth £ 17.99 for Christmas (Collect / PA Real Life).

Jen, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, said: “As a single mom I can’t afford premium gifts, but by exchanging them I can give my kids some really nice gifts for a fraction of the cost – and I can send them back when they’re done with them! “

The early childhood teacher does not hesitate to return gifts when her children tire of them. “Last year I returned Lilly’s gift on New Years Eve. She had this big Lottie treehouse with all the dolls. It was amazing and should have cost around £ 236. But after a few days she was bored and not playing with it anymore, so I fired her, ”Jen explains.

Read more: Study estimates scale of plastic waste crisis from Covid response – and results are staggering

“It must be much better for the environment than putting unwanted items in a trash can and seeing them end up in a landfill. “

Returning from Bangkok in Thailand in 2019 after separating from her partner, Jen returned to England virtually empty-handed.

“Lilly was almost two years old and I was five months pregnant with Rosie. We moved with a suitcase, so we didn’t have any toys with us.

Jen rented this walker for Rosie (Collect / PA Real Life).

Jen rented this walker for Rosie (Collect / PA Real Life).

“Some friends offered to buy them for Lilly, but the thought of having all these new toys annoyed me because it was such a mess.

“I saw her take an interest in toys for a few months and then get bored of them, so I wanted to find a way not to create a lot of junk.”

When her research revealed sites where she could rent toys, Jen decided that the “loan program” was a much better option and meant that she could afford to give them “big ticket” gifts for Christmas and birthdays that she would never normally be able to afford.

“My kids feel treated and have access to some really high-end toys that I couldn’t afford, and then they come back when they’re done. Right now Rosie has this recycling truck that she loves and it would have cost around £ 37 to buy.

Jen rented this play mat for Rosie when she was younger (Collect / PA Real Life).

Jen rented this play mat for Rosie when she was younger (Collect / PA Real Life).

“But I know in a few days she will be bored of it, so she will come back for another family to use.” “

The program means Jen can rent toys year-round and selects her Christmas items in early December, then returns them on New Years.

“If you keep a toy for more than eight months, it’s up to you to keep it forever and if you want a very popular toy, you can put it on the waiting list.

“So if you’re organized you can do it in early December and then hide it until the 25th. I was always able to get the toys the girls wanted because there are so many of them and you never have to wait very long. long time.

Jen rented this treehouse and dolls valued at $ 236 for Christmas, and returned them before New Years (Collect / PA Real Life).

Jen rented this £ 236 treehouse and its dolls for Christmas, and returned them before New Years (Collect / PA Real Life).

She added: “Last year the treehouse at Lilly’s Lottie was beautiful. She woke up on Christmas morning and loved it. But then on New Years I sent her away because she stopped playing with it. It’s completely normal for my daughters now that their toys aren’t around forever.

Jen’s approach may seem draconian to some, but with a focus on the future of the planet, and millions of families trying to cut down on waste and unwanted gifts – not to mention the clutter created by toys that have become too big and unloved – maybe this is the future.

“We live in a two bedroom house and don’t have room for a lot of toys,” Jen explains. their return.

“But I was worried that they weren’t used, because you don’t always know what will happen to this toy once you give it away.”

Jen rents the majority of her children's toys (Collect / PA Real Life).

Jen rents the majority of her children’s toys (Collect / PA Real Life).

“I like to rent children’s toys because instead of going to the landfill or collecting dust on a shelf, they go to another family for their children to enjoy.

“Obviously my kids also have permanent toys like magnetic tiles, a toy kitchen, a dollhouse, wooden dolls, and lots of books.

“But I think, especially with Christmas presents, that by exchanging them for other toys, we get the best of both worlds.”

Read more: Couple pays for wedding by picking up discarded plastic bottles

She encourages her family to buy experiences like dance lessons or theater tickets for her daughters, rather than toys, to further reduce the risk of throwing things.

“People always ask if they can buy them gifts, but I say no, suggesting they give them an experience instead,” she said. “It’s much more precious and the memory will stay with them for a long time, rather than wasting money on a gift they will miss in a few days.” “

Lilly and Rosie playing with an ice cream shop worth £ 29.99 (Collect / PA Real Life).

Lilly and Rosie playing with an ice cream shop worth £ 29.99 (Collect / PA Real Life).

If they really like an item, however, she’ll keep it. “The site we use allows you to buy the toy you are renting. So a few months ago we got a Toniebox, an audio and music player, and they just loved it.

“It stayed for about four months and I finally decided to buy it. The longer you rent a toy, the more its value drops, so it was actually at a discounted price when I bought it. I paid £ 35 when it would have been £ 65 if I had bought it new from a store.

“By doing it this way, I was able to make sure the girls liked it before I spent a lot of money on it.”

Now Jen is hoping to inspire more parents to join the Christmas revolution, by renting instead of buying their little ones’ birthday presents.

Watch: Video of rescued animals playing with Christmas presents will warm your heart

“I think people have a hard time understanding gift rental, but I think it’s the new way to make Christmas. Sometimes I go to people’s houses and there are so many toys. They have a lot of stuff and you never play with it.

But what kind of Santa Claus brings it all down the chimney – then takes half of it back? When it comes to keeping the magic alive, how does Jen get around it?

She said: “I tell my daughters that I give money to Santa Claus. Lilly will choose the toys she wants, or tell me about them, then I’ll hide them for December.

“By swapping children’s toys throughout the year, I can treat myself to high-end gifts and not spend a fortune.

“I think it’s a great way to ensure an exciting Christmas for the little ones without breaking the bank.”

For more information, visit Whirli

Additional report AP

Watch: Burger King is ditching plastic toys in the UK


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