Rent-A-Toy Services Are Great, But They Don’t Teach Kids How To ‘Share’

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rent-a-toy-servicesThe idea of renting a few toys a month and returning them for new ones is great. I’m always shocked at how expensive toys are, and how often my child becomes bored with them almost immediately. I just don’t think one of the fundamental benefits of these rent-a-toy companies is that it teaches children to share – as some are claiming. Sending a toy back to anxiously await a new one isn’t “sharing.” It’s giving something for the express purpose of getting something back.

Companies like Sparkbox are appealing to the parental desire to teach children how to share. They believe the act of sending the toy back to wait for another to come in the mail teaches the fundamental idea of sharing. From the Sparkbox website:

The sharing aspect of SPARKBOX is a subtly critical piece of child development. Since toys are returned at the end of each month, children are taught the importance of sharing, and we believe that SPARKBOX can be a tool to improve the order of a child’s play and to reduce their in-home toy collection; improving focus and imagination!


Hmm, nope. Children are taught that if they let go of a toy, a newer, better one is on its way. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The service is great. It’s fantastic for NYC apartments, for one. It’s almost impossible for your small city apartment to not turn into a toy store when you have children. The service is also great because toys are so damn expensive now. My toddler like those Imaginext superhero sets. Those things can run you as much as 40 or 50 dollars each. And then there’s inevitably the favorites and the ones that get totally ignored. A toy-sharing service is worth it for addressing this major flaw in toy-buying, alone. It just gets a little annoying when a company starts insisting its going to somehow shape your child into a better human by teaching him to share. Sorry Sparkbox… try again.

Pley is another service that is simply upfront with what it offers – toys. A bunch of different ones. And they have a link to a free trial. Cool.

I’m totally into trying something new that may end up saving me money and making our house less of a toy catastrophe. I just don’t need to be baited into thinking it’s performing a developmental service for my child that it’s not.

(photo: Pley)


  1. JJ

    August 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    We had this idea in my family to growing up. It was called hand me downs and we all my aunts and uncles with kids who liked similar clothes or toys just switched with each other. I “switched” toys and clothes many times with my older sister who got to old for them and tired of them and then my brother got the boys of mine he liked when I got tired of them.

  2. Lilly

    August 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    When I was a child my mom somehow got us to be a toy tester family ( We would get toys before they hit the market. It taught me nothing about sharing and giving a toy back (had to do it after the test period) and everything about bragging rights.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      August 15, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Amen. This does nothing for sharing at all. This is primarily for the highly competetive parents that want to brag they make sure their snowflake always has the latest and best.

  3. OptimusPrime*

    August 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I used to live in a city (Smyrna, GA) that has its own independent library. That library has a toy lending service totally for free. Would love to see more libraries do the same, particularly in urban areas.

    • noodlestein's danger tits

      August 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      I think most libraries are operating on shoestring budgets these days. They’re hard pressed to even stay open in most places, let alone start toy lending services. If they could somehow monetize something like that, though, that would be great. Any help with the bottom line would be good now that they have to compete with teh inerwebz.

    • OptimusPrime*

      August 14, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      Of course. This library is unique for being run by a small city and the only branch. Non-residents have to pay a fee to use it. Higher property taxes pay for it–something I agree with.

  4. Alex Lee

    August 14, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I remember reading about as they rent-out Lego sets.

    One of the sets they feature on their site is the 10188 Death Star. This kit retails at $400 and consists of 3,802 pieces.

    I just think that trying to keep track of that and ensuring it is complete from renter to renter is a logistic nightmare. I’m sure they have processes in place to compensate someone who receives an incomplete kit, much like Netflix did when their discs were scratched-to-unplayability.

    Again, they only show the screenshot of the kit on their site. There very well could be a tiny asterisk I missed that indicates they don’t really rent out kits that big or expensive.

    I do agree with “sharing” in quotations. If a kid really likes a particular toy and learns to give it up when the time comes, that’s partly-altruistic. More toys are coming as long as the subscription is maintained.

    • noodlestein's danger tits

      August 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Ooh, I dunno. Ten grams of weed? That’s a lot. It doesn’t strike me that it would take much to add up to ten grams of Lego, though. It seems, as you said, like a logistical nightmare.

    • Katherine Handcock

      August 14, 2014 at 10:17 pm


      I had to run off to the website. They’re not in Canada yet 🙁 But they have plans! I will be watching for this one….

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      August 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      OMG i so would not want to be the person that has to count AND disinfect EVERY singly piece of legos. Every day. Of every week. FML.

    • Alex Lee

      August 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Well, from my understanding, pieces are not individually counted. Instead, they weigh the kit and from that, can determine whether anything is missing.

      I also imagine disinfecting the pieces involves them throwing the kit into a mesh laundry bag and running it through an industrial steam washer of some sort.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      August 15, 2014 at 5:30 am

      I feel bad for the poor guy who has to count all the leggos in the sets they get back in…

  5. rockmonster

    August 14, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Behold! The most useless subscription box ever!

  6. 2Well

    August 15, 2014 at 8:28 am

    So it’s Netflix for toys? Seems less to teach sharing and more to keep down clutter.

  7. CW

    August 15, 2014 at 11:56 am

    You want to teach sharing? Have a bunch of kids and instead of buying each sibling his/her own copy of the toy, buy one for all of them to share.

  8. jendra_berri

    August 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Sharing? Not really… Learning not to hoard toys? Learning to not get overly attached to stuff? Well, that’s something I’d believe.

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