I went to join the toy library the other day. With the boys tiring of new toys in something between 2 and 20 minutes and the kitchen cupboard empty but for a handful of choking hazards, it seemed like a fine way to entertain my sons without caving in and letting them play with the sewing scissors. After we got banned from Sunglass Hut (management doesn't like customers to come in and lick products without purchasing), it seemed critical.
Our local toy library, however, is a rort. While the annual fee of $100 for twins is manageable, a parent is expected to volunteer for four sessions each year. FOUR sessions? Hasn't indentured labour been a bit on the nose in this country since we rightfully repatriated the Pacific Islanders in 1906? Of course, I was merrily told that I could bring the boys along. Ho Ho. And what alot of work we'd all get done then. Even if they let me take them along to the first session, however, I doubt we'd be invited back for a second. We're rarely invited anywhere twice.
So the shrewed economist in me undertook an analysis, and to join the toy library, I'd be looking at $350 including childcare but excluding medical fees (my boys can't spy other people's toys without picking up croup). But for parents in a similar predicament, the solution may be school fêtes. How good are school fêtes? I thought people only went to them for decent jam and the Dunkin Dunny, but it transpires that school fêtes are the perfect way to keep one's toybox well stocked without overpaying on ebay (I'm competitive) before being hit with hefty postage (it's expensive to freight a slide from Toowoomba) or facing a drive to Bacchus Marsh.
At the Nelson Street Kindergarten fête, we spent $28 and came home with so many garish toys, the boys have been entertained for hours. This weekend we returned from the St Kilda Primary fête with an abacus, 15 board books (all in excellent condition), flash cards (because what if my children really are genii and I've spent so long convincing myself they're developmentally delayed they BECOME developmentally delayed) and a whole heap of plastic things that play Mendelssohn over flashing lights and animal noises. Ooh baby, it's toy Nirvana. Who cares about that pre-natal pledge to purchase nothing but wood or felt? Surely, second-hand plastic doesn't count.
Parents, ditch your toy library and hit the school fête circuit. We'll be there, licking the sunglasses, buying up big and still getting a laugh out of the Dunkin Dunny. On the house.