“Why we decided to go second-hand for our son’s first birthday gifts.”

My second born baby Leo is about to turn the big one. Apart from not knowing where that year has gone, I am currently planning his birthday party and let’s be honest, a child’s first birthday is mostly about celebrating the survival of the parents, am I right?

With the Prosecco purchased in bulk, and much debate with my eldest son Toby over whether we make a chocolate or a vanilla cake, I eventually had to consider what to buy the little pickle.

The present buying expedition started at a gorgeous independent toy shop where I cooed over the pretty wooden playthings. I was almost sold on a hand-painted walker and block set from Europe when I looked at the price tag and thought about longevity. Did I really want to spend hundreds of dollars on a toy that might only be used for a couple of months? It would of course look cute photographed for Instagram, but would he actually play with something so pastel hued and subtle?


I ventured to our local big retailer by way of comparison. At first, I was all of a flutter at the breadth of choice. So many loud all-singing-all-dancing plastic toys in primary colours that he would no doubt love. I was practically filling my trolley with all these $10 bargains and patting myself on the back for not being lulled into purchasing one premium item when I started to feel overwhelmed.

We do not have a huge house or rumpus room where these loud and fantastical toys can live out their lives without impacting on the rest of our home, so they would have to co-exist in either his small bedroom or in our lounge. The $10 lights n’ sound table in lurid green suddenly didn’t seem as appealing when I imagined them next to our brown leather sofa.

LISTEN: Is there a way to knock-back a hand-me-down without hurting feelings? Post continues after audio…

Aside from their logistical space-sucking issues, I suddenly felt a bit sick about all of this cheap plastic in my trolley. Where will it go when I am done with it? I had already seen two full trolleys speed past me to the checkout and I had a vision of a council pick up day not long ago where I saw a number of these types of toys lying broken and dusty on the kerb, on route to the tip. Ugh.


The thought of all of Leo’s toys becoming future landfill suddenly made them less appealing and I came out with one small toy car instead. I decided then that I would see what I could source for him second hand.

I searched online as well as stopping off at a garage sale, some antique and collectables stores and our local Salvation Army shop. I settled on a ‘learn and play’ house in great condition for $15 from a grandmother via Gumtree, which Leo and I went to pick up from her home. It did take a little more time than a quick dive into the mall, but I liked the random, creative nature of shopping for second hand goods, never knowing what you might find and at what price.

What this present hunt has proven to me is that while there are some great new toys on sale, there are also many fantastic used ones looking for new and appreciative owners.

Apart from feeling noble about the recycling angle, I also liked giving my money to a sweet grandmother who was nostalgic about saying goodbye to a well-cared for toy that her grand kids had loved. You just don’t get that warm, fuzzy and personal feeling at a giant retail store, do you?

At one year old, Leo couldn’t really care whether he gets a present or an empty box this Sunday, as long as he is surrounded by his loved ones who get to enjoy a glass of something bubbly and a piece of cake in his honour.

LISTEN: Morris Gleitzman joins Holly and Andrew on This Glorious Mess to tell us why kids’ stories are so important, we discuss why kids are clueless about money, and we answer the question – can you turn down hand-me-downs?