minimalism and happy meal toys

 lex luthor is to superman as happy meal toys are to minimalism.

we took our two kids to mcdonald’s for lunch today.  we like it, they love it, it’s cheap…not a bad combo. and while i don’t mind eating there, i do mind bringing home the two happy meal toys every single time.  it’s not because i don’t want my kids to have toys, it’s because i don’t want them to have these toys. 

somewhere in the multi-billion dollar research and development department of mcdonald’s, they have been able to recreate a 25 cent toy that is played with once and never touched again.  yet, as soon as they are thrown away by parents, the child immediately wants to play with it the next morning – regardless of how long has lapsed since the eating of the happy meal.  i don’t know how they do it, but they’ve got my kids figured out.

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Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. CLM says

    Just a comment about my Happy Meal Vote. I voted NO, however… I used to have lots of Happy Meal Toys in my home (I have three children.) Now that the youngest is 13 the toys no longer litter my home but I find them at my daughter’s home, I have 3 small grandchildren. I guess you can never be fully rid of them, unless you or family never walk through the door of a McDonalds again!

  2. Christy says

    This is timely for me. I have decided to tackle the kids play area – the whole rest of the house has been totally purged and over-hauled, but I haven’t done as much with their stuff because I didn’t want my oldest to feel out of control, which sends her off the deep end.

    But yesterday I decided to bring them into this equation, and I told my 2 kids if they could each bring me 10 things to take to the thrift store, they’d get a bonus on their allowance.

    My son schlepped down there and quickly came up with 10 discarded toys. My daughter came back up with a container of her brother’s often- used soccer stuff. *rolls eyes*

    I finally managed to get 20 legit things out of them, but oy vey. It’s going to be a long process at this rate. I may have to resort to going through it when they’re at school. Less fuss and it would take them months to notice. ;o)

    • di says

      It’s much more difficult for kids to make decisions. Try to give them more time to think about it over a certain period of time.

  3. Christy says

    Well, your post was the boost I needed. I had 1 & 3/4 hours between the end of my shift and the time the kids came home from school, and I decided to see how much I could get done. I actually got finished, so there was a lot less stuff down there than I thought. Clearly we had already purged once when it went down to the play area.

    2 bags of garbage out and a big bin of stuff for the thrift store later, I am pretty amazed at how much is gone. And even more amazed at how all they got excited about was how clean the room was, and not how much junk was missing. ;o)

    I am glad it’s done, but I’m bothered by the fact that despite the fact that we have worked really hard to instill a social conscience into our kids, they can’t see past the end of their own noses to give things away unless it’s done stealthily. Even my pack-rat daughter doesn’t miss a thing that’s gone, but can’t manage to give anything away (even pre-school toys), even if it just sits. I think it’s a common kid thing, but it’s frustrating when I feel so free for all the stuff I’m doing without.

    How have you managed to get your kids to purge, or at their young ages do you guys just do it for them?

  4. Christy says

    (And FYI, I have now voted YES to the Happy Meal Toy poll…but they are in the thrift store box to be dropped off Monday! LOL)

  5. says

    we handle the purging for our 2-year old daughter.

    my son is 6 and handles his own purging (he’s pretty bright and would notice if something is missing). he’s also good at sticking to his decisions so if he decides that it’s time to get rid of a toy – he never looks back. when it is time to minimalize his toys, we ask him if he has any toys that he would like to give to “kids that don’t have as many.” from his selection, we throw some away, give some to friends if the toy is appropriate, or put it in the garage sale pile. so far, he’s done very well… better than we thought (and better than his parents too).

  6. Weph says

    If you’re having a yard sale, let your kids keep the cash they recieve for any of their toys they wish to purge. The money incentive is not just a good motivator for us adults!

  7. Travis says

    If I may impart some knowledge I gleaned whilst studying to be a RN

    The toys at MacDonalds are a psychological trick being played on your kids. Children like to collect things, it’s called Serieation (sp.) in Psych circles. To full-fill their need to finish this collection the kids will need to eat more “Happy Meals”.

    Also the “Happy Meals” are designed to engender a “Happy Memory” so that when your kids are adults they associate Macca’s with a happy memory.

  8. erin says

    A friend of mine does not buy her kids happy meals because you actually pay a little more for the toy. instead, she buys them $1 cheeseburgers and small fries. I am not sure how she handles the drink..maybe water? so the meal costs $2 instead of the almost 4 or so that a real happy meal is! Less money and less clutter!

  9. says

    I don’t have any kids, yet, but I’m not a fan of McDonalds. Hopefully, my future kids won’t mind if we don’t go (and miss out on all of the cheap toys)!

  10. says

    Relief on this point came from an unexpected source for us. My daughter had to do a report about a fast food restaurant for school. She chose McDonald’s. After researching how they make their food, she was so grossed out that she demanded that we never go there again. And we haven’t. :)

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