The “Toys R Us test”

How many times have you been at a store and the kids try to pick up something and leave with it and you have to play the bad guy and say no? Sometimes the kids cause a riot and you may even reluctantly leave with a piece of candy or toy you did not intend to leave with. This is frustrating to no end but often we take the short-term solution just to get them out of the store without making a scene. I have a solution for that.

The “Toys R us test”

Now it doesn’t have to be Toys R us. It could be any toy store or department store with a large toy section for the kids to be able to find something they want to leave with. A candy store works as well for short trips. In fact it is very likely any store the kids go into they will find something that they absolutely have to have. But it goes as follows;

Take your kids to Toys R us and spend an hour or more there. Let the kids play, look at and touch anything and everything they want to. However, and here is the hard part; you cannot leave with anything. This is a test for the parents as well as a learning experience for the children. Be prepared to be constantly putting things back and being firm with your kids. The purpose of this is to learn to say no to your kids and to teach your kids they can’t have something every time they go into a store. This will test your patience. Likely it will be harder for you as a parent than for you kids. But it helps to go to the store knowing what is going to happen and setting aside the time to be able to deal with whatever the kids throw at you. Temper tantrums, crying, guilt-tripping, running away, and throwing things are all things you can expect to happen as well as some things you may not expect.

You may feel that you are egging your kids on or purposely putting them in a situation where they are going to get upset. And that may be exactly what you are doing. That is kind of the point. This is a test of their ability to resist buying something and your ability to resist buying them something. It is exactly the challenge of putting them in this situation that will lead to benefit.

A couple of other ways to play this;


  • Go looking for a birthday gift for a friend’s birthday. My kids found it hard at first picking something for someone else rather than themselves. Whatever they choose they wanted to keep for themselves.*
  • Explain to the kids that you are going shopping for a child who doesn’t have any toys and that we want to help them by buying them something they can’t buy. This is a different experience altogether but I think it’s a good lesson for them.
  • When they get a little older you can take them to a thrift store or teach them about pricing. But the key is to get them out of the buying mindset. So if you need something I think that shopping around and other strategies make sense. Train them that over buying is a recipe for being poor


When you leave with nothing you will have saved yourself some money, now and in the future and you will have made your life easier next time you enter a store with your kids. You will likely have to try this many times before they stop the nagging. Let’s be honest this may never stop but it will get easier.

*Making something for their birthday is probably a better solution

** As much as I think the birthday gift and the charity variations are valuable, I recommend trying this without buying anything at all. Sometimes leaving the store with nothing at all can be harder than with something even if it is not for them.





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