Want some cool toys for your kids without the novelty wearing off when little boys and girls no longer want them? If yes is the answer, toy rental may be for you.
Nguyen Thi Cam Tu, 31, who lives in a 70-square-meter apartment in Tan Phu District, Ho Chi Minh City, dedicates a 2-square-meter section of her home to her eldest son’s ‘playground.’
Surrounded by a pile of toys of all kinds, the nine-month-old infant giggles at the sounds produced by a keyboard in the form of a panda which his mother plays.
Tu says that the fence she used to build around her son’s ‘playground’ and all the lovable paraphernalia were rented from a toy shop in Binh Thanh District.
She would regularly pamper her baby with loads of toys, who soon grew tired of them as the novelty wore off.
The young mother was drawn immediately to the wide array of playthings posted on the shop's website and soon became one of its customers.
"As toddlers tend to get bored after one week or so, we keep changing the toys to keep them interested," Tu explained.
Nguyen Thi Diem My, of Tan Binh District, said she has hired toys from a shop for her toddler and baby for two years now.
The playthings come in a wide variety, from slides, swings to a basketball course and electric cars.
My’s monthly rental of approximately VND400,000 (US$18), or a two-year rent of approximately VND5 million ($220), is enough to buy an electric car.
A click on the Internet now offers parents a glimpse into some hundreds of toy rental shops with prices ranging from VND60,000 ($3) to VND200,000 ($9), depending on the origin and quality of the items.
Shop owners now race to post photos of their new arrivals to lure potential customers.
A plaything shop in an alley on Binh Loi Street in Binh Thanh is a miniature toy world which boasts average and luxury items including toy cars, balls and electric cradles.
Duong said her collection, meant for five-month-olds to two-year-olds, is mostly imported from South Korea and the U.S. for VND500,000 ($22) to VND5 million ($220) apiece.
Lam Thuy Duong (right), who runs a toy rental shop, is pictured cleaning their playthings before hiring them out to customers. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Rentals thus fluctuate between VND180,000 ($8) and VND70,000 ($3) for each plaything per week and decrease for month-long hire, though few kids stay interested in the items for more than one week.
Duong started her shop out of her own need, as she bought costly toys for her baby, which would soon go to waste.
Tapping the growing demand for inexpensive rentals, she launched her own shop which now boasts around500 items.
Apart from caring parents, her clientele also encompasses charity organizations and families who hire toys for their one-day events and gatherings.
Staff from kindergartens from as far as Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands and Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta have turned to the shops as a more affordable way to add richness and novelty to their school playgrounds.
According to Nguyen Ngoc Duc, who owns a toy hire shop in Thu Duc District, it is not uncommon that a toy’s parts go missing upon clients’ return due to their child’s playfulness and parents’ own neglect.
“Seeking replacements from other countries may take months. Many items have been shelved because we fail to find replacement parts,” he said.
He added, however, that fines are nominal as they are mostly meant to boost parents’ sense of responsibility.
Duc added that many fastidious clients refuse to take the items unless they are immaculate.
Veteran toy rental shop owners have warned against Chinese toys which are rampant on the local market.
They advised parents against selecting toys with gaudy, fast-fading colors and unusual/plastic-like odors, as such toxin-containing toys are capable of harming the kids’ health.
Parents, especially those with young children, should also make sensible choices against sharp, breakable toys which can be easily swallowed by or cause injuries to minors.