We don't follow the easy path, but it's fun! (and better, IMHO)
We (my husband and me) try to educate our son on that when something is broken, first we try to repair it, if it is not possible, then we try to give it a second life, etc. We (broke* and) repaired together clothes, toys, books, computers... We have used broken things to make new toys, created costumes... When we want to do something we look first at the materials we have at home.
( * sometimes things break accidentally, other times, when trying to figure out new ways of playing or trying to open them to see their parts. Toys are for playing and learning, and that includes a bit hacking too, isn't it?).
I don't buy a different type of biscuits or flakes or whatever until he finishes the last one he chose. If he's bored, we play with combinations or decorations to make them more fun.
When we go to do the shopping, first we make a list at home. If there are temptations in the mall, then I can say "we didn't come here to buy that, it's not in the list. If you want it, next week, when we make the list, we talk about it".
We borrow books and films from the library, handle them with care (no hacking allowed with those ones!), and return them back, almost every week. I wish there were similar places as libraries, but for toys! (well, we have the park, where everybody must share the toys he/she brings, but it's not the same).
These may look like small things, but it's incredible the pressure of our culture: "is it broken? Throw it and buy a new one" or "We need to buy this in order to make that", or "I don't like this anymore, let's buy a different thing". You don't realize until you try to follow a different path! Or until you have a son/daughter and he/she comes with those ideas, and you wonder "from where did he/she learned that?".
We'll see for how long we can resist. Anyway, every day I give thanks, because our son means a daily opportunity for rethinking our world, and trying to do my best at explaining it, and making it more similar to the world that we would like to live in!
But I more wanted to comment about the "library for toys". I'm not sure it's the kind of "toys" you're searching for, but for board games, you can find a lot of stores where you can play in the shop or rent them. That's usually not to expensive and most of all, you can have advices from the people working there to discover new board games which are not very popular or even not translated in English (in this case, play in the shop to be sure to find someone answering your questions about the rules ^^ ) .
depends what you call "easy"
sometimes its easier to improvise with something lying around at home than to go to the hassle of going to a shop and possibly not being able to afford it anyway! I don't really like shopping and absolutely hate waiting. :-)
if its a choice between trying something TODAY using whatever I find lying around or waiting (to buy/afford/have shipped) the former is is the one that is far more likely to result in anything worthwhile! - if there is more than a day's wait (usually the case for online shopping), my motivation evaporates! (and that ends up being put off .. and put off .. and forgotten)
often for me doing/making something myself is the only way to actually get it done!
I really find it hard to understand why so many people are so obsessed with shopping and throwing out stuff. I don't see any fun in either!
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When my child was small, we used to go to a drop-in centre near where we lived in Toronto. There were lots of toys and kids to play with there. I heard of at least one toy library that I believe was organized by a parent group, but we only found out about it when we were moving, so I really don't know how it worked.
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