When Elina Furman decided to offer a toy rental service named Pley to help parents reduce toy clutter and develop a “sharing economy,” she picked one of the most iconic brands to start with, and quickly learned that there are two kinds of kids – those who will let go of a Lego set and those who won’t.
Lego is such a vital part of my family history that the sound of one of the big plastic storage containers being dumped onto the wooden floor upstairs with the clackity-click of plastic bricks and bits being rummaged through makes me grin ear-to-ear.
I love the sound that I associate with my four sons and my husband embarking on a building mission together up on the third floor of our house, which we all worked together to convert into to a bedroom and Lego play place.
However, when I read about Pley, I was immediately intrigued by the prospect of what life could be like without all the ownership woes that come with collecting building toys in both my home and vacuum cleaner.
I have lost more vacuum cleaner drive belts than I can count to little plastic bricks and bits that got sucked into the spinning brush and jammed up into the belt until the house reeked of burning rubber.
Unfortunately, I swiftly learned that Pley is not an option for my clan after showing the Pley website to my family.
“That’s got to be the worst, the most awful...tell me we aren’t doing anything like that,” sputters my son Quin, 10, when he looks at the Pley website.
“The whole point of Legos is to have as many sets and combinations available as possible so you can be totally creative in your build,” he adds. “You collect in order to have options. This just limits what I can create!”
My youngest son turned from the computer screen where the Pley site was on display and looked at me like I had just suggested we drive to D.C. and paint The White House red.
Apparently, just suggesting he give up ownership in favor of a collective arrangement that doesn’t actually involve collecting Lego, made him look like a ton of tiny bricks hit him on the head.
However, not everyone agrees with him. More than 15,000 families are currently enrolled in the rental service, which started last May.
Pley offers three monthly rental plans based on whether you want to rent small ($15 a month), medium ($25 a month), or large sets ($39 a month).
All plans provide members with multiple rentals per month – one set at a time, according to Ms. Furman, co-founder of Pley, who was born in Russia and now lives in New York City.
Furman explains that she understands Lego fans come in two camps, identifying “those who will never, ever part with them” and “kids who just want the experience of trying them.”
“With so many children these days, they just play with something while it’s new and shiny and then leave it,” Furman says. “This way, the child always has that new and shiny. They never get bored and we never get the clutter in our homes. Also, it’s eco-friendly.”
My four sons were raised with their father’s Lego bins, which we collected from my mother-in-law’s attic after our first son was born 20 years ago, and we have added to them ever since.
Our house is Legotopia to my kids and for me – while I may grouch about stray bricks – the most soothing, reliable thing in my life is the sound of a big tub of tiny plastic bricks being upended and rummaged through to find that perfect fitting piece.
That jumbled, chaotic din, followed by utter silence for hours as my husband and sons work side-by-side on the build of the day means all is right with my world.
“I am looking at America from the outside and Russian ways,” Furman explains. She and her family moved to Chicago from Russia when she was age 7. “I had only one or two toys, which I cared for carefully and appreciated.”
She adds, “Pley instills a sense of responsibility that’s lacking in children in this society.”
The sets are cleaned with a sterilizing solution and there is a 15-brick loss forgiveness policy as part of the rental agreement, according to the Pley website.
Kids must separate and sort out the bricks before sending them back and are encouraged to write a note to the next renter to tell them about his or her build.
“I love the idea of what Pley is offering,” says Beau Turner, a Lego League mentor and dad of two boys. “My boys will typically build the project as designed in a kit then within days cannibalize parts for other projects. After a week I am sure to find pieces or chunks of parts in our Lego buckets.”
Mr. Turner added that as the cost of Lego sets continues to rise out of parental price ranges and yard sale picking get slimmer, he’s willing to give Pley a try.
While some parents would rather rent monthly and save space in favor of variety, and others prefer to put the money into a purchase of sets to keep, the end result is good times, creative family fun, and memories that will outlast anything they make.