I Tried a Viral Hack for Finding Kids Toys—and It Saved Us from a Meltdown on Day One

updated Jan 31, 2020
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Credit: Tile

Before I actually had kids, I envisioned their toy collection to be quaint and timeless—mostly wooden, and definitely not derived from the Nickelodeon franchise. But here we are, with an entire stable of miniature Paw Patrol stuffed animals.

My boys aren’t the type of kids who drag a stuffed animal with them everywhere, but I frequently find myself turning my house upside down to find these Paw Patrol pups, who are often the main characters in their imaginary games. My three-year-old is particularly endeared to Rubble, the pup who drives a bulldozer, whom he also happens to resemble (if he were a cartoon bulldog).

Credit: Ashley Abramson

So when I heard about Tile—a small, plastic “finder” that helps locate out-of-sight items—I knew I had to try it. Tile trackers have successfully been used, time and time again, to help parents track down their kids’ favorite toys. It was even the subject of a heart-wrenching commercial that’s collected over 8 million views.

Tile works with a mobile app. So the first thing I had to do (and by “I,” I mean my tech-savvy spouse) was set it up on my iPhone. The premise is pretty simple: When the stuffed animal (or whatever you’re looking for) goes missing, you can just hit “find” on the app, and the Tile plays a ring tone of your choosing. The Tile Mate locates items within 200 feet, so it’ll only really work inside your house. (The Pro version, which is a little more expensive, has a 400-foot range.)

Credit: Tile App/Ashley Abramson

Next, I had to do the Tile surgery. I haven’t cut open a stuffed animal since 1997 when I tried to re-stuff my beloved panda bear, so I was surprised to discover hundreds of tiny, plastic beads came out of Rubble’s butt. After I put the Tile in—the Mate, about the size of a standard ravioli, fit perfectly inside the Beanie Baby-sized stuffed animal—I re-integrated the rogue stuffing and stitched it back up. 

Then the fun began. 

To show my three-year-old what Rubble was now capable of, I hid him under the covers of his bunk bed, hit “find,” and let him follow the song to find him. Little did I know this would incite an expectation that “Rubble’s song” was for hide and seek, which we played well past his bedtime. 

Another unexpected, alternate use: The next morning, my son was holding Rubble in bed, and I had the great idea of using the “find” song as an alarm to wake him up when it was time to get ready for school. He emerged from his room with a pep in his step and, of course, I was obligated to indulge him with a few rounds of hide-and-seek. 

The real test came later on in the day, when I actually had no idea where Rubble was. The Tile hack saved me a good 10 minutes of tearing apart our house, and even better, saved my ears from 10 minutes of toddler tantrum sounds.

Overall, I’m happy with the Tile—although I think it would be most beneficial for families with kids who can’t fall asleep without their favorite stuffed animal or blanket. In the future, just for convenience’s sake, I might use the Tile (which has a small hole in the corner) as a “dog tag” on the stuffed animal’s collar. I might also put one in my older son’s beloved Pokemon card binder, which is also a common source of headaches in our household.

The opportunities are limitless, and I’m grateful to modern technology softening the blow of my children’s meltdowns, saving me time, and most of all, entertaining us all. 

If you’ll excuse me, I have some hide-and-seek to play.