5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Toy Story


5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Toy Story

I was twelve the year the first Toy Story movie came out in theaters. I was at an age where I was both too cool to watch cartoon movies, yet still wanted to cling to my childhood when so much felt like it was changing beyond my control. I fell in love with the movie and so began my lifelong love of the Toy Story franchise. I’ve faithfully watched all the movies in the theater and currently own all three that are available. I’ve passed this appreciation to my children as well. When Toy Story 4 came out, my husband, children, and I went to see it with our Toy Story shirts and giant popcorn bucket. I’ll admit that I was a ball of emotion. I laughed, I cried, and I felt so nostalgic that an end of the era had come to pass. I’ve heard many people say they aren’t happy with how the saga has ended, and with ZERO spoilers I will say that I felt it ended perfectly.

Looking back on how I’ve grown up alongside these movies, I realize I’ve learned some important life lessons from these movies:

1. Change is inevitable.

Change is a constant theme in the Toy Story movies and it is in life as well. New people come into our life and change the dynamics of our routine. It can be hard to adjust, but if we open ourselves up to new experiences, we can find something wonderful. Cue the Hallmark card, but it’s true. One day we look around and realize that we are in a place where we never dreamed we would be. We might have a different career, a different group of friends, a different mindset and we realize it happened without noticing. It’s scary at first to realize that change has happened and we had no control over it. I’ve learned over the years, through therapy and loads of self-reflection, to give myself grace to adjust to my new circumstances and to *try* my best to explore and have a good attitude about my new place in life. Obviously, it doesn’t always work. In fact, sometimes it can be downright painful (hence the therapy), but I keep trying. I change some things and cling to others, and I’m still here so something must be working. 

2. Trash or treasure depends on your perspective.

I’ve discovered this gem of truth as a parent. Forky, a new character in TS4, is made up of trash. If I saw that at my house, I admit I would want to toss it after a few days. I don’t remember as a kid clinging to scraps of paper, feathers, rocks, or plain trash. I MUST have because it’s a universal experience it seems, but I’m seeing it now through my children. My kids place significance on little treasures they find that I view as trash. My daughter currently has a shoebox full of bird feathers, pieces of string, and brightly colored balloon pieces. I have to stop myself from throwing it away as I’m casually cleaning her room. I see trash and other things that create clutter; she sees something beautiful and special. I have to respect her and not force my views on her. I do give her a box so that her treasures aren’t all over the house, and I insist they stay in that box. That compromise works for us. She gets to keep her stuff and I don’t have to pick it up. 

3. Friendship is everything.

Friends are people you choose. You aren’t born with a connection to them; instead you form those connections over long talks, laughs, and shared experiences. Toy Story wouldn’t be so inspiring without the friendships between the toys. Woody, Buzz, and Jessie are a team who can handle anything that comes their way when they’re together. It’s the same for us. Friends can help carry the weight for us when we’re going through something awful or hard. They are a safe spot to share your true self. They are laughter and silliness when life feels heavy. There was a time when I thought I wouldn’t have true friends. I’m so GLAD to say that’s no longer the case. I’ve found my people. I can be myself. It’s a powerful and freeing experience to realize you have people who stand beside you and call you a true friend. 

4. Always have extra batteries.

Seriously, trust me on this. It might not seem like such an important life lesson, but just wait until Christmastime. There’s nothing quite so scary as giving your kids toys and then forgetting to buy batteries. Ever had a favorite toy that suddenly goes dark in the middle of the night? Good luck getting ANY sleep without some batteries to make it work again. I now keep Costco size packs of batteries at home. 

5. Don’t give up.

Seems pretty simple; don’t give up. Woody never gives up, in fact, his drive and determination to leave no toy behind drives many of the movies. It’s harder than it looks though. Life is crazy. It’s messy, complicated, beautiful, and amazing, but sometimes it can be a lot, you know? When I’m juggling kids, my husband, a business, bills, appointments, and myself, it gets overwhelming. I just want to run away and let go of all my responsibilities and connections because they sometimes pull me down. But I don’t give up. I change the way I do things, I say no to commitments and responsibilities, and I send my kids outside for hours upon hours to play. Everything seems easier when I do that, but if I had given up, then I would have missed so much. So, that’s my motto for the year: don’t give up. Keep going, persist, carry on, and anything else that means keep moving forward. 

It may seem crazy to read this deeply into an animated movie, but I’ve grown up with these movies. They were a part of each stage of my life and with TS4, it feels like the end of an era. What life lessons have you learned from these movies or ANY movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


  1. I grew up with Toy Story as well. But my favorite kids movie of all time is Pete’s Dragon. I mean the old one with the Dragon being animated. The new one is good, but the old one really had meaning to me. It showed me that even when you feel like your life is rotten and horrible, it can be turned around for good. I think it also spoke to me in a way that I saw the dragon as an angel from God. This little boy needed a friend and needed help. So God sent the dragon. Now I understand that everyone realized the dragon was real in the end and its probably a stretch to say that God sends Dragons. But why couldn’t an angel come down as a dragon to help a child? A child was more likely to trust a dragon than a person at that point. It also reminds me that Magic exists out there, but as we grow up and become adults, we lose the ability to see it. We need to change our perspective to look through the world through our children’s eyes to see the Magic again.


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