Editor’s note: Thousands of you resonated with the mom who begged her friends and family, “Please stop giving my kids so much crap.” So, we thought it was time for another look at gift giving and keeping the holidays with kids simple. Long-time Green Child contributor Sandy Kreps is back with tips on how to ask family and friends to cut back on toys this holiday so you can focus on what matters most.
As the holidays approach, many parents start dreading the influx of toys. Whether it’s eight days of Hanukkah gifts or a tree full of gifts from Santa, once the unwrapping frenzy is over we’re left with one concern: where are we going to put all of this?!
Despite the idea that lots of toys brings hours and hours of fun, the truth is that most kids with too many toys often become overwhelmed, frustrated, and bored.
Even if you’re not the one giving them, toys tend to have a habit of piling up anyway. Well-meaning family and friends love to spoil your children! While decluttering is one way of reducing toys, stopping the influx of toys in the first place is much less stressful.
Start the gift giving conversation early
Talk with your family and friends in advance, asking them to consider focusing more on gifts of experience and relationship and less on stuff. Finding gifts the kids actually use and can grow with them is ideal. If you can’t do this in person or over the phone, an email will work. It’s important that you have this conversation as early as possible so your friends and family aren’t already halfway through their holiday shopping before you mention it. Speak honestly, and candidly explain why you’re looking to simplify.
You can also explain your intention to provide hands-on experiences, growing opportunities, and consumable gifts that your growing children need and can enrich their lives, instead of toys that will only be played with for a short amount of time and then forgotten in a pile of clutter.
Approach the conversation in a way that communicates things like, “I really want my kids to spend more time with you. I want to spend more time on their education and activities they enjoy.“
You want family members to be prepared for your new change around gift giving so they’re not surprised or disappointed, but you also want everyone to understand the reasons you’re doing this. It’s not just about clearing your clutter, but it’s also about putting an emphasis on these intentional relationships and intentional experiences, so they can give a gift that has a lasting impact.
Recognize that more often means less
When it comes to gift giving, a massive pile of beautifully wrapped gifts, while delightful on the eyes, soon ends up being a pile full of toys and electronics in rooms that are already too full to begin with. Plus, when you have too many toys, suddenly none of them are actually special.
As the anonymous mom in the article lamented, “It’s not that stuff is necessarily bad, per se, it’s just that the stuff that my kids bring into this house is actual crap. There are toys that will break in minutes, toys that my kids do not need, clothes that my kids also don’t need, papers and crafts and snacks and trinkets and knick-knacks that I am spending all of my time sorting, organizing, and purging.”
Save the money you’d spend on the newest holiday toy trend, and use that money instead toward something your child will enjoy and learn from for years to come.
Keep gift giving expectations in check
So many kids hear stories from their friends about their huge trees with piles and piles of presents. If that’s not the case in your home, you’ll want to set their expectations up realistically from the very beginning. Remind them of the importance and the fun of gifts that can be used or enjoyed. And it’s a good idea to remind them that while gifts are fun, it’s the love behind the present that counts.
Ask for gifts of experience and relationships
Consider ideas like tickets to the zoo or the local science museum, movie tickets, or gift cards for your children’s favorite hobbies. Teens can use gas cards if they’re driving or gift cards to healthier fast food restaurants.
Try specifically asking for experience gifts that can enhance your child’s relationships with other family members. Maybe grandma can take the kids to the zoo instead of just handing them some tickets. Not only will get a great day out to see the animals, they’re also going to be spending time with grandma.
Another idea is a gift certificate or contribution towards lessons. Is your child interested in dance, sports, music? Mention that a great gift could be contributions towards music lessons, martial arts classes, sports coaching, acting lessons, or dance classes. Be sure to invite the gift-giver to watch a tournament or recital so that they can see that their gifts are going toward an activity your child loves.
Try the Want Need Wear Read Approach
You may have heard the idea of “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” This is one fantastic way to reduce the number of toys that come in to your home while also giving them gifts that serve a specific purpose. It’s also a great way of keeping your holiday shopping simple, which can also help save your sanity.
If contributions toward lessons aren’t feasible, maybe your child could use some of the necessary items they’ll actually need for their activities, like a baseball player needing a new glove or a bat. It’s a great gift because it’s something he would actually use and it’s also not extra stuff cluttering up your house. If your child is a musician, perhaps a new music book or supplies for their instruments.
If you know a family is planning a trip, consider giving the children some travel supplies they may not already own, such as a new suitcase, travel clothes, or gift cards they can apply toward their trip and souvenirs.
Include a DIY or Edible Gift
Because a paper gift certificate to voice lessons may not be all that exciting to open, you can always pair it with a tin of the child’s favorite homemade cookies. Maybe a budding chef would love a basket that has all the makings of their favorite dish or treat, along with Great Grandma’s coveted recipe for the dish? This not only has special meaning, but they’re meant to be experienced and appreciated.
Related: 40+ Homemade Edible Gift Ideas
This also works if you’re asking family and friends to cut back on stuff for gifts for the whole family. How about a Mini Movie Night, with a basket of snacks, drinks, and gift cards for renting a movie?
The kids will remember these types of gifts for years to come. It’s so much better than whether they have the latest Barbie doll or the newest video game. You want the kids getting out into the world and putting emphasis back where it belongs: experiences and relationships.
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