How to Stop Your Family From Buying Too Much Crap for Your Kids (and What to Do When It Does Anyway)

It’s charity season, but when it comes to kids whose playrooms are already overflowing with toys, books, games, and puzzles, the holidays can bring an unwanted influx of things that add to the clutter you’re already trying to contain.

Maybe you’ve just emptied a whole rack of toys you’ve never played with; maybe you are trying to open a new page and minimize the trash in your home; or maybe you find excessive consumption and plastic waste during the holidays problematic. Whatever the reason, if you want to inform family and friends that you would like fewer gifts for your children this year, here are some gentle and considerate ways to do it.

Be grateful, not arrogant.

First, don’t assume a friend or family member will pamper your child this holiday season (unless you have historical reason to believe they will). But if they reliably outbid your babies from birth, it’s safe to predict what they will continue to do. When addressing a topic, be sure to start with gratitude. Something like, “He loves the game you gave him last year, plays it all the time!” before proceeding to your request.

Communicate clearly and early what you want

For the best chance of success, don’t wait a week before the holiday to declare your wishes. Global retailers are facing supply chain challenges so there is no time to discuss them now. While it can be tempting to hide your request so as not to offend, it is more effective to state it softly but clearly. Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman suggested the following scenario to the Huffington Post : “We are head over heels in toys and we have no more room … We would have liked Johnny to get just one little token from you, which he Remember.”

Another approach is to reference your child’s experience. “Last year, we noticed that Jamie had so many gifts that she was overwhelmed and unable to process or appreciate them all. We would like there to be fewer gifts this year so that she can enjoy each of them. “

Or send an email to family members ahead of time that doesn’t highlight any person’s over-buying. “Max is very lucky to have a lot of great toys already, so this year we ask family and friends to focus on giving ___.” (See options below.)

Provide a list of alternative gift ideas

Instead of the traditional cacophony of loud, noisy LEGO objects and toys with 62 tiny plastic parts, direct your friends and family to the type of gift you really need. Popular alternatives include gifts such as a museum membership or concert ticket; contribution to their educational savings account 529 in favor of their favorite charitable organization; or ask them to sponsor a less fortunate child or family for the holidays .

Recognize where they come from

It’s easy to think of someone who tends to overspend (especially if you’ve talked them out of overspending in the past) simply as someone who “doesn’t get it.” But it’s important to remember their point of view. For family members who don’t live nearby, over-infatuation is likely due to the fact that they want to make up for wasted time. Remember, too, that giving gifts can be their primary love language , the very essence of how they show love and connection. This can add additional difficulty for them to completely abstain from gifts.

Set rules for gifts

If they just can’t refuse gifts, invite them to buy something tangible in addition to a keepsake. A new leotard for gymnastics lessons or a new set of colored pencils for drawing. Offer a price cap as well so they hopefully think twice about the $ 60 big dump truck.

What to do if your child still has too many toys

Inevitably, there will be relatives who neglect your requests, no matter how kindly you do them. When this happens, try not to take it personally ( they didn’t listen to me! ) And remember that people end up doing what they want to do. (And the same scenario will unfold in many other homes across the country at this very moment.) First, say thank you – and teach your children to say it even when they are disappointed. Then consider whether the toy can be left at the donor’s home to use whenever your child visits.

Inform your children that while they can open all gifts in front of the giver to show gratitude, they should not unwrap the gift from the package inside the box. This way, when the holiday is over, unwanted or duplicate items can be returned or donated.


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