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Holiday giving: Say no to requests for toy lists

brokentoysBy Neil Allen

“Wait…what? That’s absurd!”

I would have said the same thing when my daughter was younger. When she was very young, it didn’t matter as much but as she got older it became a problem. She was getting many presents every holiday and on her birthday that she never opened. She just turned 22 years old and we recently rediscovered some never opened presents from her childhood.

I started thinking about this when a friend shared a blog post from the KidsSafetyNetwork that talked about how the author was no longer going to give family members a list of toys to family members. The authors knew that the toys given to their children were either going to be rarely used, become the latest canvas for their art, get scattered everywhere, or join a pile of body parts from dismantled dolls and action figures.

It sent me down memory lane as I thought about the presents from my childhood that I have carried around for 35+ years as I moved from place to place — a Heidi doll that my grandparents bought me when visiting Europe (it was a favorite book when I was a kid), a panda PJ bag, a vest my aunt crocheted for me, a piggy bank my uncle made in his pottery workshop, and a doll sleeping bag that I made when my mom taught me how to knit when I was like 9 years old.

You’re unlikely to avoid your child begging for the latest toy craze or the really cool toy their best friend has, but you can minimize how many other toys make it into your house and encourage family members and friends to think outside the gift box.

Here’s a list of some alternatives:

  • Books. Children cannot have enough books in their lives. Offer recommendations on the types of books or authors your child likes to read. It may not be as shiny as a new dump truck but it is likely to be read over and over again.
  • Tickets. Get tickets to go skiing, the movies, a play, the zoo, a children’s museum, or any other place the child likes to go to then go with them. The memories of you doing something with them will last a lifetime.
  • Supplies. Does the child like to knit? Build rockets? Garden? Have a small pet? You can buy the supplies they need to do their hobbies and might not be able to afford otherwise. Who knows? You may end up with a new pair of socks or have their new fish named after you.
  • Skills. Do you know how to knit or crochet? Can you play the guitar? Do you enjoy painting and drawing or going out into nature to take photos? Are you a tracker or bird watcher? Your gift could be to teach the child a skill you have, which can be combined with the supplies if the skill is connected to materials they wouldn’t have around the house like yarn or paints and brushes.
  • Group present. If there is something the child wants that the parents cannot afford, like a musical instrument, dance classes, sports equipment, summer camp, a video camera, etc., the family can pool their resources and help pay for it. It will mean so much to the child to have the support from the family for the things they enjoy doing. And, if it is connected to something that you can be part of down the road, like going to their games or concert or viewing the movie they created, it will make the memory even more powerful.

If you’re one of the people seeking to buy your grandchild or niece or nephew a holiday present, trust the parents to know what their child really wants or needs. It is really is one of the best way to make sure that the present is remembered next week much less years from now. And, you could be passing along family traditions or skills that could be used for the rest of their lives.

What are some of the alternative presents you’ve gotten for children? We welcome you to share your suggestions in the comments section!