My kid got too many toys for Christmas

Posted by David Beard, Globe Staff  December 30, 2008 06:23 AM

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The following is a Boston.com readers' query during a Q&A on Monday with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:

Question
: My 5-year-old daughter had a bonanza this Christmas. We have a big family and it seems every aunt, uncle, cousin and more gave her something. What can we do to deal with this oversupply of toys?
HERBIE

Barbara Meltz: Herbie, With toys, more is definitely less. When there's too much too choose from, kids this age (well, almost any age) get overwhelmed and can't focus on any one thing.

Decide which ones she's most interested in at the moment, and then put the other ones away in a closet to pull one -- one at a time -- when she's ready to move on. When the time comes, it will be like getting a new toy all over again. Considering her age or older, be sure to do this in consultation with her.

At first, there may be a tendency to want to pull out the next toy fairly quickly, but that's OK, that will pass and then iit will be like having her own private toy store. Plus, you can put away toys that she's not quite ready for developmentally.

Speaking of toys, does anyone have feedback on toys you gave or that your kids received that you would/wouldn't recommend?

Too many toys -- what advice would you give this parent? Give away a toy to a charity? Try to return a few? Have your say in our comments section -- and check out the following Child Caring questions from readers:

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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30 comments so far...
  1. My son got a great toy for Christmas - a GeoTrax train set. It is extremely well-made and perfect for his age (4). We have set it up in his room and he and his sisters have been enthralled for days. The other big hit was the Barbie dream house - which despite mixed online review, seems to be well made. It includes all the furniture and pieces and is pretty well thought out. My girls are 6 and 4 - both love it!

    Posted by rksmom December 30, 08 08:43 AM
  1. We adopt a family every Christmas and my 7 year old is finally "getting it". Part of that exercise is going thru his toy box/closet and pulling out toys he has out grown. These are donated to "cradles to crayons". It results in us being able to discard broken items, games with missing parts, etc too! I am hoping this will continue to be a family tradition for years to come. When the onslaught of gifts arrives on Christmas we are organized and ready to go!!

    Another option we did when my son was younger was to leave the gifts from the Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc at their home instead of bringing home to ours. Like Barbara said it keeps the "new" factor longer and insures that there are fun toys to play with when we visit.

    This has been harder to do this year because most of his gifts were items he really wanted and were more family oriented. We started family game night last year and most of our family gave him board games that we are all excited to play!

    Posted by bestsy December 30, 08 09:04 AM
  1. Her own private toy store? I am so stunned I can't think of a single thing to say to that. I have to hope that your job here is to offer the worst advice possible so that readers will be horrified that someone might follow it and offer their own, much better advice. Such as:

    If the child is old enough, this is a great chance to let her know that not all kids are as lucky as she and wouldn't she like to help them also have a good Christmas by sharing what she has. If she's not, take those toys that she seems less interested in that Barbara thinks you should turn into her private stash and just give them away to charity.

    Follow up by talking to your family about it. I've had this discussion, and it's not an easy one when the response is, "But I'm her grandmother, I'm supposed to spoil her!" The first year this happened I said, "Ok, but I'm her parent and the excess toys are going to charity." And then I did it. Tough the first time, but the unending stream of toys has slowed, and my family thinks of other ways to "spoil" her, like spending lots of time with her or taking her to the Nutcracker and then her favorite restaurant.

    Her own private toy store. How appalling.

    Posted by NotParisHiltonsMom December 30, 08 09:07 AM
  1. And while you cope with this year's oversupply, plan what to do about next year's. How about contacting those overly generous relatives and asking them to cool it? Or suggesting the family donate gifts to needy children?

    Posted by Carol Anne December 30, 08 09:07 AM
  1. Definately put some of the toys away. The ones she isn't really playing with, put them away. She won't even know.........Kids don't need a ton of toys anyway. I have a 9 yr old and 6 yr old and we have always put toys away. They think it's alot of fun to get a "new" toy every few months.....

    Posted by mom2kids December 30, 08 09:14 AM
  1. If the toys are still in the original packaging, set some aside for regifting, particularly if they duplicate or closely approximate other toys. Otherwise, the suggestion to put some away for the future (a rainy day, etc) is a good one, although donating some is even better.

    To avoid this problem in the future, consider nicely asking family to cut back. Our family has been really receptive to the idea of taking the kids on a special outing, one on one, in lieu of toys. Not only is it often less expensive, but the memories last a lifetime.

    Posted by akmom December 30, 08 09:27 AM
  1. I have taken toys that were just not of interest, and regifted them or donated them. I have a box in the basement that I put toys in that my kids never play with. If no one asks about them in 6 months, they are out of there. Now that they are older I do involve them in the decisions somewhat. But I also know that they will cling irrationally to toys that they just never, ever play with, and will not miss if they 'disappear'.

    Posted by BMS December 30, 08 09:39 AM
  1. I would say that this is the perfect opportunity to teach her about giving to those that are less fortunate. This year we talked to my daughter about giving one of her toys to a child that didn't have anything for Christmas. She quickly caught on that it would be really sad to not have anything and wanted to give. We are deciding which charity to donate to.

    Posted by Brocktonmom December 30, 08 10:01 AM
  1. The big hit in my house was that both sets of grandparents went in on a Wii game system (with extra controllers and a few games) as a gift for all four kids ages 3-11. This replaced at least 8 "things" that would have taken up space and probably would not be used as much - when you have three boys you pretty-much already have everything already anyway. I'm normally not a fan of video games for younger kids but the Deigo game and Wii sports are very interactive and even the littlest guys can play them and have fun.

    My three and four year olds are also enjoying Moon Sand - a total nightmare to clean up but they'll play cooperative together for an hour with this so I guess it's worth the clean up.

    Posted by Jen December 30, 08 10:21 AM
  1. Duh, there are many children in this world and around you, who were not as fortunate to be bombarded with so many gifts and you are whining. Give some to those children who don't or didn't receive much of anything or anything at all.

    Posted by Elizabeth Hulton December 30, 08 10:25 AM
  1. Wow, what bunch of curmudgeons! As the mother of a 'tween, I sat let your child enjoy her toys. DON'T take them away from her, however good the "cause." She is small, and will see it as punitive. So what is she gets too many toys - and who is to say what is too many? She's a child - let her enjoy being one.

    Posted by reindeergirl December 30, 08 10:42 AM
  1. My Niece & Nephew also receive TOO much. So this year I decided to cut the gift in half ( they never know it) and I donated that $$ to the childrens Hospital in their names. I then wrote them a letter explaining their gift was going to help someone not as lucky or fortunate as they are. They at first did not like the idea but we talked about it., and they are now really excited to help others .

    Posted by Auntie December 30, 08 11:04 AM
  1. I don't think Barbara's advice was appaling at all, it's smart. As I was sitting on Christmas Eve wrapping presents, I had it and decided that my kids - 3 and 5 had enough and put the rest away for a rainy day or to gift to other kids. They didn't miss a beat.
    My daughter got a doll and a baby play set - bouncy, play yard and baby mat, She loves it. My son got a power ranger thingy that I bought last minute for $7 that transformes to different shapes. The Wii was a hit with the whole family.

    Posted by TCThree December 30, 08 11:16 AM
  1. I think that there's merit to both arguments, i.e. putting some toys away for later, but also asking relatives to cool it, and if they don't, giving some up to charity. There's a fine line here between treating kids well and spoiling them, along with the trouble parents have of where to actually store this stuff. I don't know many people that have tons of extra space to dedicate to unused toy storage.

    Posted by Steve December 30, 08 11:35 AM
  1. How do people deal with grandparents who are overly exuberant gifters? My kids got a ton of toys this year and many of them are pure junk - ready to break at the first drop but they gave them anyway. We are now tasked with putting these toys away to the dismay of the grandparents or to put up with a bunch of lousy toys littering our house.

    Posted by dadfrombeantown December 30, 08 11:54 AM
  1. NotParisHiltonsmom needs to read a bit more carefully. Barbara also wrote the stuff in italics on the bottom. The original question seems quite clear that this year's bonanza wasn't part of a trend but rather a surprise. I do like the idea of pre-empting the giving by talking with relatives in advance, when you can anticipate it.

    I can't think of any way better to turn a 5 year old off from charity than to be heavy -handed in taking 'her' toys and giving them to charity. I'd expect that some 5 year olds maybe could volunteer to do that, but some maybe couldn't.

    Charitable giving is only one lesson - and definitely an important one. The other is to understand how to manage the excesses of life.

    Posted by Ron37 December 30, 08 12:16 PM
  1. I gave a few children the same gift this year. It was the My First Leap Pad with a book to go with it. It encourages children to learn but is also fun and "video-game like" so they feel like a big kid. I have gotten rave reviews from the parents of the receiving children (just remember to include the required batteries). Best of all...you can buy more books/accessories as additional gifts for birthdays. Everything can be purchased online to avoid toy stores as well.

    Posted by Mandy December 30, 08 12:43 PM
  1. Great NotParisHilton'sMom, I'll let everybody know from now on: Don't buy my child a $25 toy, instead spend $200 to bring them to Nutcracker and a restaurant.

    I thought Barbara's advice was just fine. I've developed a Toy Library in my basement, not just from gifts from a large family, but from toys that accumulate over years. When you play with toys only a few at a time, you take better care of them. There will still be charities around when the kids grow up!

    Posted by zitface December 30, 08 12:55 PM
  1. How can you even suggest putting them away for another day? There are so many children out there who got nothing for christmas and that woman's daughter is spoiled. She should explain to her that there are girls and boys just like her with nothing on christmas and wouldn't she love to make them smile!
    This is the worst advise you have ever given. Save them for a rainy day..unbelievable.

    Posted by shocked December 30, 08 12:55 PM
  1. Lighten up, notparishiltonsmom. I think you took Barbara's comment a little too seriously. I have a sister-in-law who's always telling us what to buy when to buy it. Takes all the joy out of giving and sharing. Plenty of things you need to be in control of. And get "appalled" by. What the grandparents want to buy their grandchildren should be low on yr list.

    Posted by mcmom December 30, 08 01:10 PM
  1. We have a large family and my kids are the only ones so I know what you mean. How about gift cards next time or a donation to her college fund? The gift card can be used anytime and what kid's college fund couldn't use a boost right now?

    Posted by babycheeks December 30, 08 01:23 PM
  1. The biggest hit with my almost-5-year-old was a wall-mountable easel with its own roll of paper. Takes up no more space in her room, as a free-standing easel would, and can't be knocked down. I bought her splash-guard paint pots that she can close herself when she is done and taught her how to clean her brushes. Now for the new problem: what to do with all her priceless works of art.

    We live quite far from most of our family, and so we either get small, portable items like books, or we get money as gifts. Rather than spending all the money at Christmas, I buy my children a few items, then reserve the rest of the money for things they might need later on, such as those splash-guard paint pots.

    Gift-givers: the single least useful present you can give is a stuffed animal. We get inundated with them. Yes, they're cute and fluffy, but a child can really only focus on two or three of them at a time. And for my 21-month-old who loves to bite the eyes off of toys, they can also be a choking hazard. So unless they specifically ask for a particular toy (my toddler's favorite gift is a stuffed Totoro from the Miyazaki film she loves) or the animal has a cool and unusual feature (stuffed Audubon birds with realistic birdcalls are fun), please don't give random, gratuitous stuffed animals. A book is far more valuable, likely less expensive, and will take up less space.

    Posted by cambridgej December 30, 08 01:49 PM
  1. There's nothing wrong with this child receiving gifts from family. The problem lies when the child takes it for granted, and it sounds like the parent is obviously concerned about that - otherwise would not have written for help/suggestions. I think putting some of the stuff in a toy closet is a perfect idea. Giving to charity is also an important lesson to teach. We buy presents for toys for tots and donate to the food pantry in our town with our 3 year old - not make him give up his own presents!

    Posted by smartmom December 30, 08 03:08 PM
  1. My family has a non-profit foundation that serves families in need during Christmas. My sister held a toy drive in November, and she received over 300 toys that were still brand new that families donated (their children received too many toys, and they put them aside for a good cause). Over 300 children received Christmas gifts thanks to these people.
    We also have a very large family, so we ask that people either give to my son's college fund, or that they donate a gift in his name to their favorite charity. With so many cousins he always has more than he needs and it means a lot to us. It's how we want him to grow up, giving to others.

    Posted by MOSeattle December 30, 08 03:17 PM
  1. Ditto on the stuffed animal comment. They procreate on their own and there are just too many of them. Additionally, they are hard to give away to charities unless they are brand new because even barely used ones can be seen as dirt/dust collectors. If anyone knows of a charity who can pass along stuffed animals I would love some information because I literally have several large garbage bags full that I don't have the heart to throw out but haven't been able to give away.

    As for relatives who are too generous, while some will gladly take you up on the suggestion of a small outing as a gift (the zoo, a movie, etc.) there are others, like my parents, who just don't have the energy to take their grandchildren out in public and would much rather give a "thing." As mentioned above, this year the grandparents were very open to a joint gift of a Wii, in prior years they all helped us to purchase a swingset. I usually suggest that my siblings go in together on one or two bigger gifts instead of a bunch of little things, and my out-of-state sisters are great with getting things like sports jerseys or room decor that we normally wouldn't buy. While passing along to charity is nice, people who give generously to your children deliberately are giving to THEM, not a charity, because that's what THEY, the gift givers, want to do. By all means pass along or re-gift things that aren't going to be used at all, but otherwise, rotating toys in and out of use keeps things fresh and not neglected. Working with only a portion of available toys at a time means that things are less likely to get broken or go missing, so when it's time to pass along to a charity you have more toys in great, usable shape. If the excess toys become a trend, you have to get ahead of it by having a list of clutter-free suggestions available for gift-givers of things that will be used and loved.

    Posted by Jen December 30, 08 03:31 PM
  1. we've made it a point that in January, we go through the old toys and have our children decide which toys to keep, and which to donate.. it serves to 1) clean out some room for new toys, 2) teach the value of charity to our children, 3) provide gently used toys to needy groups, and 4) provide us with a small tax deduction.

    Posted by vin December 30, 08 10:05 PM
  1. I think it would be rude to ask loving relatives (particularly ones who live far away) to "cool it" by giving far less stuff. Relatives are simply trying to show their love and it is not a parent's job to rudely turn away a loving gesture. The proper response to such relatives is "Thank you!" and then quietly, at a later date the extra toys can be given to charity. Even if charity is what the parent had in mind all along, why be rude and hurt relatives' feelings in the meantime?

    Posted by Molly December 31, 08 03:16 AM
  1. To address the glut of toys kids receive from aunts, uncles, etc., my family formed a group and pooled some cash and started purchasing gifts for nephews, nieces, etc. from a list provided by the parents. This allowed the group to buy larger items, like bicycles, electronics, and musical instruments, relieving parents of that financial burden. This also relieved parents of suddenly having dozens of action figures, some duplicates, and other such smaller toys cluttering the house. It's also easier on the aunts and uncles since they know specific items to purchase, saving countless hours of aimless shopping. And most of the shopping can be done online.

    Posted by Majorbuttkraak-2 December 31, 08 07:35 AM
  1. To Jen and others: The only place I've found to give away stuffed animals is to nursing homes. Places that deal with children don't want them because they expect that previous children have put them into their mouths, and they don't clean well enough and could get other children sick when they put them into their own mouths. Or something like that.

    Nursing home residents don't put toys into their mouths. They like having something to cuddle. It's especially nice if your children can circulate around the nursing home giving out their own old stuffed animals. The recipients will love having a visit from chidlren. Of course, call ahead to be sure you'll be welcome.

    Posted by Deb January 2, 09 11:39 AM
  1. Everyone makes a valid point here - what is apparent is that there are differing perspectives about what is of importance to families and how to deal with receiving "things" that don't coincide with a parent's values and beliefs. As a new parent (of a 5 month old) I have yet to deal with the issue of what lessons my daughter will learn from how I handle these problems. However I have begun to set limits for family and friends in this matter. In fact, before my daughter was even born, I attempted to be clear about what I did and did not want for her and our family. For the most part, people respected my wishes. I can only assume those who did give items I did not want for my baby were not aware of my position on this matter.

    For many years prior to my daughter's arrival, I practiced accepting gifts graciously and then giving them away to charity. It took me some time to determine how I would handle the questions that would inevitably come (and they did) about where a specific item was or if it was in use. We have a small home (partly out of necessity, partly our choice - that is we refused to live beyond our means) and my answer to those inquiries has been that we simply do not have the space to keep them. (everyone has their own limits on how much "stuff" they can handle having around, so the size of your living space is not really something others can use as a measuring tool for how much more "stuff" you should have the space for)

    However you decide to deal with this issue, remember: people should be understanding and respectful of your wishes. If they cannot do this, then I personally believe these people are not worthy of the time one might spend worrying about their hurt feelings. Incidentally, over the years, friends and family have come to know that I will most likely not have a need for gifts and as a result, have scaled down what they give to me significantly.

    These postings have addressed the specific issue of too many toys (appropriately so, given the season) however the same could be said of any gift given that reflects the giver's beliefs - religious, educational, etc... Again, the matter comes down to one of respect. That said, people have to know what your wishes are before they can be expected to respect them!

    Posted by trustyourself January 2, 09 01:55 PM
 
30 comments so far...
  1. My son got a great toy for Christmas - a GeoTrax train set. It is extremely well-made and perfect for his age (4). We have set it up in his room and he and his sisters have been enthralled for days. The other big hit was the Barbie dream house - which despite mixed online review, seems to be well made. It includes all the furniture and pieces and is pretty well thought out. My girls are 6 and 4 - both love it!

    Posted by rksmom December 30, 08 08:43 AM
  1. We adopt a family every Christmas and my 7 year old is finally "getting it". Part of that exercise is going thru his toy box/closet and pulling out toys he has out grown. These are donated to "cradles to crayons". It results in us being able to discard broken items, games with missing parts, etc too! I am hoping this will continue to be a family tradition for years to come. When the onslaught of gifts arrives on Christmas we are organized and ready to go!!

    Another option we did when my son was younger was to leave the gifts from the Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc at their home instead of bringing home to ours. Like Barbara said it keeps the "new" factor longer and insures that there are fun toys to play with when we visit.

    This has been harder to do this year because most of his gifts were items he really wanted and were more family oriented. We started family game night last year and most of our family gave him board games that we are all excited to play!

    Posted by bestsy December 30, 08 09:04 AM
  1. Her own private toy store? I am so stunned I can't think of a single thing to say to that. I have to hope that your job here is to offer the worst advice possible so that readers will be horrified that someone might follow it and offer their own, much better advice. Such as:

    If the child is old enough, this is a great chance to let her know that not all kids are as lucky as she and wouldn't she like to help them also have a good Christmas by sharing what she has. If she's not, take those toys that she seems less interested in that Barbara thinks you should turn into her private stash and just give them away to charity.

    Follow up by talking to your family about it. I've had this discussion, and it's not an easy one when the response is, "But I'm her grandmother, I'm supposed to spoil her!" The first year this happened I said, "Ok, but I'm her parent and the excess toys are going to charity." And then I did it. Tough the first time, but the unending stream of toys has slowed, and my family thinks of other ways to "spoil" her, like spending lots of time with her or taking her to the Nutcracker and then her favorite restaurant.

    Her own private toy store. How appalling.

    Posted by NotParisHiltonsMom December 30, 08 09:07 AM
  1. And while you cope with this year's oversupply, plan what to do about next year's. How about contacting those overly generous relatives and asking them to cool it? Or suggesting the family donate gifts to needy children?

    Posted by Carol Anne December 30, 08 09:07 AM
  1. Definately put some of the toys away. The ones she isn't really playing with, put them away. She won't even know.........Kids don't need a ton of toys anyway. I have a 9 yr old and 6 yr old and we have always put toys away. They think it's alot of fun to get a "new" toy every few months.....

    Posted by mom2kids December 30, 08 09:14 AM
  1. If the toys are still in the original packaging, set some aside for regifting, particularly if they duplicate or closely approximate other toys. Otherwise, the suggestion to put some away for the future (a rainy day, etc) is a good one, although donating some is even better.

    To avoid this problem in the future, consider nicely asking family to cut back. Our family has been really receptive to the idea of taking the kids on a special outing, one on one, in lieu of toys. Not only is it often less expensive, but the memories last a lifetime.

    Posted by akmom December 30, 08 09:27 AM
  1. I have taken toys that were just not of interest, and regifted them or donated them. I have a box in the basement that I put toys in that my kids never play with. If no one asks about them in 6 months, they are out of there. Now that they are older I do involve them in the decisions somewhat. But I also know that they will cling irrationally to toys that they just never, ever play with, and will not miss if they 'disappear'.

    Posted by BMS December 30, 08 09:39 AM
  1. I would say that this is the perfect opportunity to teach her about giving to those that are less fortunate. This year we talked to my daughter about giving one of her toys to a child that didn't have anything for Christmas. She quickly caught on that it would be really sad to not have anything and wanted to give. We are deciding which charity to donate to.

    Posted by Brocktonmom December 30, 08 10:01 AM
  1. The big hit in my house was that both sets of grandparents went in on a Wii game system (with extra controllers and a few games) as a gift for all four kids ages 3-11. This replaced at least 8 "things" that would have taken up space and probably would not be used as much - when you have three boys you pretty-much already have everything already anyway. I'm normally not a fan of video games for younger kids but the Deigo game and Wii sports are very interactive and even the littlest guys can play them and have fun.

    My three and four year olds are also enjoying Moon Sand - a total nightmare to clean up but they'll play cooperative together for an hour with this so I guess it's worth the clean up.

    Posted by Jen December 30, 08 10:21 AM
  1. Duh, there are many children in this world and around you, who were not as fortunate to be bombarded with so many gifts and you are whining. Give some to those children who don't or didn't receive much of anything or anything at all.

    Posted by Elizabeth Hulton December 30, 08 10:25 AM
  1. Wow, what bunch of curmudgeons! As the mother of a 'tween, I sat let your child enjoy her toys. DON'T take them away from her, however good the "cause." She is small, and will see it as punitive. So what is she gets too many toys - and who is to say what is too many? She's a child - let her enjoy being one.

    Posted by reindeergirl December 30, 08 10:42 AM
  1. My Niece & Nephew also receive TOO much. So this year I decided to cut the gift in half ( they never know it) and I donated that $$ to the childrens Hospital in their names. I then wrote them a letter explaining their gift was going to help someone not as lucky or fortunate as they are. They at first did not like the idea but we talked about it., and they are now really excited to help others .

    Posted by Auntie December 30, 08 11:04 AM
  1. I don't think Barbara's advice was appaling at all, it's smart. As I was sitting on Christmas Eve wrapping presents, I had it and decided that my kids - 3 and 5 had enough and put the rest away for a rainy day or to gift to other kids. They didn't miss a beat.
    My daughter got a doll and a baby play set - bouncy, play yard and baby mat, She loves it. My son got a power ranger thingy that I bought last minute for $7 that transformes to different shapes. The Wii was a hit with the whole family.

    Posted by TCThree December 30, 08 11:16 AM
  1. I think that there's merit to both arguments, i.e. putting some toys away for later, but also asking relatives to cool it, and if they don't, giving some up to charity. There's a fine line here between treating kids well and spoiling them, along with the trouble parents have of where to actually store this stuff. I don't know many people that have tons of extra space to dedicate to unused toy storage.

    Posted by Steve December 30, 08 11:35 AM
  1. How do people deal with grandparents who are overly exuberant gifters? My kids got a ton of toys this year and many of them are pure junk - ready to break at the first drop but they gave them anyway. We are now tasked with putting these toys away to the dismay of the grandparents or to put up with a bunch of lousy toys littering our house.

    Posted by dadfrombeantown December 30, 08 11:54 AM
  1. NotParisHiltonsmom needs to read a bit more carefully. Barbara also wrote the stuff in italics on the bottom. The original question seems quite clear that this year's bonanza wasn't part of a trend but rather a surprise. I do like the idea of pre-empting the giving by talking with relatives in advance, when you can anticipate it.

    I can't think of any way better to turn a 5 year old off from charity than to be heavy -handed in taking 'her' toys and giving them to charity. I'd expect that some 5 year olds maybe could volunteer to do that, but some maybe couldn't.

    Charitable giving is only one lesson - and definitely an important one. The other is to understand how to manage the excesses of life.

    Posted by Ron37 December 30, 08 12:16 PM
  1. I gave a few children the same gift this year. It was the My First Leap Pad with a book to go with it. It encourages children to learn but is also fun and "video-game like" so they feel like a big kid. I have gotten rave reviews from the parents of the receiving children (just remember to include the required batteries). Best of all...you can buy more books/accessories as additional gifts for birthdays. Everything can be purchased online to avoid toy stores as well.

    Posted by Mandy December 30, 08 12:43 PM
  1. Great NotParisHilton'sMom, I'll let everybody know from now on: Don't buy my child a $25 toy, instead spend $200 to bring them to Nutcracker and a restaurant.

    I thought Barbara's advice was just fine. I've developed a Toy Library in my basement, not just from gifts from a large family, but from toys that accumulate over years. When you play with toys only a few at a time, you take better care of them. There will still be charities around when the kids grow up!

    Posted by zitface December 30, 08 12:55 PM
  1. How can you even suggest putting them away for another day? There are so many children out there who got nothing for christmas and that woman's daughter is spoiled. She should explain to her that there are girls and boys just like her with nothing on christmas and wouldn't she love to make them smile!
    This is the worst advise you have ever given. Save them for a rainy day..unbelievable.

    Posted by shocked December 30, 08 12:55 PM
  1. Lighten up, notparishiltonsmom. I think you took Barbara's comment a little too seriously. I have a sister-in-law who's always telling us what to buy when to buy it. Takes all the joy out of giving and sharing. Plenty of things you need to be in control of. And get "appalled" by. What the grandparents want to buy their grandchildren should be low on yr list.

    Posted by mcmom December 30, 08 01:10 PM
  1. We have a large family and my kids are the only ones so I know what you mean. How about gift cards next time or a donation to her college fund? The gift card can be used anytime and what kid's college fund couldn't use a boost right now?

    Posted by babycheeks December 30, 08 01:23 PM
  1. The biggest hit with my almost-5-year-old was a wall-mountable easel with its own roll of paper. Takes up no more space in her room, as a free-standing easel would, and can't be knocked down. I bought her splash-guard paint pots that she can close herself when she is done and taught her how to clean her brushes. Now for the new problem: what to do with all her priceless works of art.

    We live quite far from most of our family, and so we either get small, portable items like books, or we get money as gifts. Rather than spending all the money at Christmas, I buy my children a few items, then reserve the rest of the money for things they might need later on, such as those splash-guard paint pots.

    Gift-givers: the single least useful present you can give is a stuffed animal. We get inundated with them. Yes, they're cute and fluffy, but a child can really only focus on two or three of them at a time. And for my 21-month-old who loves to bite the eyes off of toys, they can also be a choking hazard. So unless they specifically ask for a particular toy (my toddler's favorite gift is a stuffed Totoro from the Miyazaki film she loves) or the animal has a cool and unusual feature (stuffed Audubon birds with realistic birdcalls are fun), please don't give random, gratuitous stuffed animals. A book is far more valuable, likely less expensive, and will take up less space.

    Posted by cambridgej December 30, 08 01:49 PM
  1. There's nothing wrong with this child receiving gifts from family. The problem lies when the child takes it for granted, and it sounds like the parent is obviously concerned about that - otherwise would not have written for help/suggestions. I think putting some of the stuff in a toy closet is a perfect idea. Giving to charity is also an important lesson to teach. We buy presents for toys for tots and donate to the food pantry in our town with our 3 year old - not make him give up his own presents!

    Posted by smartmom December 30, 08 03:08 PM
  1. My family has a non-profit foundation that serves families in need during Christmas. My sister held a toy drive in November, and she received over 300 toys that were still brand new that families donated (their children received too many toys, and they put them aside for a good cause). Over 300 children received Christmas gifts thanks to these people.
    We also have a very large family, so we ask that people either give to my son's college fund, or that they donate a gift in his name to their favorite charity. With so many cousins he always has more than he needs and it means a lot to us. It's how we want him to grow up, giving to others.

    Posted by MOSeattle December 30, 08 03:17 PM
  1. Ditto on the stuffed animal comment. They procreate on their own and there are just too many of them. Additionally, they are hard to give away to charities unless they are brand new because even barely used ones can be seen as dirt/dust collectors. If anyone knows of a charity who can pass along stuffed animals I would love some information because I literally have several large garbage bags full that I don't have the heart to throw out but haven't been able to give away.

    As for relatives who are too generous, while some will gladly take you up on the suggestion of a small outing as a gift (the zoo, a movie, etc.) there are others, like my parents, who just don't have the energy to take their grandchildren out in public and would much rather give a "thing." As mentioned above, this year the grandparents were very open to a joint gift of a Wii, in prior years they all helped us to purchase a swingset. I usually suggest that my siblings go in together on one or two bigger gifts instead of a bunch of little things, and my out-of-state sisters are great with getting things like sports jerseys or room decor that we normally wouldn't buy. While passing along to charity is nice, people who give generously to your children deliberately are giving to THEM, not a charity, because that's what THEY, the gift givers, want to do. By all means pass along or re-gift things that aren't going to be used at all, but otherwise, rotating toys in and out of use keeps things fresh and not neglected. Working with only a portion of available toys at a time means that things are less likely to get broken or go missing, so when it's time to pass along to a charity you have more toys in great, usable shape. If the excess toys become a trend, you have to get ahead of it by having a list of clutter-free suggestions available for gift-givers of things that will be used and loved.

    Posted by Jen December 30, 08 03:31 PM
  1. we've made it a point that in January, we go through the old toys and have our children decide which toys to keep, and which to donate.. it serves to 1) clean out some room for new toys, 2) teach the value of charity to our children, 3) provide gently used toys to needy groups, and 4) provide us with a small tax deduction.

    Posted by vin December 30, 08 10:05 PM
  1. I think it would be rude to ask loving relatives (particularly ones who live far away) to "cool it" by giving far less stuff. Relatives are simply trying to show their love and it is not a parent's job to rudely turn away a loving gesture. The proper response to such relatives is "Thank you!" and then quietly, at a later date the extra toys can be given to charity. Even if charity is what the parent had in mind all along, why be rude and hurt relatives' feelings in the meantime?

    Posted by Molly December 31, 08 03:16 AM
  1. To address the glut of toys kids receive from aunts, uncles, etc., my family formed a group and pooled some cash and started purchasing gifts for nephews, nieces, etc. from a list provided by the parents. This allowed the group to buy larger items, like bicycles, electronics, and musical instruments, relieving parents of that financial burden. This also relieved parents of suddenly having dozens of action figures, some duplicates, and other such smaller toys cluttering the house. It's also easier on the aunts and uncles since they know specific items to purchase, saving countless hours of aimless shopping. And most of the shopping can be done online.

    Posted by Majorbuttkraak-2 December 31, 08 07:35 AM
  1. To Jen and others: The only place I've found to give away stuffed animals is to nursing homes. Places that deal with children don't want them because they expect that previous children have put them into their mouths, and they don't clean well enough and could get other children sick when they put them into their own mouths. Or something like that.

    Nursing home residents don't put toys into their mouths. They like having something to cuddle. It's especially nice if your children can circulate around the nursing home giving out their own old stuffed animals. The recipients will love having a visit from chidlren. Of course, call ahead to be sure you'll be welcome.

    Posted by Deb January 2, 09 11:39 AM
  1. Everyone makes a valid point here - what is apparent is that there are differing perspectives about what is of importance to families and how to deal with receiving "things" that don't coincide with a parent's values and beliefs. As a new parent (of a 5 month old) I have yet to deal with the issue of what lessons my daughter will learn from how I handle these problems. However I have begun to set limits for family and friends in this matter. In fact, before my daughter was even born, I attempted to be clear about what I did and did not want for her and our family. For the most part, people respected my wishes. I can only assume those who did give items I did not want for my baby were not aware of my position on this matter.

    For many years prior to my daughter's arrival, I practiced accepting gifts graciously and then giving them away to charity. It took me some time to determine how I would handle the questions that would inevitably come (and they did) about where a specific item was or if it was in use. We have a small home (partly out of necessity, partly our choice - that is we refused to live beyond our means) and my answer to those inquiries has been that we simply do not have the space to keep them. (everyone has their own limits on how much "stuff" they can handle having around, so the size of your living space is not really something others can use as a measuring tool for how much more "stuff" you should have the space for)

    However you decide to deal with this issue, remember: people should be understanding and respectful of your wishes. If they cannot do this, then I personally believe these people are not worthy of the time one might spend worrying about their hurt feelings. Incidentally, over the years, friends and family have come to know that I will most likely not have a need for gifts and as a result, have scaled down what they give to me significantly.

    These postings have addressed the specific issue of too many toys (appropriately so, given the season) however the same could be said of any gift given that reflects the giver's beliefs - religious, educational, etc... Again, the matter comes down to one of respect. That said, people have to know what your wishes are before they can be expected to respect them!

    Posted by trustyourself January 2, 09 01:55 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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