How we manage toys. Part 1 - Gift giving

One of the things I have been working on to find a balance with is toys, both the amount and type my children have.  Its a sign of the times when one has a problem with too many toys in their house isnt it?!  Such a crazy problem to have.  But we have a few strategies/thoughts which help us deal with this which I will write a few posts on over the week.  Im thinking...

How we manage toys
Part one - Gift giving
Part two - Identifying what you want your child's play space to look like
Part three - Donating/rotating/managing toys

One of the things we have in abundance in our house is toys.  People who love the children love to dote on them and often this includes giving toys!  Which is nice to a degree and certainly generous but most parents I talk to today feel overwhelmed with the amount of toys that are in their home.  It creates clutter, it creates noise, it doesn't mean the child is any more entertained, in fact in my experience having too many toys actually hinders my child's concentration.

I love that people want to spoil our children, and I know they are coming from a place of love and good intentions.  Because of this I can't generally bring myself to set hard and fast gift giving rules for the family.  Though we do have a "no electronics" rule.  Our boys are welcome to buy themselves a gaming thing when they can consciously save their money and plan for it, and then hopefully care enough about it too look after it.  But I suspect that is many years off in our house which suits me just fine.

When we started out on our simple living path, toys were one of the early issues that was on my mind.  I'm a bit soft and don't like to upset people or force my opinion on them, so I have been gently trying to encourage less gift giving, only giving one gift, and giving 'simpler' toys over the years.  Slowly and steadily this gentle method is working well.  My family often asks for ideas and I make sure I'm prepared with a list of things I know the boys will enjoy, but that are not necessarily toys.  Often it is something they need but I do try and make it a little more of a 'fun' thing.  For Gussy's birthday my parents are buying him a quilt cover with vintage planes on it which he will love and it will go beautifully with the wall hangings I made here.... wall hangings.  He is starting Kindy this year and my brother is getting him a brand new bag which will also be very special, but practical too.

There are some cool kids gift ideas, I like to think ahead and something that they will grow into.  Here is a few winners in our place.... 
- bathers/beach towel
- adult coffee table photo books of things they love  (Will got a beautiful world atlas and Guss a vintage planes book for Christmas which they each take to bed and study intently)
- quilt covers
- Pj's
- sleeping bag/camping gear
- torch
- flashing safety lights for bike
- gardening pots/paint to decorate/seeds/seedlings
- puzzles
- money to buy a large joint gift like lessons or an instrument.  Will is learning to play guitar and one Christmas the boys each got a guitar.  Will got a 3/4 size and Angus a 1/2 size.  They love them and the lessons are doing Williams concentration a world of good.
- Handmade simple raggedy quilt (my boys love theirs, I might give Henry one for his second birthday)
- school supplies like a pencil case and things for the new school year.
 - clothing for their special teddy/doll.  (My boys Waldorf dolls have a black felt eye mask and a cape - they love it!)

A gift doesn't have to be expensive for a child to love it.  A bit of thought goes a long way!

I find I have pretty thoughtful friends and family and I make an effort to talk to them about what kinds of things their children would like/need at birthdays/Christmas.  I aim to give a thoughtful and simple gift that works with what life they are trying to give their children.  I find if I am thoughtful and considerate of them, they are more likely to ask me and then we can have an open communication on the topic which is much nicer. 

This Christmas my Mum realized she was putting too much pressure on herself to buy gifts for the kids.  She has a limit she likes to spend but she often shops on sale so ends up giving several gifts.  While its lovely and generous, it is too much for both the children and her.  She is trying to be fair but in the end it takes away from her experience of gift giving if it is hard.  So we were talking about it and I think she has decided to give one gift, and then if she feels the need to make a set monetary amount she will give some money to go into their account.  I'm thrilled with this and I know she is happy too.  The children want to spend time with their special people in their lives, and that is more of a gift then anything you can buy at the shops! 

When it comes to gift giving I am honest in advance about our financial situation, we have enough but cant afford to throw around money.  Most of our friends with children we don't buy for and they don't buy for ours unless it is a child's party.  Then its something small like a book or something similar.  I don't try to live simply to "keep up with the Jonse's" and I refuse to step into constant gift giving.  I'm not interested in how much others spend.  I spend what I deem to be suitable and what we can afford and try to give something the child will love.  Gift giving should be a joy not a burden nor stressful!  I find once the gift giving for the sake of it routine is broken, everyone is relieved!  I have never had anyone get upset at me over it.  If they have they have not told me and that's fine too.  Aunties and Uncles have a limit of $25-$35 which I suggested a few years ago when we were all low on funds.  This has stuck and it works great!  It takes so much pressure off at Christmas especially, which makes for more a more relaxing and fun time.  This year I made the girls Waldorf dolls which would have been over that limit due to the cost of materials but that's fine.  It was a special gift.  Their birthday gifts will be accessories for their dolls and will only cost a few dollars but will take time for me to sew and make so it all evens out in the long run.

Hope your having a marvelous Monday!



  1. Oh, Emma, this post is a song to my soul! ;) so enjoyed reading it. And thank you very much for your earlier reply, I so appreciate it. I think gifts should be 1) special and 2) given couple of times a year, like let's say Birthday and Christmas, 3) consist of one item , like a doll, but not a doll and a plane and a chocolates and a puzzle... That way children learn to wait for gifts and appreciate them more, yes, and play a lot more, if these gifts have a meaning. My girl has received a very practical gift for Christmas - from us, her parents - a life west so she could join her grandad on his boat trips, but she also received TONS of other things just because people came to see us and brought "a little something" for children. I started to see she developed a habit of staring at guests and ask us what did they bring to her. Not nice. She now expects anyone who turns out at our doorstep to bring her something, and she is three y.o. And she even does not know these people, they are our coworkers or students we attended university with and socialise only occasionally with. I started cheating and now hide most of the stuff people bring before she knows, and then regift them, I do not want her not to treasure her toys, and my aim is to teach her to value things. Huh, tough times. There were times people did not have enough to eat, and now we have a "problem" of too many toys... Crazy....

    1. I hear you.

      How about introducing your thoughts on the matter when talking to colleges/friends etc. Not in a direct way of "stop bringing stuff" but more about your worries about her getting so much, the time and effort it takes and the things you want to model in your daughter as she grows? That way they are learning about your parenting philosophy gently and hopefully with time it will ease off?

      Kids do love getting presents (dont we all?!) and I can understand her naturally asking, but as I parent I totally hear your concerns! It is a tricky problem when you are trying to live more gently. I'm still working on it and learning three children later!

      There are many minimalist blogs which I love reading but I err on the softer side. But I do take some of the basic principals on board and make them my own.

      Thankyou for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  2. I make presents for my family. This year saw many getting cushions with a cover made by me. The fabrics was chosen to mean something for the personae getting the gift. My nephews and nieces love whatever I make them. My children, who are in their twenties, want things made for their homes. It's not the cost its the thought that goes into the gift. My children have always loved their home made gifts. I love receiving home made gifts. Well done to you in your efforts to keep gift giving for special occasions.

    1. I love receiving hand made presents too, there is so much love in them isn't there? I know when making something for some one they are on my mind and heart during the process and I get so excited to give it too them. I however need more hours in the day to do all that I want to do! ;)


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