Team Toys or Team No More Toys?


Let’s talk kid gifting. Are you Team Toys or Team No More Toys?

I used to be on Team No More Toys. Clutter gives me anxiety so anything I could do to reduce the volume of toys and rainbow-colored things in my house, I would. I’d suggest books over toys, experiences over things.

I’m the kind of person that tries to put thought into gifts: Are they age appropriate? Would they like it? What do they want? What sizes do they wear? I spend time doing the research to hopefully find something they won’t forget about a week later.

When December rolled around last year, I started thinking about buying gifts for the 11 kiddos on one side of my family. The thought of trying to find the perfect gift for 11 kids was overwhelming. So when my cousin suggested in our family’s Facebook group that we do some kind of Secret Santa with the kids instead of buying individually, I was completely on board.

Don’t be a Scrooge

I even suggested doing a book exchange instead of toys so I could manage the clutter. My daughter loves to read and you can never have too many books, right? The discussion was generally in favor of the Secret Santa idea until our oldest cousin chimed in and told us not to be a Scrooge.

What’s with this bah humbag??! You’re all being a bunch of Scrooges! That’s the best part of Christmas: opening gifts. These are kids, let them be kids and enjoy some fun opening gifts. They don’t have to be expensive gifts, and books are great. I found that the smallest, cheapest gifts are often their favorite.

Remember when kids go to a birthday party, they look forward to the parting gift bags they get to take home. And it’s just a bunch of crap, but its about the excitement of getting something to open and take home. I never discourage gifts, but you have to teach them to give in return. Rewrap old gifts to recycle, it’s the same as hand-me-downs.

On the issue of clutter, we regularly clean out the play room and donate (or pass on to family) toys they no longer want to play with. It’s gotten to a point where they want to give away more than I am willing. Just my two cents!! My vote is for gifts!

She made me think twice. This isn’t about me, it’s about my daughter. It’s about the joy that her grandparents, family, and friends get when they watch her open a gift and see her face light up, not about my issues with clutter or keeping a clean household.

Money? or Toys?

Often times in my family, our relatives will give my daughter a red envelope for special occasions and holidays. It’s a win/win because they don’t have to shop for something that we don’t want or don’t need and we can save the cash to use on experiences or deposit into a savings account for the future.

During Chinese New Year, my daughter received several red envelopes. Each time she got one, we reminded her to say thank you. She would hand me the red envelope and I’d put it away in my bag for safe keeping.

It got to the point where she turned around and said to me, “Mom, I don’t want any more red envelopes.”

It’s money! Who doesn’t want that?

But what my cousin above (what a wise one she is) pointed out to me is that young kids don’t care about money (or red envelopes). They care about the 99 cent bottle of bubbles you gave them way more because it’s something tangible; something they can play with right then. And they’ll remember that.

You have to teach them to give in return

I still get anxiety with the clutter, but I’ve accepted that toys are a temporary part of our home decor. I have learned to manage this part of my life differently.

Tips on giving and receiving gifts

  • Say thanks. Teach your child to say thank you by sending thank you cards. You can involve them in the process by having them color or paint on the cards.
  • Talk about the gift with your child. Who got it for you, why they got it for you, and remind them each time they play with it or ask about it.
  • Ask the parent of the child if there is a list that you should shop from, or if there is anything specific that the child would like. This helps avoid receiving duplicate toys, books, etc. and saves the parent time not having to return/exchange.
  • Store toys and bring them out throughout the year.
  • Get one, give one. If your child asks for a new toy or receives a new toy, have them pick out something that they no longer play with that they can donate or give to someone else. Take them to give the toy to someone else or donate it together.
  • Give toys away to younger kids in your neighborhood or on your local community pages. We received a play kitchen (see my renovation here) and a toddler bike from our neighbors, which has been great for us!
  • Take your child shopping with you when shopping for other kids. Involve them in the process and ask them what they think the child would like. It makes gifting a little more meaningful when they helped to pick it out!
  • Every few months, sort through toys with your child and ask them which toys they would like to give to other babies to play with. Bring out a box and have them put the toys in the box. We liked to revisit the fun times we had with the toys and talk about what fun the new kids will have when they get to play with them, too.
  • Purchase memberships to things like the Phoenix Zoo, the Musical Instrument Museum, and the Phoenix Children’s Museum, with the money they get from family members. My daughter asks to go to the Zoo and Children’s Museum every time we’re in Phoenix.

I would love to hear about how other families manage the the toys and STUFF in their homes. Are you Team Toys? Team No Toys? I haven’t started the birthday party circuit quite yet, but know that it is in my future. Help me help you and share your tips in the comments.


  1. This was not the article I was expecting to read 🙂 I love it and the view point. My love language is gifts… and I love stuff… but the amount of ‘stuff’ in my house also gives me anxiety. I’m always the parent who gives books/games for birthday gifts.. and what the kids really want is more nerf guns, Pokemon, etc etc. I’ve loosened up a bit over the years to become more fun and less practical 🙂 As for our family… we decided this year to switch up Christmas and go for a family experience over gifts. My kids still get a santa gifts, a stocking, and plenty of ‘fun’ stuff from family. What I found in previous years is that they get a TON of gifts and then don’t play with any of it. That’s what drove me crazy. This summer rather than birthday ‘gifts’ per se, we’ll be creating an outdoor space for them to play. I’ll leave it up to family/friends for the fun gifts.

  2. Absolutely. I know lots of people that love to give gifts, even if it’s a dum dum, which my daughter would be all about. So I’ve decided not to rob friends/family of that joy and have learned to shift my perspective and think, “hey, that’s really nice that you thought of us/her.” Thanks for your comment, Jilian!

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