Q&A Tuesday: How do you handle well-meaning gift givers?

Today’s Q&A comes from all of you.  Enough of you have asked this question, mostly via email, that I thought I’d throw it out for all of us to discuss as a group.  And since I don’t really have a brilliant solution, I’d love to hear what you all have to say.

The question today:

How do you handle well-meaning extended family who want to give gifts in a way that don’t align with what’s best for your immediate family?

Sometimes it’s that some aunts and uncles want to give loud, plastic toys, and you’d prefer books and wooden toys.  For others, one side of the family wants to do a major gift-giving event, and you simply can’t afford it.  And it sounds like for most of you, the grandparents want to give far more gifts than you’d simply like to bring home to your playrooms.

Whatever it is, it’s a common frustration for Simple Mom readers. So please, share your ideas and thoughts below on how to delicately navigate the relationships in our extended families, particularly when it comes to gift-giving.

I look forward to your responses.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. We say thank you. Then we donate the toy to our local charity.

    Bryssy´s last blog post…Preparing for Christmas…Progress Report

  2. Our families are at least considerate enough to include the gift receipt with every gift. It’s an unspoken rule.

    We also gather at Thanksgiving and set some financial rules about gift giving for Christmas. This year, with the hard economic times, we agreed that we’re only giving gifts to the young ones.

    Marvyn´s last blog post…A Doggy Monday

  3. Gifts that don’t “fit” don’t need to remain around the house…they get donated. I routinely go through the kids (and our!) books/toys/clothes and weed out things that are not played with, not read, don’t fit etc.

    Edi´s last blog post…FUYU Persimmon

  4. One grandparent has just taken to giving us cash. We have the rule any cash we are given for the kids we spend on something for them. If it’s a check it goes into their savings account.
    The other grandparents always go way overboard on the toys but they also know almost half of what they give will be staying at their house.

    Katrina´s last blog post…Thanksgiving Weekend

  5. I try to head off the problem by suggesting things (like swimming lessons) for the grandparents to purchase instead of the plastic toys. If that doesn’t work, I graciously accept whatever is given. I donate some things and many toys go into “rotation” so I only have one battery operated toy in the playroom at one time. While living simply is important, so is teaching our children gratitude for whatever we are given.

    Mama K´s last blog post…What I’ve been up to this week.

  6. my son has 4 sets of grandparents, and for 3 of those sets, he is the only grandchild. you can imagine what the pile under our tree looks like.

    fortunately for us, most of the grandparents ask us if there is something our son *needs*, and will purchase that before a toy. however, they’re also very good at finding cool toys that just blow him away and make him so full of joy! in the past, i’ve also made suggestions without being asked – it doesn’t hurt anyone, if anything it helps them to know that whatever they end up giving will be appreciated.

    when it comes to gift giving, we’ve been very up front with the fact that we just can’t afford to give Christmas gift to everybody. this year we are only giving to our parents & my birthparents. and they’re all getting the same thing – a photo calendar with pictures of our son. totally saved our Christmas budget, and left us with extra money to make sure Josh gets some fun stuff from us.

    Krista´s last blog post…Advent Conspiracy – something to think about

  7. One year, after opening her xmas gifts, I found my 6 year old in tears. When I asked her what was wrong, she said “I have so many things, I don’t know what to play with!”. She got really stressed out by the amount of “stuff” at Christmas. The following year, I conveyed that story to the biggest offenders (grandparents) and they gave her 1 or 2 gifts to open, and then gave the rest of the gifts to me to distribute throughout the year for various rewards/special occasions.

    Gretchen´s last blog post…A Christmas Quiz

  8. Thank you for writing about this–the package from the grandparents’ arrived with 15 toys for my three year old. After reading some of the posts, I have decided to donate some in advance and not feel like I am depriving her. (We have discussed a toy limit in the past with the grandparents to no avail). Just because toys are cheap and easy to buy doesn’t mean they should get a ton for one day out of the year. Any suggestions if grandparents refuse to listen to your requests?

  9. Sorry if this comment is a duplicate – I’m having wireless issues.

    I think sometimes no matter what you say or do, people want to buy gifts that aren’t necessarily what the person wants. This happens way too often with kids. For us, when it’s my parents that buy the stuff, I leave it at their house since they live nearby and the kids play with those things when we go there. It’s a nice compromise – the kids can play with them and I don’t have to take care of the stuff 🙂

    If it’s things from my in-laws that arrive in big boxes in the mail, sometimes I can’t take it all and I will return, sell on Craigslist or donate. If I return, I will try to exchange a few loud plastic gifts for a couple simple toys or if we don’t need anything, just put the $$ in savings for the kids.

    Emily@remodelingthislife.com´s last blog post…Link Love: I’m Overwhelmed Edition

  10. I tried being direct about the gifts I prefer and I was called difficult, so I gave up on that. This year I found my solution. I composed a Wish List on Amazon and put the widget for it on my daughter’s photo sharing site (pssst, it’s a free Shutterfly site). I kept to a theme (games) and chose things that people could go buy in any store, along with more unusual items that would need to be purchased on-line. I made the whole process so easy that people have simply followed my gentle suggestions. No Drama!

  11. We get in early with suggestions for appropriate gifts. It is not uncommon for me to walk into my mum’s house and leave a suggestion list taped to her fridge for the other family members to ponder. lol

    Grandparents wanting to spend a bit more are asked to help with the cost of pool season passes, holiday activities or movie theatre vouchers which are really practical gifts of great use for the kids and the added benefit of relieving a little stress on our hip pockets at this time of year too.

    Mistress B´s last blog post…O Holy Night of Jingle Bombs

  12. As one of those well-meaning Grandma’s, I figured I would chime in. We want the kids to love what we give them. I always ask my daughter what they NEED and what they would like to have. I then quiz my grandson’s about their wish list. I try to buy some things they need (like warm clothes, school supplies and the like), one toy they want (based on what my daughter says is okay) and a few learning type things like games, books, puzzles, etc.
    That being said, anything a parent doesn’t want in their house can be left at Grandparent’s house for ‘treat play’ when they visit, OR put the offending item away for a time and then donate it to charity.

    MaryC´s last blog post…Please Be Patient…

  13. We’re lucky in that our families our very respectful about what kinds of things we allow and don’t. So, I guess I don’t have much to add to this discussion.

  14. Early on, we told our kids that they could each ask for three gifts for Christmas. One from us (their mom and dad), one from their mom’s parents, and one from their dad’s parents. With just three gifts on their list, their expectations were reasonable, and the number of gifts on Christmas morning has been very manageable.

    Deidra´s last blog post…What She Said…

  15. We say thank you and donate. This year we’re insisting on a “ten dollar Christmas” so the threat has been minimized.

    Writer Dad´s last blog post…Sliding Doors

  16. This year I made the suggestion that instead of exchanging (useless, overpriced and obligatory)gifts, why not have a family “experience” instead? (There are 7 children 14 yrs. and younger, two g-parents, one 95-yr old great g-parent and two sets of moms and dads in our immediate family).

    I was picturing perhaps driving/walking through one of the local, beautifully decorated holiday-lighted scenes altogether and then maybe grabbing dessert afterward to talk about our favorites, etc. Something, well…..simple! Then my (materialistic and richer than us) sil blurts out, “I know, let’s all go skiing!!” WHAT!?!?! (**luckily** one of my ds hurt his arm badly and is in a sling for a while! Darn!) 🙂

    We all (most of us) went to the town Christmas parade the other day, so maybe that will be it?? I agree that it’s VERY hard when one side wants to indulge and the other wants to simplify. My mom sent us a check and a note that said something to the effect that since all of us have been hard-hit in the terrible economy, she wanted us to forfeit any gifts we would send her and my step-dad and use it for a needy family instead. Yea mom!

  17. A gift is a gift and should be received graciously. That is a good lesson to teach children. We’ve become a society of so much “stuff” that we are no long grateful for a simple gift. We immediately decide if it “fits” in our life. A gift isn’t supposed to fit in our tight, controlled life. It is meant to be an expression of love and we should graciously accept it.

    I have spent time picking out gifts for children who’s parents turn around and garage sale them. I have also seen people “register” for the children’s birthdays or buy items and solicit family members to buy the gift for the child. That doesn’t feel right to me. It ruins the whole gift giving premise.

    • Shannon B says:

      I really like your post and couldn’t have written it any better.

    • Yes, yes, yes, Mom of 3! Well said.

    • I do agree for the most part!

      Similarly I get frustrated with one of my brother-in-laws who a few years ago said “don’t get us presents this year, we don’t have the money to buy presents for everyone, so thought we’d make it simpler.” Ummm…they went to Europe that year! I have to say, I was a bit annoyed that my husband had given their kids gifts all through the years as the “bachelor uncle,” but now that he was married and had kids, his older brother was bowing out of giving gifts to the new group of nieces and nephews. But that aside, I give gifts as an expression of love, and do not require the recipient to give me a gift in return to “earn” a gift from me! I do my best to give things that will be appreciated…with folks like these specific in-laws I have generally given “experience” gifts such as gift cards to a bowling alley or movie theater since I know they enjoy these activities, or I’ve given “cookie in a jar” mixes since what household with teen boys can’t use more snacks? So its not like I’m buying nicknacks they are expected to display, but it isn’t their decorating taste.

    • Absolutely!

      Gifts are between the gift-giver and the recipient. When did we start to think that gifts are about what the parent wants?

      You can control how a gift is used once you get it home, but to put expectations about what is given in the first place (unless someone specifically asks) is rude.

      And when did we all forget that most of the people on this planet never get gifts, let alone so many that they can choose which ones are most appropriate?

      Teach your kids to be grateful, and then teach them to pick a couple that they would like to give to someone else who otherwise wouldn’t have any presents.

    • I really appreciate this viewpoint, and it most certainly is a valid one. I also want to chime in, however, that there are two halves to the “gift” lesson we try to teach our children: be grateful for the gifts of others, and give as an expression of love, with no expectation or obligation. I know too many people this year who are just blindly scrambling for “stuff” to purchase for the people they feel obligated to buy for. Their shopping criteria have little to do with what the recipient would enjoy or need, and the recipient becomes just another name to check off their list.

  18. It is time to drop big hints as to what they “need.” My MIL always takes my kids shopping and buys them an outfit. She always buys pieces that have stuff on them and will only match the pants with stuff on them. I am a basic-classic person and want pieces that go with most everything else. I have had to work that into conversations many times. I now will speak up and say they need a navy polo or a pair of jeans so that I can steer her in a direction away from rinestone studded tee shirts of a Santa that you can wear two weeks.
    Sometimes my kids open presents that I know we don’t need and give them a “stare” letting them know not to go into the box. We exchange it for something else they do want. Luckily, all our relatives are out of town.
    We play Dirty Santa with my brother’s family and I bought things like Starbucks and fast food gift cards and wrapped them with a huge candy bar or bag of popcorn. My nieces and nephews are all teens so they like them. My SIL got stuffed animals from the dollar store and really weird stuff that we couldn’t use. I don’t know what to do there. Hopefully she will see what items everyone is wanting and learn.

    Holly´s last blog post…How to organize all those coupons!

    • There are some toys that my kids know DON’T mesh with the values we are trying to instill in them (like Bratz dolls), so they know not to open those boxes because the toy will be returned to the toy and exchanged for something different. But beyond that, we try to be gracious about gifts that aren’t exactly to mine and my husband’s liking–like the dollar store toys that my mother-in-law is fond of buying. We let the kids enjoy them, knowing that tomorrow they will be broken, and we’ll be tossing them in the garbage.

      What is wrong with having a few fun clothes that have limited wear-ability opportunities? Must life always be completely utilitarian?

  19. Thank you, thank you, thank you for these comments. We, too, have the only grandson for three sets of grandparents. I cringe at birthdays and Christmas (or even visits). I need to let go and embrace my inner donating diva!

    Nata-Leigh Preas´s last blog post…The Bottle Cap Business

  20. I agree with the idea that a gift is a gift. The grandparents who give too much or the wrong things aren’t doing it to clutter your life. My parents love to give gifts. That is one of the ways they enjoy showing love to my girls. I think it is best to just use it as a way to teach your children to be thankful and then do what you will with the gifts. Great topic Tsh! I enjoyed reading everyone’s ideas.

  21. I have an Amazon wish list for the kids. This helps me out because I can just add ideas through the year and not have to come up with an idea on-the-spot. My kids are young (23 months and 9 months) right now so this works, but later on I plan to use our blog to post things they are interested in during the year so grandparents can decide on a gift on their own. It’s difficult when everyone lives in a different state and only get to see each other once or twice a year.

    Our daughter’s birthday is December 21st which means double the gifts. Last year, she opened all her gifts and I immediately stashed most of them in her closet for distribution during the year. I’ll try to do it again this year. Next year (she’ll be three) I might have more problems hiding them!

    Joanna´s last blog post…Ready To Go!

  22. I agree with Mom of 3. She said it so well. A gift is a gift. I don’t think it’s gracious to “allow” certain types of gifts and not others. Simply say “Thank you!”

    SarahHub @ Oakbriar Farm´s last blog post…Charge It!

  23. I think this is an issue that needs to be handled very delicately, with love and consideration for others’ feelings.
    I am definitely a gift-giver, and I know it would crush me if I found out a gift I had carefully selected and excitedly given to someone had simply been tossed into the goodwill pile.
    That being said, I have learned a lot over the years about gifts that look fun, but are only played with for a day or two. Quality over quantity has become an important factor in choosing gifts for people, as well as asking parents for suggestions for gifts their child will actually use.
    I feel like the use of “wish lists” etc., can be very helpful, and I will certainly use them, but they are like wedding registries, you can’t expect every0ne to buy things you have asked for, but they are a great starting point.
    Overall, I think the most important thing you can do is accept the gift graciously and not make a big deal out of it being something you don’t necessarily need. Children are painfully honest sometimes, and if they learn from your example to be picky about which gifts to accept they may not be so tactful in their response to gifts they are given.

  24. I think it depends on how honest I can be with someone.

    If someone is asking for guidance, I try to give it. But if they don’t, and something just arrives or is brought, we say “thank you.”

    I think it’s a good skill to teach my kids (which I have discovered the hard way does NOT come naturally), to be gracious and say “thank you” even if they hate the gift.

    Now AFTER the holiday, all bets are off. If it doesn’t fit our life in some way, it gets given away or exchanged or regifted.

    Steph at the Red Clay Diaries´s last blog post…Moving Day!

    • I believe your comment makes the most sense to me. As much as I would like to live a simple life, others (giving gifts) don’t often know what would fit into that life. And sometimes, it’s just best to be gracious because the best of intentions are there. BUT after the holidays, “all bets are off.” 🙂

  25. We are fortunate to have family members that ask us what the kids want or need before they buy. Their grandfather usually buys them a toy and an outfit. Their grandmother who lives 7 hours away. Buys them a toy I say they want and an outfit. She usually picks up a few little toys also like a pocketbook or coloring books and crayons. I do teach my children to be thankful for they get. A little is better than none. That is a phrase my 4 year old and I are working on right now.

    BJ´s last blog post…What is on your Street?

  26. We say a heartfelt “Thank You” and move on. Sometimes it’s more important to be gracious and thankful than it is to have our way, regardless of how it impositions us.

    Unsinkable Kristen´s last blog post…Internet Fast.

  27. i find myself torn this year…every year we have to have “the money/gift” discussion with my husbands family…the grandparents, especially like to go overboard.

    this past year has been about learning how to simplify & live with less. so in the discussion we shared our heart about not wanting to have a bunch of stuff that just overwhelms our kids & makes them think that they are entitled to all this stuff…but during that conversation, I came to realize that by saying my “rules” of gift giving I am imposing on them (my relatives) a belief system that they might not hold true for themselves. I liked the grandma’s comment above about how she listens to the parents & the kids…takes into consideration both sides of it.

    this season I don’t want to take away someone else’s chance to bless others with their love of gift giving. Hopefully, in their zeal for buying gifts for our family, they will remember that we are trying this simple life & respect that. i agree with jennifer above that this is such a delicate issue.

    i find myself trying to sway those relatives to quality one or two gifts instead of lots of little gifts.

    every family is different…i am learning that even with my in-laws (& i’ve been married 10 years!). i think the whole point is to view the whole issue from a perspective of love & respect on both sides. we are still figuring it all out…who knows how we will feel after christmas! 🙂

  28. I feel terrible, or would, if I gave a gift that just caused concern or if I participate in a gift exchange only to find out it was out of the budget of one of the participants. So, when I find myself in that situation, I’m just brutally honest (like I hope others would be with me). I have told family members, politely but clearly, that a toy isn’t right for my child right now, that I don’t have space, or that I can’t afford the price being suggested for a gift exchange. I’m so honest, because I wish others would be too in that situation. In the end, everyone can enjoy the gift giving and receiving.

    Sara´s last blog post…

  29. For the most part my family does a good job of giving books and things that are useful to my daughter. We get the occassional “fun” toy, but I figure that’s ok too. This year I told the entire family that I don’t want to make a big deal out of Christmas because she is only 2 and it will get out of hand quickly if we don’t keep it simple now. I only have one side of the family to worry about because her father’s family does not celebrate Christmas at all. I did ask her father to please run any gifts by me first to make sure we are on the same page.

    I have asked the whole family to donate gifts in my honor instead of buying something for me, and then my daughter and I are going to go through the toys she currently has and give the toys she no longer plays with to a needy child.

    You certainly can’t control others and what they give to your child, but you can try and provide your child with the foundation to know that they aren’t entitled to these gifts, and that Christmas isn’t about gifts, it’s about Jesus and the gift He gave us!

    A delicate subject yes, but I also believe if you have a family member who is going completely overboard then it’s ok to sit them down and just say I appreciate what you are doing, but you need to scale it back a little!

    Autumn´s last blog post…New Giveaway Site

  30. It seems that there are a few popular responses here. I am one of the ones that would like to be able to set guidelines for what my children receive, but I also understand the concept being mentioned that they should be thankful for what they receive no matter what.

    The thing is, though, what if you want to set guidelines for different reasons? Such as: I do not want plastic toys in our lives — not because of their annoying factor — but because I try to expose them to as little plastic as possible. It has taken me quite some time to take out all of their plastic toys, and I hate to have to start all over. For me, it is a safety issue. I feel that that is different than simply not “liking” a toy that someone buys my children.

    Kelli´s last blog post…Advent

    • Boy do I get the “plastic” thing. Say thank you, and then tell the kids ahead of time that whatever they get that is plastic is not healthy for them and some people don’t know it so they buy it anyway. So anything plastic goes back and they can pick out something healthy wiht the money. If you can’t return it…donate it and shell out some dough for the kids to get something they want and you approve of.

  31. We try to make sure that our family knows the types of items that we are encouraging in our family & if it doesn’t happen, a simple thank you & then we donate.

  32. I’m jumping on the Mom of 3 bandwagon. A gift is supposed to be an expression of love and caring. It is a chance to say, “hey, I saw this and thought of you,” or “I put time and effort into picking something out for you that I thought would make you happy.” Not, “you told me what to buy your child so here it is.” It is a way for the people who love our children to add something that they consider important to our children’s lives. Some of my daughter’s favorite toys/experiences have been things that I never would have thought to get her, but that have enriched her life in some way. And yes, there is also stuff that I consider to be junk, but sometimes my daughter loves that junk. And they are her presents, not mine. It is about her relationship with the gift giver, not mine.

    I have an Amazon wish list for my daughter. It has things like art supplies on it. I don’t need people to buy the exact art supplies listed, but put them there as a suggestion of the types of things that my daughter would like. Then people can start with my suggestion and then put their own spin on it. If someone asks what to get my daughter for Christmas I direct them to the wishlist. If they don’t ask and buy something entirely on their own we appreciate that gift just as much. And we say thank you because we value the love behind the gift, even if don’t particularly care for the gift itself.

    • Yes, this is exactly what I wanted to say, except I want to also point out that some of these grandparents had a hard time growing up and raising us and this is their chance to enjoy the money they finally have in life. Let them do it and don’t donate. I feel it’s a slap in their face to do that. They do it out of love, let them love your child.

    • Yeah, you’re right, but I still don’t think anything is wrong with leaving a list of suggestions somewhere. My family don’t stick to the list I leave on mums fridge, but it gives them a starting point, especially when they don’t always see the kids regularly to know what they are into at the time or might need.

      Mistress B´s last blog post…O Holy Night of Jingle Bombs

  33. Big Apple Easy says:

    Role playing with small kids can be a great way to help them understand the behaviors you expect on Christmas morning. Practice opening one present now and then during the weeks before Christmas. Really small things – like an orange wrapped in paper and ribbon. Hand the present to the little one, tell him who it’s from, have some dolls and firemen standing in for relatives. The little one opens the present, runs over, and gives a hug and a kiss and says thank you to the “relative.” We practice allowing other people to open their presents, so little one understands that not all presents are for him etc. It’s a game we play when I need an activity. If he’s this excited about an orange, I can’t wait for the gratitude he’ll show on Christmas!

  34. How do you handle it when the gift giver is your spouse? I’ve tried in the past telling my husband specifically what to buy for me…and he comes home with something different. Actually, I try to give my husband many options so he can pick…and yet he still doesn’t do well. In the most recent case I actually took pictures of clothing items that I liked at a local store…and he came home with nothing remotely resembling the pictures I had given him, but rather a sweater that is cut WAY too long for me and I already have 3 sweaters/shirts the same color (so I do give him credit for picking a color that looks good on me…but I don’t need another shirt the same color).

    My husband tends to want to buy me expensive gifts that I don’t feel that we can afford, and I feel ungrateful if I don’t then use them–even if they are completely NOT my style.

    • Let him show his love to you however he likes. Don’t try to control everything he does for you. It will take the joy out of everything for him.
      I got a bathmat from mine last week, when I really wanted a tea pot. I was offended and later found out that he bought it for me because it was so soft (said it reminded him of me) and he wanted my feet to be warm and toasty when I get out of the shower in the morning. Who can argue with that?
      Me if i want to…but I don’t!

      • Laura–Thank you for the thoughts! I do try to find out the underlying reason behind the gift and appreciate that…but really, with a long term relationship I do think it is important to communicate about what kinds of gifts are most appreciated–especially when it comes to gifts like clothing–if I’m not going to wear it because it will look terrible on me that really isn’t what my hubby wants to buy. But at the same time…he doesn’t really accept feedback well.

        I’m not trying to “control” him. I actually resisted giving him a listing of suggested gifts early in our marriage, and thought it was taking the surprise out of things that his family did routinely enchange wish lists.

    • When it comes to a situation like that, sometime when it’s just the 2 of you, and you have time for a good heart-to-heart conversation (and not anytime around a gift-giving occasion or in reaction to a gift-giving occasion), I would sit down and talk to him about gifts and find out what goes on in his head when he’s looking for a gift for you.

      You may be surprised and hear a story similar to what Laura shared. He may feel that if he doesn’t come up with the gift, and just gets what you told him to, that it takes away the joy in giving for him, or he wants you to be surprised, so having you provide specific items automatically means he won’t buy those…it can also give you the opportunity to let him know your heart. He may just not be paying enough attention to his gift selections (remember – we’re all wired differently!) and if he understands what those “other” gifts truly say to you, he may shop differently.

      When it comes to budget – I would encourage you guys to get on the same page about gift-giving – discuss what truly works in your family budget…we’ve typically said for Christmas we will spend X dollars on each other, some years more, some years less, and then make it a game to do the best gifts possible for that amount of $$. We also have blow money that is intended for us to spend on our hobbies that we can dip into if we want to spend more, but it keeps us from breaking our budget! Best wishes – I know it’s tough!

      jodi´s last blog post…Toffee Popcorn – A Great Christmas Gift

  35. I happen to think that one should be grateful no matter what the gift is. We have to remember that it truly is the thought that counts and react accordingly.
    I did have to laugh when my sister-in-law (who lives in W. Va. and we live in TN) sent my then almost 12 year old son a Transformer-type toy last year for Christmas and he replied, “Doesn’t ANYone in W.Va. know how old I am???” God love his heart. After I got a good chuckle, I simply reminded him to be grateful that she was thinking of him and sent him anything at all. We then decided that we would share the toy with someone who may not have as much under their tree. He was all for it!

    Anita, a Knitting Junkie!´s last blog post…Great Recipe and General Rambling

  36. If you’ve ever read “The Five Love Languages”, then you know that some people express and receive love by way of giving physical actual wrap it up gifts. I’d bet that a lot of folks commenting about how much love and thought go into gift giving speak the “Love Language” of gift giving and receiving.
    Now, gift giving is not my love language, but I recognize that it IS the love language of several of my family members. I think I’ve inadvertently really hurt my mother in law’s feelings on several occasions by returning gifts or re-gifting them in the past.
    Since I understand now how much it means to her, I’m always very careful to be very gracious (and teach my daughter to be very gracious too) and then take the items home.
    That said, I also believe that once a gift is given, it is then up to the recipient to do what they will with it. That means that once I give a gift, I have to let go of it. Once I receive a gift, I refuse to feel guilt-ed into wearing the ugly sweater I was given, or put out the plastic noisy toy vacuum cleaner just because my mother in law is coming to dinner.
    At the end of the day, we can make suggestions to gift givers, but the only thing we can really control is how WE give gifts. It is an expression of our values and love. So, my family gives experiences, or donations to causes we think the recipient would appreciate or I make things for people. I can feel really good about that part and donate the noisy plastic toy without guilt.

    Carrie´s last blog post…Love Note

  37. We say thank you and then put the gift in the re-gifting/Goodwill pile.

    Karen´s last blog post…Vacation’s over!

  38. Well, this post certainly came at the right time. I had offended my grandma by telling her she didn’t need to get us anything expensive. I tried to reason with her how much she could spend on us. Instead, she got offended and was a little hurt that I didn’t “want” what she wanted to give us. I’ve come to realize that I am just going to let her do her thing…even if it breaks the bank for her. It makes her happy, so why should I fight it. Ultimately, I will decide what stays in our house and what goes. But I sure wish this wasn’t a battle at Christmas. Gifts are not the main focus!!

    nicole ross´s last blog post…Frugal Cleaning~Baking Soda

  39. I just wrote about this a couple of days ago.

    Sarah @ Ordinary Days´s last blog post…Yeah, I’m Done With That

  40. While it’s too late to do so this year, next year I plan on suggesting action gifts from everyone in our family and maybe even some close friends. The “48 hours of babysitting”, or “Help painting the living room” kind of gifts. These kind of gifts are often much more appreciated than material gifts and they provide excellent lessons for the kids (and don’t require the small kids to buy gifts with their parent’s money). They also often mean that the giver ends up spending some quality time with the receiver. We will still buy a few toys for our son (who will only be 3) from Santa, but we will encourage him to give his own action gifts to grandparents (who will love it).

  41. I think this is a classic concern for many people. I work with LOTS of families and have for over 17 years. This is the major complaint I hear from most. To the point of arguments and the feeling of not being respected by one spouses parents etc.

    My advise to them and you is this:

    If it brings someone great joy to give…let them. Don’t feel the need to control everything that comes in. Most of the things your kids get they won’t remember 5 minutes later, so you simply put it in a box and donate it to someone who will LOVE it. The kids won’t remember as most of our little ones are blessed beyond measure and nobody’s feelings are hurt. Better yet the gift giver feels great too:)

    We can absolutely go to the mat about what is right and wrong and what we think is best for our kids etc. But lets face it…we don’t always know right, sometimes something we would have NEVER gotten (i.e. a drum set) births a musical genious in your family.

    Bottom line is, you are the parent…you have ultimate control once the gifts are home and in your house, so smile , say thank you, and do with them what you will.

    Hope this helps someone!

  42. Most my friends, relatives know we’re “odd” compared to them. So now they either do nothing or just send cash! LOL
    Back when we did get something that we couldn’t use or wasn’t in our green, vegan lifestyle we’d donate it or freecycle it. Not telling them, let them enjoy the happiness they had when they gave it to us, ya know 🙂
    Now everyone knows and accepts ‘who’ we are and pretty much gives money or gift certificates to places they know we’d shop.
    It’s easier now that mine are older (19, 12) than it was before.

  43. Two things that may help.

    If the problem is people want to buy too much, have the kids write a list (with pictures, stores, and prices) to give to grandma and grandpa to ensure the overload of toys is at lease toys you approve of. And a toy list coming from the kids is a whole lot cuter than directions on what to buy from you.

    If the problem is spending money, suggest a Pollyanna with a price limit.

    Shannon´s last blog post…Dillon Ashlyn

  44. We started sending out a “wish” list when we moved away from family. It was really a list of activities or lessons or events we wanted to participate in [i.e. piano lessons, gymnastics, nature studies at the local forest service dept, and so on]. Because my family generally wanted to send gifts, but postage was eating up a major part of the money they wanted to spend, this was a great compromise- we got something that DID fit in with what our family values were, and they got pictures all year of our family enjoying their thoughtfulness! We’ve actually moved back into the area where our family lives, but still continue this tradition because it has worked so well 🙂

  45. After several Christmases of receiving an ungodly amount of Lego sets and hot wheels race tracks (both of which require hours to put together and only minutes played with before they fall apart), I sent a simple request to family members: No more Lego sets or Race Car Tracks… or, if you do purchase them, please keep them at your house. I know we’re supposed to be polite about receiving gifts, but if the same people are wasting their money year after year, I kind of think I’m doing them a favor.

    Online Christmas wishlists (like Wishpot) are a life saver – no more duplicate Christmas presents. Again, I know “It’s the thought that counts”, but it can’t hurt to guide our gift buyers in the right direction, right? Wishpot is an easy way to say “here are some things I’m interested in” without giving someone a list of demands.

  46. My husband’s mom tends to go overboard when purchasing gifts for our little guy (who just turned 2 recently, so this is his 3rd Christmas). When my husband was small, she lived on a tight budget without a lot of room for extras…DH always had a good Christmas, but she didn’t have the ability to spend what she spends now at all. I think her buying so much for our son is a way for her to continue to show her love for my DH and do things now that she couldn’t do when he was little. And when it’s too much, we simply talk through what presents will stay at her house for our little guy to play with when he’s there, and which ones will come home. It keeps us from being overrun, but also allows her much joy and our son benefits too. And if there’s a special gift that we know we want to give him, we make sure to let her know that as well, so that it doesn’t also get included in her gift-giving and that we can enjoy giving too.

    In raising our kids, I definitely think it’s super important to teach love and respect and we do that in part by how we react when we/they receive a gift that we wouldn’t have chosen. A gracious reaction then provides a great teachable moment for the child instead of just complaining that “grandma went crazy AGAIN” which doesn’t teach the values that at heart we espouse.

    The older I get, the more I feel myself gravitating towards a simple lifestyle, however, I think it’s also okay to splurge when it comes to kids once-in-awhile…I fear that if we push the “simple way of life” too much, it may backfire in the end with kids who grow up and constantly overindulge bc they never had that opportunity growing up. A little balance now goes a long way toward cultivating healthy adults who will also see the balance achieved in simple living!

    jodi´s last blog post…Toffee Popcorn – A Great Christmas Gift

    • You said that so well. It is so important to teach our children balance, as well as to be gracious and grateful. I\’d also add that while I do get rid of gifts that are inappropriate for values or safety, and I rotate the obnoxious battery powered toys, even if a gift isn\’t something I would have chosen, I can still let my children keep it for a while, and wait to give it away. That, I think, honors the giver (and their relationship with my children) more than giving it away in January. While I don\’t think it\’s appropriate, unless they ask, to tell people exactly what to buy your children, I do think honesty in your views on toys and gift giving is important. Our budget is tight, and I would feel terrible if someone just threw away a gift from us that I had somehow sacrificed for. I would much rather carefully choose something that will be enjoyed and meaningful. I also feel bad if somebody wastes money on something inappropriate for my children. However, having expressed my views, or suggested a couple needed items, I then let my children keep whatever they are given.

  47. Luckily I’ve very close with my Mum and when she started buying inappropriately huge presents for my daughter when she was little, I was just honest with her. We didn’t have space to store the enormous paddling pool/swimming pool at my house and would she like to look after it the whole year. After that she checked with me 🙂

    MIL however just buys downright dangerous cheaply made things and if they aren’t too bad they go to charity or in the bin if I think they’ll kill a small child. But as we rarely see them them, it’s not worth making a massive fuss over something I can sort out after the day.

    With other people, if it’s a nice present but just not our ‘thing’ then it goes in the closet with a post it note of who bought it and I re-gift it the next year to someone I know will love it. That way it ends up with a good home and saves money.

    Liz@VioletPosy´s last blog post…Something to Share

  48. We have used Wish Pot this year – just as a way for people to know what kinds of things we and our daughter are interested in and might want/need.

    But as for receiving gifts go we say “thank you” and we go on. If we ever receive something that falls into our category of “inappropriate/offensive” those items are returned. Other things – noisy, cheap, plastic toys… I figure it is better to let her play with them and break them (or be rotated out of circulation before the next holiday) than to try to return them or donate them to charity. Gifts are given as an expression of love, the “appropriateness” of the gift for our family (as long as it isn’t offensive) don’t really figure into this discussion.

    Blessed´s last blog post…Quick Post – I Got Some Bad News…

  49. I am loving the comments! I really really love what Carrie said: “but the only thing we can really control is how WE give gifts.”

    After years of really stressing myself out because my requests and suggestions go ignored (and I’ve been called “weird” more than once), I’m just going to let it go. I’ll keep suggesting things for myself and for the kids, but will be gracious about what is received and I’ll keep/donate/return at my own discretion!

    Thanks Simple Mom for the great forum to discuss this!

    bee´s last blog post…A Simple Christmas

    • Oh, I’ve been called weird. . . or 3 years ago I was called “hysterical” for requesting that items made in China be avoided. Of course, last year the whole family turned to me to try and figure out what to get and where to shop once the safety of toys was in question on a more widely known arena. It’s hard to let go of something that we feel is a real and important safety issue or a values issue. . .but, we can’t control what other people do or buy, just how we react and respond to their gifts (hopefully with true graciousness) and what we do and buy.

      Carrie´s last blog post…Abby Sanford as the Marmot

  50. We live in Hawaii where extra storage is NOT an option, there just isn’t much space for extra things. So for every toy we bring home, one has to leave. If we receive a toy that is not worthy to live at our house, we put it in a “regift” box, so that we can pass those toys along to maybe a child who will LOVE them. We also have toy buckets for different areas, toys that are precious and can’t get dirty, stay inside. Other toys (plastic/replaceable) we designate as outside toys, so if they get lost in the yard I’m not worried about it. But when we receive any gift, we acknowledge the thought and give lots of hugs as THANKS.

  51. We limit grandparents to no more than 2 toys per child. That way we don’t come home with tons of toys that very quickly fill up our small house.

  52. It grandparents are willing, we would love to receive gifts of memberships to zoos, museums, etc. We usually end up taking a couple trips with family to use the membership, so it is a great way for them to spend some time with the grandkids. Also, my sister and I for a couple years now have decided to only exchange kid gifts due to financial constraints. One side of the family just doesn’t want to honor the limited or moderate noisy toys and actually by them on purpose to push buttons. We try to keep in boxes and return if we can and we also find that the kids tend to only enjoy these toys for a very limited time since it is just too much. It helps to give people brands or something easy for them to get if they are nice enough to ask. I tend to fall back on Melissa & Doug since it can be found at major stores. I do like to honor that people want to give gifts and I need to teach my children to say “thank you” and move on.

    Chrissy´s last blog post…Now let’s see if I can live up to this!

  53. I think a good idea is a “one toy in one toy out” rule. All family members know about the rule so they are extra thoughtful of what they buy. When the child gets new toys they get to choose some of their old toys to donate and are involved in the process of giving to others that need it. That being said, a child can never have too many books/educational items.

    Courtney´s last blog post…FOUND!!!!

  54. this is a tricky one. i just recently offended someone trying to refuse (kindly) a gift that was tooooooo much to be appropriate. it was a horrible experience for us both when we both had nothing but good intent and respect for each other. truly, it may have ruined a relationship.

    so, that said, i’ve returned to my policy of just saying “thank you.” this is hard, as my ex and his family spoil my daughter like there is no tomorrow and often times the gifts do not match my priorities for our life. but they give them to her when i’m not around and then the gifts come to live at my house. it’s annoying, but i recognize this is their way of showing they care even if it is different from mine. so again, i just deal with it. if it’s something i have a serious objection to morally or spiritually, i won’t keep it in my house and they usually don’t know.

    Micha´s last blog post…holiday memoirs v.2 (or…. why i’ve grown out of wanting a ‘perfectly’ coordinated Christmas tree v.2)

  55. Honestly, I think being blunt will work.

    My sister recently became a DEVOUT Christian in a way that almost offends the rest of us already-Christian family members. But she has her ways. They include wanting only specific gifts. She sent an e-mail last year to us family stating specifically what would be acceptable: bibles and home-made gifts. While I was initially annoyed at the thought that my gift-giving was somehow hurting her version of Christianity, I decided it was best to go along with her requests.

    In the long run, I like knowing that my presents are not offending her and that I’m giving her EXACTLY what she wants. I’d rather give a gift that’s wanted than one that will be thrown out because it is not right for her or her family. I hope that most people who give gifts really have the intention of making the recipient happy; if that happiness means following a set of expectations, so be it.

    Good luck!

    Lindsey´s last blog post…Schoolwork Silliness

  56. It seems to me that being gracious is a two way street. One side should learn to be thankful and accept happily the gift somebody went to the trouble to send, and the other should not expect the gift to automatically receive a physical place of honor.

    My kids are young so I may be headed for surprises on this, but I hear a lot of the desire to control others in these wishes to limit givers and in asking them to conform to our own ideas of “simple” or “thoughtful” unless they come to you looking for advice. My husband and I as adults are still learning the best way to return love and gratitude to our family, especially when it’s a gift we may not truly want. Besides, who knows- maybe that plastic noisy gew-gaw will be the baby’s new best friend. Let it go…

    miriam´s last blog post…Step ball change, LEAP.

  57. I really like the different ideas and viewpoints being expressed on this post. I agree with the philosophy that “Never OVERESTIMATE your power to change others, and never UNDERESTIMATE your power to change yourself.”

    With that said, I’ve decided not to create a gift registry for Christmas. If my family or in-laws want guidance, we are close enough to ask each other. This year, in the spirit of simplicity, our siblings have decided to only buy gifts for the children, and for our parents. The only items I object to in my house are video game systems and tvs for our young kids. Everything else is fine because I know that my mom and MIL simply love my kids, as if they were their own. Their gifts are expressions of love and I don’t want my kids to see me turning that down, even after we get home from Christmas. Love isn’t about control- it’s about letting go of control and living on faith.

  58. They usually ask what he needs, and if they don’t I gently make suggestions. If it’s something he already has one of, or we really don’t want at the house, we ask grandparents if we can leave it at THEIR house for him to have something to play when when he visits.

  59. We have spent five of the last six Christmases with my parents (who live in another state from us), so I pretty much resign myself to their way of celebrating the holiday, which means LOTS of gifts for the kids.

    I would prefer much less emphasis on the “getting of stuff” (which it inevitably turns into) and more on being together and experiencing the joy of connection and generosity of spirit. But because we are at their home, I don’t feel right coming in and telling them how to do things. They just end up feeling hurt and confused, which is not the feeling of connection I’m going for! 🙂

    I wish everyone a joyful holiday season!

    Stacy (mama-om)´s last blog post…Everything Death and Destruction (and Pink and Frilly)

  60. My husband and I moved almost 800 miles away from almost all of our family 6 years ago. Almost all of our family has since decided it is easier to send the kids money and have us pick a few things the kids want and wrap them from them, rather than waste tons of money shipping stuff to us that they might already have. Fine by me, because I can pick and choose what we actually bring home. I always allow the kids a certain amount of money to buy whatever they want within reason, and they are pretty good about not buying junk.
    My parents are the make them something or buy them books and educational things and a few nice clothes for the season parents. I love it! They don’t go overboard, and send little “care packages” year round. The kids love opening them!
    My Dad always sends the kids money to buy books. A lot of times we hit a Goodwill or two and find incredibly (never even opened) expensive books and sets we would never buy at regular price. Then we go to Amazon and pick out a book or two they have been wanting. Sometimes they call him on the phone and read to him or tell him about what they are reading, he loves that!
    My husband’s mother takes them to the Dollar Store and gives them each a cart and tells them they can have what ever they want, sends packages full of Dollar Store candy we never eat, junk toys and any of those “If you order now…For only 3 payments of $9.99” gimmicks from tv…so I had my husband talk to her and put an end to it. I think it hurt her feelings, but it was all wasteful junk and a waste of money and ended up in the trash can the same day if it ever even worked. Then I had teary eyed kids because there new toys were in the trash can and didn’t work.
    My biggest problem is my husband’s father. He is a very wealthy man (due to an injury settlement, but only gets a certain amount of money each month). He tells my children he will buy them certain things, and then goes out and spends all of his money on antique dolls he collects and is literally broke. I have told them not to expect anything from him, because I know his habits, but they are kids and filled with hopes and dreams. He asked them what they wanted for Christmas back in May. They had been planning on saving all their Christmas money and putting it towards a lap top (my 2 oldest attend Connections Academy; a virtual school, and it would allow us to travel with my husband as he travels for work). They told him they wanted a laptop. He told them that sounded like a great idea and would buy all 3 of them their own so they didn’t have to share, aad could get their work done in a more timely manner. He has been talking about it for months and asking them specifics, colors… So instead of telling everyone else they wanted gift certificates or money to put towards a laptop they asked them for other things.
    We just got a call from him and he is sending them $50 each for Christmas, because he just spent $20,ooo on a vintage car (his 3rd car), and is now broke. I could care less about what he buys them and how much he spends, but it is so hard to see them disappointed and for them to try and understand how he is so selfish. My husband and I have talked to him about it, and he gets all upset and feels guilty and says he will give them the money when he gets it, but never does, because he has bought more antiques or has to do something to one of his cars.
    We told the kids they could pool all of their Christmas money together and we will help them buy one to share for now.
    My boys love to build and are each getting a Craftsman tool set from an aunt of mine this year, so hubby and I are getting them carpenters pencils, hammers and nails, wood glue, a level, screw drivers, screws…to go along with it. Hubby is also going to try and make them a kit so they have something to put together and make all by them selves.

    Good luck to all of you and hope you all have a wonderful holiday, no matter what you end up with in the end : )

    Mrs. B´s last blog post…still here, just busy

  61. We donate a lot to charity. The only problem with this, is when the person who gave the gift asks the child about it. Yikes!!

    Kori´s last blog post…Another Giveaway Brought To You By The Posh Baby Bowtique!!!

  62. We live overseas with the military right now and have one son who is the first grandchild on both sides. I made a wish list and posted it on our family blog for everyone who was asking for gift ideas. I mixed a few larger, more expensive items along with a few toys and movies as well as his clothing sizes. Some of the grandparents opted to buy the larger items. The aunts picked out most of the smaller toys which worked well because we would also be buying something smaller for their little ones. Whenever we have an abundance of gifts (which we pretty much expect with how large our families are), we let our son open them all and see which ones he plays the most with for the first few days. Then we put away the others for when he begins to lose interest in the toys he has out. We rotate the toys and as he becomes older or we get more toys (his birthday & Christmas pretty much means he gets new toys every 6 months), we donate whatever is too young for him. This also works well if there is something we think is inappropriate. It just gets put away until he’s either old enough for it or we donate it with other toys he no longer plays with.

    April´s last blog post…Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle.

  63. I ditto Bryssy.

    These are Christmas gifts – emphasis on “gift” – we can’t dictate what others give us, because they don’t have to give us anything at all, really. And I don’t think we should worry about it, unless we are specifically asked what we’d prefer. Then, it’s ok to let them know our preferences.

    My MIL usually asks us for a list, and anyone in her family who wants to get us something will usually go to her and ask what’s on our list. That seems to work nicely for us.

    When we receive something we didn’t want, and it doesn’t go directly against any moral or spiritual values we hold dear, and there are no safety issues, we let our kids enjoy the gifts. Then, like the rest of the toys, it goes to Goodwill once they’ve had their fun.

    I think if we worry too much about what others might give us, we inadvertently put the focus back on the gifts, but in the opposite direction. It would be too easy to fall into pride about our family’s “simplicity.” I find it easier to just smile and be grateful for the thought behind the gift – even if it doesn’t seem like there was much thought to begin with!

    And we always, ALWAYS do thank-you notes.

    Faerylandmom´s last blog post…I Just Realized Something

  64. When my daughter receives a gift that doesn’t align we donate it somewhere (sometimes the church nursery). Usually I try to be proactive though. We have a lot of out of town family and they usually ask what she’d like to have so I email a list of great ideas. I’ve found that if I do this early she tends to get things she’d actually like.

    Great question!

    Nicki´s last blog post…What Can I Make Out Of What I Have?

  65. Gifts are suppose to be expressions of love and appreciation. Therefore, the best gifts are handmade. One year we made the decision that any gift given had to be handmade. This automatically determines limits without having ‘too much’ being given. I got the best things that year (my daughter gave me the gift of giving her soon-to-be-born daughter my name as her middle name, I got a recording of the g-kids singing, beautiful artwork by toddlers. One mother’s day I got framed art that had my son’s footprint along with his son’s footprint and a simple heartfelt message.) I know it’s easier to give adults handmade items, but doing this sets an attitude for the kids, which maybe the ‘over-giving’ members will eventually pick up on. If you do what you would like them to do for you, maybe with time they will see what you mean.

    I’d say have a discussion (sometimes these type discussions are easier to have online) about the meaning behind the gift giving first. If it continues, make sure the giver knows that excess will be donated to charity. This will probably have a shocking reaction at first. But if they know, that may cut it down immediately. And always show gratitude for any gift – the kids are watching your reaction.

  66. I am a minister’s wife, and so we get gifts from all kinds of kind people in our church who realize we are on a tight budget and don’t live by grandparents. They really want to bless our children, but often do it with cheap dollar store presents.

    I have learned to thank the people graciously for their gifts, and let the boys read the books a few times or play with the toys. If they are really awful (like really commercial DVDs) we say thank you, watch them once so we can say we watched them, and then hide them away. We live in too small of a town to send things to the goodwill without them being recognized.

    But one thing I have discovered is that a lot of the toys I think will be cheap and that my boys won’t like are the ones they play with the most. Sure, they’re plastic, which is not my first choice, but some of them have been fun and lasted through two active boys and have been the ones they play with every day. And if they do break, well, then we don’t have to worry anymore, do we?

    As for in more personal relationships, I find that you really have to understand the person and do what they like best. I love giving and receiving presents, but my husband likes to only have things that are to his exact specifications. After many years (about 10) of giving him gifts he didn’t really appreciate, I’ve learned to just let him buy a gift he wants. And he’s learned that I really want him to buy something for me, even if its just flowers or chocolate. As someone who loves to give, I’ve had to learn to respect people who don’t do well with unexpected gifts. And I’ve learned to save my giftiness for those who also love giving gifts.

    As for my family, there are 5 siblings and 18 grandchildren and five great grandchildren, so we just send a card with a recent family photo. Otherwise it would just be too crazy.

    jill´s last blog post…Longing to Wear a Dress

  67. I’m sure my husband’s aunt especially thought it was horribly tacky, but I sent an email to both sides a few weeks back with gift ideas for the three (almost 4) of us. We’ve got a _tiny_ condo that’s already completely full of stuff (despite constant trips to Goodwill)…and a new baby due on the 20th (we will then have the only grandchildren/nephews/niece on both sides) which will only make things more crowded. We’ve got a playroom (i.e., living room) full of great toys and books aready and just don’t need any more stuff (even clothes at the moment).

    So I gave gift card ideas (with an explanation of the thing we would use the card for – like gift cards towards the electric breastpump I didn’t get the first time around, but really want this time) and suggestions for donations to a savings account for him, but I also included instructions on small things that our son really enjoys right now (Thomas trains and Veggie Tales DVDs mostly) with an offer to give a list of what we already have to avoid duplicates. I also included instructions for my thrift store happy family (on both sides) not to give us used Thomas trains since many of those have been recalled for lead paint. _I_ think I left plenty of room for generosity while still keeping our son’s safety in mind and trying to limit the _stuff_ we bring into our house.

    I don’t think that sending a list of what we’d prefer takes away from the joy of giving that I know both sides of our family have. I think they mostly want to give something they know will be appreciated by all and I think that by giving them a list of what would be ok, I’ve given them freedom to pick stuff out that actually will be appreciated without “controlling” them.

    And I don’t think that by giving out a list that we have made it then impossible for us to be grateful for whatever is given, even if it’s not on the list. My gratitude for the gift has nothing to do with whether or not it was something I said I (or my child) wanted and everything to do with being appreciative of the time, effort, and love that I know went into making/buying the gift. The two things are not mutually exclusive.

    Princess Leia´s last blog post…Making VNB’s Day

  68. Be grateful!!! I think that is the most important thing. My daughter last Christmas was given a doll by Grandma….a plastic doll. I had bought my daughter this adorable cloth doll not wanting her playing or sucking on a plastic doll. However, when Grandma gave her that doll we took it graciously….today the doll I gave her is cast aside and this plastic head doll goes everywhere with her. She loves it like her own baby. My husband thinks it is because it looks more real than the one I gave her.

    Sometimes as parents I think we can get so wrapped up in controlling what our kids play with. I have a small house. We throw out broken toys, I give the kids less so that Grandparents can give more. We move toys outside and play with them there. We have some toys that have gone to Grandma’s house to play with there.

    I don’t think that I could sell or give something away right away that my child was given. That seems a little harsh to me. If I gave someone something that would make me sad if they turned around and did that. I do think it is appropriate if someone asks to guide them in the right direction. I don’t experience getting 15 gifts like someone said above so I really can’t judge someone in that situation and understand her need to get rid of things quickly. My kids are not given annoying things like Bratz dolls either so yes I understand issues with that. People are in unique situations and each one is different so I don’t condemn getting rid of things. I seriously don’t know what I would do in the above situations. I have expressed concern to my family about the size of our house preferring games and toys to play with outside.

    I have at times felt like the kids have too much but I usually go for the toys they no longer play with or that are broken to get rid of….not the new gifts.

  69. I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. I’ve always preferred to give my niece and nephew gifts that I knew they could use for a long time. I don’t have a lot of money, and buying their “flavor of the month” desire just didn’t seem like a good use of money to me. So we buy them ornaments, and books and quality toys or art supplies. We don’t buy the card sets or figurine sets they get from everyone else. And they still play with/read the gifts we’ve given them long after the other toys have gone on. On the other hand, when I had my baby showers, I received a lot of things like baby sleepers and blankets. My sil told me to return most of it because she was giving me hand-me-downs of those items and I didn’t need any new ones. The thing is, these things were given to me by people who loved me and thought about me as they were picking out items for my baby. I didn’t return most of it because I decided that my baby deserved to be wrapped in their love and not just in hand-me-downs, which can also be consigned or donated. I do prefer fewer quality items to lots of cheaply made toys, but I’m not going to throw away a gift because it’s not what I asked for.

    Deanna´s last blog post…Looking for an Embroidery Machine

  70. I am struggling with this very topic this year. I enjoyed reading all posts. I have 2 boys (4 and 2) and we are overrun with “stuff”. I donate regularly – every 3 months I clear out toys – and we are still overrun! So, this year I decided that “Santa” would scale down and buy a few quality gifts instead. I have also asked grandparents to limit plastic toys. I would love memberships to a local museum or park for my kids but, both grandparents don’t feel that is enough hoopla! I understand that a gift is a gift and we will be grateful either way. My kids will I’m sure enjoy the presents but, I wish the family time of being able to go to the science center or amusement park without the worry of cost would outweigh the need for hoopla.

  71. So I’ve tried to read all the comments but didn’t get to finish.
    While I understand the thinking behind the “just be grateful and get over it” thinking, that’s not the point that some of us are trying to make. I do teach my children to be grateful for anything they receive whether it be expensive or from the dollar store. However, in my family we’re not talking 10-15 gifts. We’re talking around 50, at least… PER CHILD! My son, only 2.5, is ALREADY asking, “where are MY presents!!!” when we’re wrapping presents for needy children. This is because he’s already, at this age, expecting a barrage (sp?) of gifts at Christmas. I’ve hinted year after year that we don’t need much and that we’d rather spend TIME together to no avail. Last year I about CRIED when my in-laws brought out my 18 month old’s last present, a 5 foot long, 3 foot wide, CORVETTE that drives and has a real stereo. This was after we broke the news that we were trying to sell our house to move into an apartment to pay off debt and simplify. My husband is a pastor and we don’t have much money. I feel no guilt for having limited means to buy Christmas presents for the ENTIRE fam (just hubby’s side has 5 brothers, grandparents, great grandparents, etc). We’ve made presents before, we’ve donated money in their honor to a charity, bought things on sale, etc. But we’re also trying to teach our children that this is NOT what the holiday is about. It’s not a holiday to look forward to because of the gifts you will receive. It’s Jesus’ birthday. We have many ways of celebrating this (and YES it includes buying gifts for loved ones), but when we get more presents than can LITERALLY fit in our car, this negates every possible teaching we’ve done with our kids. I understand it’s some people’s love language to give. But, in fact, that’s not what a “giving” love language is about. A love language is about how you like to receive love. When giving, you should think about what the love language of the person you’re giving to is. I realize not every one has read that book or has that understanding, but both our families have. It’s just frustrating when you’re trying to change the “status quo” of how things are done and raise your children in a different manner. I just wish my in-laws gave me the courtesy of respecting how we want to raise our children. I’m not saying no gifts. I’m not even telling them what to buy unless they ask. I just would like fewer. That’s all.

    Amber´s last blog post…SALE and GIVEAWAY!

    • I totally agree with you Amber. We really WISH our extended family could see that the way they gift to our children affects our parenting. It affects how we want our core values to come across to our children. It affects the gas mileage on the way home from hauling all of that *stuff* back from Christmas. 😉
      The thing is: I personally went crazy for 4 years trying to change how my in-laws do things. In the end, I ended up really changing their feelings about ME. . . not their gifting behavior. I became “picky” and “difficult” in their eyes. I’m not “over it” because it still affects my life. . .but I can’t put any more energy into it because that energy feels negative and makes my holidays not nearly as much fun and joyful as they could be.
      And, again. . . we WISH that family would try to give gifts based on OUR love languages. And, how people give gifts does often come directly from their own love language. . . it’s the most comfortable way we know how to express ourselves. It takes a very evolved person with a lot of self-knowledge to get to the point of being able to give gifts or express love in the love language of the person they are gifting to. . . so. . . consider yourself an advanced person for being able to see outside of your own style.
      The best we can do is try and communicate from our hearts what our problems are with how Christmas goes. Beyond that. . . it’s out of our hands.
      You might totally dig the advent conspiracy videos (http://www.adventconspiracy.org/). . . consider sharing them (next year) with your in-laws. Maybe they’ll “get it” then. Good luck.

      Carrie´s last blog post…Abby Sanford as the Marmot

  72. I’ve taught my kids to accept the gifts, smile, and say “thank you”.

    My mother-n-law’s idea of Christmas shopping is going through her house and finding stuff she doesn’t want anymore and giving her finds to my kids for Christmas.

    Due to her travel plans, we had Christmas early this year. My girls got some quilting fabric from Grandma’s stash, some old beads, about 10 pairs of old ear rings (my girls don’t have pierced ears), and 2 costume necklaces each. They acted like they loved everything and said their thank yous.

    One year Grandma gave one of the girls, an orange plastic ice bucket, an Arby’s happy meal toy and some dusty decorative soap that had been in her bathroom for years as 8th birthday gift. We all crack up remembering those gifts!

    My Mother-in-law is quite the gift giver!

    • I know someone whose mil gave her 9 year grandson a bird’s nest and soap-on-a-rope (possibly used) for his birthday one year. I give craft supplies as gifts a lot, so I can see the costume jewelry and quilt scraps in that light, at least. (making lemonade, you know)

      Deanna´s last blog post…Looking for an Embroidery Machine

  73. I get the whole donate it if you dont want it thing but what about the MIL that comes over and ASKS where it is? and then gets offended if you tell her you gave it to someone who was more needy than your child? This happens ALL the time in my house. So I end up keeping the stupid ‘blinky blinky blinky, beep beep beep’ ANNOYING toys. And since her house is such a disaster we don’t go visit her for long enough for my son to even play so keeping them at her house doesn’t cut it either. HELP! I’ve tried asking for books or wooden toys or just a general “no plastic” toys….and I get a LOT of plastic toys instead.

  74. Unless someone specifically asked what we wanted; I accept whatever we get with a smile. I wasn’t ever too picky about my childrens’ toys, as long as they were age appropriate and the kids played with them. Being picky usually would just set me up for trouble, and it’s really not worth it.

  75. Today I advertised new stuff on Freecycle that would make good Christmas gifts for people to give this Holiday Season. So far I’ve received 61 responses from good people. I can’t make up my mind to whom to give the stuff. Go to my site at peoplepowergranny.blogspot.com. Read about some of the folks who responded, and tell me to whom you would give the stuff. Then vote in my poll.

    People Power Granny´s last blog post…Whom should I choose from my Freecycle ad?

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