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10 clutter-free gift ideas for kids

This morning, our four year old daughter told me, “I don’t want a bunch of things for Christmas. I just want one thing: a pogo stick.” We are constantly cutting back on the number of toys and parts and pieces that are so often underfoot in our home, so the approaching holiday season has me thinking about how we can celebrate through giving—without increasing the volume of stuff in our home. It’s better for our hearts, our wallets, and the earth.

As we discussed in last week’s 12 Weeks to a Peaceful Christmas task, the sooner we start gift shopping, the less stressed we’ll be when the holiday hits. So here are 10 clutter-free gift ideas for the little ones in your life.

Financial investments

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1. Short-term investing

For a child who is preschool age and older, partner together to work on a short-term savings goal. Use some or all of the money you would have spent on gifts and open a savings account, money market account, or purchase CDs (Certificates of Deposit) to help a child get started on saving towards a big purchase.

This big purchase could be anything from a new bike to a first car. The combination of gift money, plus money invested by the child, means he can achieve his savings goal more quickly, while still maintaining a sense of ownership in what the money is used to purchase.

Smarty Pig is a nifty tool that helps other people, like grandparents, contribute to a savings goal.

2. Long-term investing

Did you know that education-related inflation is currently rising at about seven percent a year? It’s never too early to prepare for the costs of higher education.  Start a 529 Plan for your child.

A 529 Plan allows anyone (parents, grandparents, extended family, even the child himself) to contribute up to $13,000 per year, and its earnings are tax-deferred or tax-exempt if it’s spent on qualified education expenses (books, tuition, room-and-board, etc). Talk with a trusted financial advisor about how to use the money you would have otherwise spent on (more) toys to start paving the way for your child’s future education.

Dave Ramsey has a group of his Endorsed Local Providers, if you want to find a financial adviser in your area with a financial philosophy you can trust.

Family investments

Photo by Van Damme M

3. Big ticket item

Rather than many small gift items for family members, pool the holiday budget to purchase one big item that the entire family can enjoy. A trampoline sure sounds like fun, or maybe this is the year to invest in one of those fantastic wooden play stands. Does your family have a big ticket item you have been collectively dreaming about?

4. Family vacation

The families great at delayed gratification might be up for this one. Rather than having dozens of holiday presents to unwrap (and clean-up after, and then find a place for in your home), make plans to escape somewhere as a family in the coming year.

The dark, cold days of winter make a perfect backdrop for daydreaming about a week of summer spent at the beach. Choosing a location that pleases everyone could be a challenge, particularly if your children are older and have a strong opinion on the matter, but then again, brainstorming about far-away places could be a fun exercise in the art of family compromise.

5. Family memberships

A family membership to a local zoo, children’s museum, or theater group rarely fits into our family’s regular monthly budget. The holiday season is a great time to procure a membership that will bring enjoyment to your family throughout the coming year.

Individual investments

Photo by evoo73

6. Lessons or activities

Any parent who has a child enrolled in dance lessons or sports organizations know how costly those activities can be. Using holiday gift money to pay for the coming year’s lessons or activity fees will not only be a gift for the child involved, but it will also be a blessing to your monthly budget.

Grandparents who are asking about gift ideas might also like to chip-in for lessons or activities, particularly if they receive an invitation to the end-of-year finale.

7. Camps

As children get older, the number of summer camps offered grows exponentially. Whatever your child is interested in, there is probably a summer camp that will encourage her in her passion and dedication to that interest.

Summer camps can also be quite costly, and for the child who is mature enough to wait six months for the camp season to roll around, there is bound to be great fulfillment in knowing that the end of the school year will finally yield the much-anticipated camp experience.

8. Room makeover

The airplanes and trains were adorable when he was little, but now that he is ten, his room might be ready for a big makeover. A new paint color, new bedding, new bookshelves, and new accessories are a clutter-free way to bring new life to a child’s private space.

Global investments

9. Bless the earth

For the more philanthropic amongst us, the ultimate in clutter-free giving includes investing money not in stuff, but in that which we may never see or touch. Find ways your monetary gift can make a difference for our planet. The Arbor Tree Foundation or The Rainforest Site might be good places to start researching organizations committed to positive change for our planet.

10. Bless the people of the earth

During the holiday season, opportunities abound for families who are willing to invest in the lives of others. There are dozens and dozens of organizations that are in the trenches of doing the hard work of meeting the needs of people around the world.

Heifer International is on a mission to “ to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth. Heifer does this by providing appropriate livestock, training and related services to small-scale farmers and communities worldwide.”  From their Meaningful Gifts selections, your family could purchase a flock of chicks for a family in Cameroon or a sheep to provide wool for a family in another part of the world.

• World Vision works to provide emergency relief, long-term development, and much-needed advocacy for people groups around the globe and through their “Must Have Gifts” selection, your family could purchase mosquito nets or school textbooks (and much more) for families half the world away from where you live.

Mercy Corps offers Mercy Kits – a practical and powerful way for your family to make a difference in the lives of others. Mercy Kits range in price from $18 to $2500; every family blessed with plenty could find a way to be the change.


If some of these suggestions sound unreasonable or threaten to steal the joy of holiday gift-giving, you might consider simply simplifying.

A strategy for how to handle the holiday gifts that has become popular in the past few years is the “want, need, wear, read” approach (explained beautifully here by [dandee]).  Essentially, each child receives as gfits something he wants, something he needs, something he will wear, and something he can read.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these suggestions, and in the meantime, I better get to work on tracking down a pogo stick.

What ideas can you add to this list that would ensure less stuff will be entering your home this holiday season?

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  1. Angela Mills

    We have often given lessons for birthdays, and trips, etc. for Christmas. I have given certificates to go somewhere special, and these are always the most-loved presents. We haev 4 sets of grandparents that love to buy toys, so we try to get as little “stuff” as possible. These are great ideas! I might have to send this to the grandparents…
    .-= Angela Mills´s last blog ..Anecdotal Records in Homeschool =-.

    • Janet

      I love the Pet TickleMe Plant kit i found on line. Who knew you could grow a plant that is Ticklish and moves when tickled.
      Found it here.

  2. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    We have taken to buying our kids fewer, but nicer things. It’s so nice not to jump at every little fad toy or day after Thanksgiving mark down. I find that I am putting more thought into their gifts and it really makes me feel like I am showing them that I know them and understand them when they rip open that wrapping paper on just a few gifts but they love every single one of them.
    .-= Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s last blog ..Support Your Favorite Bloggers This Holiday Shopping Season =-.

  3. melissa

    last year, everyone got us a wii. it was awesome!!
    usually we request zoo or aquarium memberships, tickets to a show or something. we have a very small house and my kids have waaaaaaaay too many toys as it is. if they want to give them something to ‘open’ we suggest a coloring book or small stuffed animal or stickers related to the item. (like this year, my step-mom is getting us tickets to lion king and giving the girls a small simba and nala.)
    we buy our kids zero toys for christmas. everything comes from family!
    .-= melissa ´s last blog ..wordless wednesday: yummy yogurt =-.

  4. Visty

    My kids are generally easy to appease, also. But the boy only wants Legos. Which of course come in sets of ten thousand. However, I have tried over the years to choose other things here and there, and every single time those things end up in the garage while he sits for hours and hours with the Legos. Right now there is a big pile of gift bombs out there I need to deal with. Like the drum set. I was creating clutter by trying to avoid clutter!

    This Christmas I talked to the kids about consumable gifts for us to give, to reduce other people’s clutter: handmade food items, pictures of their art turned into notecard sets for the grands, calendars made from my photography…they seem to be on board with that. We’ll choose some books, too, and call it good for the family gift giving.

    One thing I suggest is clever tshirts for kids on etsy. It’s clothes, but cool enough to pass as a kid gift.
    .-= Visty´s last blog ..Backyard firepit =-.

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      I think you make a great point, Visty. It is easy to bring in more clutter inadvertently while trying to avoid the clutter.

      And YES to consumable gifts! Fantastic theme and I love that your family is on board with it. I’ll be checking out t-shirts on etsy – I wouldn’t have thought of that.

  5. wesleyjeanne

    Like Angie, we have grandparents who insist on buying toys and stuff, so my husband and I always limit what we (and Santa) give.
    Our kids are so young that they don’t really understand gifts of investments and delayed-gratification, but I really like the Want-Need-Wear-Read idea. We might try that this year–if we can convince the Grands to go along.
    Great post!
    .-= wesleyjeanne´s last blog ..Coming out from under =-.

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      Roping the grands into this concept seems to be a concern for many. Maybe I should have addressed that – except the truth is, I don’t know that I have a great answer for that question!

      We are definitely focusing on want/need/wear/read for the gifts from us this year.

  6. Tracey

    I had not heard the Want, Need, Wear, Read idea before – what a great idea!!
    .-= Tracey´s last blog ..Growing Green Onions =-.

  7. Jessalyn

    Great ideas! My question is, how to do you get Grandparents to follow the tone you want to set for Christmas… and how do you deal with your kids getting less “physical” presents than his cousins, etc… This is our little boy’s first Christmas, so we are wanting to figure out how we will handle Christmas from here on out. Any suggestions in this area? Thanks!
    .-= Jessalyn´s last blog ..H2C Challenge =-.

    • Lauren

      Our daughter’s first christmas was last year and I worried about the same thing. She’s the first grand on both sides so I knew they would want to go overboard! Instead of hoping for the best, hubby and I sat down and wrote a nice letter explaining how we want our daughter to grow up feeling “love” at christmas and not “want”. We also suggested they give her quality not quantity and explained that gifts of time were more important to us and to our daughter and suggested things like zoo memberships, coupons for days with grandma, etc. We also set up a Toys R Us wish list for our daughter and put only a few toys and books we approved of on there to help guide family members. We sent an identical copy of the letter to all the grandparents and aunts/uncles. It was very well received since the letter had a positive focus. None of the grandparents felt disrespected or felt like they were being told what to buy. Actually, they thanked us for giving them some good ideas. In the end, our daughter received a very manageable amount of gifts and none of them were “junk” we didn’t want.

      • Megan at Simple Kids

        Thank you for this! I was going to suggest something along the lines of creating open lines of communication with family members about the attitude of your hearts towards the holidays and gift-giving in general.

        For some families, this may be well-received; in others, there may be resistance. Try to tread lightly while lovingly explaining your motivations is the best response I know to give!

        • Lauren

          You are right, Megan. For our family, we would have met a lot of resistance if we had discussed this issue face-to-face. A loving letter was really the key for us to make sure our message got across and no one felt offended or defensive.

  8. Meg Evans

    My sister-in-law and I were just discussing Christmas gifts today, and she and I were trying to remember the want-need-wear-read idea–she did it last year with her kids. I’m going to propose this to my hubby this year. Our problem is that he goes overboard with “just one more thing” and we end up with a house full of junk! Maybe if we can agree to w-n-w-r for actual wrapped presents, I can let him go nuts with stocking stuffers–that way it’ll be fewer and smaller junk!

  9. gretchen from lifenut

    It’s going to be an interesting Christmas around here because hubby’s employer is slashing. He has a job. For now.

    In the past, we’ve given concert tickets, museum and zoo memberships to our family, and group gifts to all the kids. They don’t mind. It’s silly for one kid to get a DVD everyone is going to watch. One year, my husband gave my oldest daughter and I a surprise trip to Chicago.

    Thankfully, the clutter is reduced when kids get older. My 7th grader wants iTunes gift cards, clothes, certain boots. She needs clothes anyway.

    I have to be honest, though. I am not a huge fan of the “I bought a chicken in your name” gifts. One of my top Love Languages is gifts, so I kinda like the colorful, shiny cubes under the tree with purty stuff inside. I like giving them, too.

    Chickens hate scotch tape.
    .-= gretchen from lifenut´s last blog ..500 =-.

    • Brenda

      My main love language is gifts too and I also love the shiny packages and the paper tearing that happens. One thing I do it I’ll fill a box with peanuts and put a gift card in there just to have something bigger than a card. I sometimes put in a few fake boxes but I mostly make things bigger than they really are 😛

  10. Lisa

    I love this. We are simplifying more each year and, thankfully, the extended family seems to be getting on board with this too. I love the idea of having more time to really enjoy the season by not having to shop/wrap and more money to give to people who really need it. We just put together our Operation Christmas Child boxes (a yearly tradition) the other day and I had such joy listening to my four year old explain to the WalMart checker that these gifts were “for a little girl in the world who won’t get other gifts for Christmas.” She get it!

  11. Lisa

    I love this. We are simplifying more each year and, thankfully, the extended family seems to be getting on board too. I love the idea of having more time to really enjoy the season by not having to shop/wrap and more money to give to people who really need it. We just put together our Operation Christmas Child boxes (a yearly tradition) the other day and I had such joy listening to my four year old explain to the WalMart checker that these gifts were “for a little girl in the world who won’t get other gifts for Christmas.” She get it!

  12. Lisa

    I love this. We are simplifying more each year and, thankfully, the extended family seems to be getting on board too. I love the idea of having more time to really enjoy the season by not having to shop/wrap as much and more money to give to people who really need it. We just put together our Operation Christmas Child boxes (a yearly tradition) the other day and I had such joy listening to my four year old explain to the WalMart checker that these gifts were “for a little girl in the world who won’t get other gifts for Christmas.” She get it!

  13. Renee

    Great ideas. Our daughter is only two, so she doesn’t have too many wants and needs. My husband and I usually buy her one thing and fill her stocking.

    I’m wondering how to express to family and friends that you would prefer that your child not get a ton of presents for Christmas and Birthdays? We are very grateful for everything that is given to us, but our home is running out of room. We also don’t want to focus on material things. What do we do?
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..Falling in and out for Fall =-.

    • Heather

      We had the problem with grandparents overdoing it on Christmas gifts also. We had no problem telling them we thought it was too much but they still had difficulty not buying more than even they had decided to buy. It’s so much fun! Until…it’s not so fun. So I found a website that explained giving in rememberance of what the holiday is really about.

      The idea is to gift gifts to each child that the 3 wise men gave to Jesus at his birth as a way of honoring Him, and our children. We purchase gifts on each child’s wish list which they have created with the following 3 categories in mind:
      GOLD – most desired item (things like a Wii, bicycle, etc – big ticket items)
      FRANKINCENSE – items which will help the child worship God such as music player, iTunes, CD’s, devotional book, bible, etc.
      MYRRH – items which represent offering our bodies as a fragrant sacrifice, just as Jesus did, such as lotion, purfume, bath soaps, slippers, robe, bedding, pillow, clothing, any thing to do with our bodies.

      Then we agreed on one color for each category, so all of the Gold gifts were wrapped in gold paper, all of the Frankincense items in red wrapping paper and Myrrh was wrapped in white – which gave a nice tree presentation!

      Prior to the children unwrapping each category someone read a bible verse and explained the use and importance of each item given to baby Jesus. Then we asked the children to all open their Gold gifts together (there are 7 of them and it took too long to watch each one open individually), then their Frankin. gifts, then their Myrrh gifts.

      The kids really enjoy it and seem to like having more meaning to their gift opening as well. The adults draw names as evenly as possible. Each child’s name with each category is on a slip of paper to draw – therefore, each child has 3 strips of paper.

      For example:

      We didn’t do this with them as toddlers, so not sure how well it will work at first but I wish we had been able to start them on this system of gift giving at that time in their lives. It’s been a great tradition these last 2 years for us!

      We also let the kids draw each others names to MAKE their cousin/sibling something. They LOVE giving their handmade gifts! They also draw an adult name to buy or make something for. We feel it’s important for them to learn how to give, as much as how to receive graciously.

      • Sara

        I think this is a really nice way to Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas! Growing up, we didn’t even give gifts so it was hard to understand how to manage gift giving when my nieces and nephew were born! (We made the decision that we liked receiving gifts when we were little from our grandparents who would not NOT buy for us! Lol)
        This blog has been very helpful. Thank you to each and every one. Thank you, especially Megan!

  14. Joanne

    I think I have been guilty of trying to recreate my own childhood Christmas with endless gifts, etc. that the kids open all morning long. Last Christmas was way over the top. I bought crap just for the sake of them opening a present. NO MORE.

    I did have a few presents that I loved to give and they were all handmade: photo books for each of the kids ( is my favorite) as they will cherish these forever, hand-made t-shirts using fun “Little Miss Sunshine” – matching their personality. It takes more time than buying something and wrapping, but this is my mantra this year. Less is MORE!

    Thanks for a great blog, Joanne
    .-= Joanne´s last blog ..Power of Music =-.

  15. Cherilyn

    We’ve decided to pare down this year too. We bought the family a Wii and each child (2) will be getting 3 smaller gifts. A homemade outfit, a Wii game, and a Mother/Daughter journal with a pen.
    .-= Cherilyn´s last blog ..It’s Just One of Those Days =-.

  16. Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet

    I like the want, need, wear,read…great idea. My oldest turns 4 in Nov and then Christmas is a month later, so I feel like she gets inundated with a lot of crap. I don’t want her to grow up thinking birthdays and Christmas are about getting LOTS of presents. Last year after Christmas we took her and her sister to see Elmo and Sesame Street when they came through town as part of their Christmas present. Although they were to young to understand that it was part of their gift. This year for her birthday we are surprising her with Disney on Ice. Less stuff, more experiences.
    .-= Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet´s last blog ..Four Money Saving Swap Ideas for the Winter and Holidays =-.

  17. Cam

    I loved what you said about the 529 accounts. I know that no one wants another credit card, however, I might have some helpful tips for you. I work at Motherhood Maternity and they offer a Future Trust MC. It isn’t their card–as in its not like a Nordstrom’s or Macy’s CC, but the first 9 months you use it Motherhood puts 2% of your entire purchase NO MATTER WHERE YOU SHOP into your 529, and 1% after the initial 9 months. Most phone companies will save you over 100$ a year if you pay your bill the the FutureTrust card and a bunch of us got together and figured out that if you JUST USE THE CARD FOR GAS you can save about $18,000 in 18 yrs. (which is when your bundle of joy goes to college anyway.) Its better than the UPromise card because that one will only give you money back on stuff like Johnson’s baby shampoo and school supplies, but FT has partnered with over 500 common places to shop who each put a percentage into the same 529. Another thing I want to say about it is that you can link your 529 and FutureTrust card up with say your husbands or your parents so, the grandparents can buy things they normally buy and the 529 still gets the pay-off. If your child ends up NOT going to college its still you’re money. You can roll it into a 401K, cash it in, etc. I know I’m totally up selling this, but it really is a good deal. If you apply for it through Motherhood, again you get the 2%, but all they do is send you more info about what you qualify for and you and your partner can sit down and decide if its right for you. If you don’t want it, just throw it away thats that. If you keep it, its all up to you. Also, the 529 doesn’t open automatically for you. Its an acct through YOUR BANK. My bank requires an initial deposit of $500 to start. But the FT card will keep track of your savings even if you haven’t opened the acct. yet.

  18. Caroline Starr Rose

    Hi Megan. Fun to see you here.

    My mom’s childhood friend, Jo Luck, heads up Heifer International. My church has been involved with this organization for several years. Giving the gift of a cow, chicken, goat, or pig can transform families and communities.

    Don’t forget Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child for other ways to invest in other’s lives.
    .-= Caroline Starr Rose´s last blog ..Agent Search Update =-.

  19. Stephanie Newton

    The first year of the first born was an absolute over-kill at our house. The loot filled one entire half of the room–for a one year old. The next year I instituted a new policy and it’s one that we’ve stuck with. (My kids are teenagers now) Each child gets three presents from Santa, to represent the three wise men and be a reminder of why our family celebrates Christmas. From us they get new pjs on Christmas Eve every year.

    If you like giving to others at Christmas, is an amazing organization which connects lenders to budding entrepreneurs in third-world countries. It helps the people there get on their feet in a real and permanent way. Most loans are between $25 and $100 dollars. You get to pick the enterprise that you would like to invest in. It’s very cool! (And they have gift certificates)

    I’m a new subscriber and I love your blog!
    .-= Stephanie Newton´s last blog ..My BFF =-.

    • Jennifer


      After watching my (now older two out of four) older two girls tear through wrapping paper and gifts – to the point there was a doll openned but not even turned to see what it was before it was discarded and she moved onto another gift – I implemented the “3 gift” rule from me…being a single parent it helped that I focused on what they wanted/needed vs a “must grab and buy” consumer mindset. My family is spread out and has several divorces so we have many extended family. What I’ve done recently – with now having four girls – is I pick three “themes” and the extended family can help build the theme. For example one theme I did was “Spa Package” where I had a laundry basket with new towels (each had their names monogramed on them, easy to tell who left it in a heap later 🙂 ) with a few fun soaps, nail polish, etc. The grandparents gave a membership to the Aquarium (keeping with a water theme), Aunts gave e-versions of Webkins, etc etc etc… it was great. We’ve always done new PJs every year on Christmas Eve so they look presentable in pictures Christmas day! lol 🙂

  20. Marie Green

    For our extended family gift exchange we are doing handmade or second hand. (It can be made by you or purchased handmade by someone else. Also second hand can be something you already have, or something you find at a thrift store/garage sale). This will at least keep us out of the aisles of the big box stores, buying up more plastic that no one needs!

    For our kids we do three gifts: a want, a need, and something to grow the mind. I try not to buy anything plastic (but I’m not legalistic about it…) and this year am hoping that at least one of each of their three gifts will be handmade.
    .-= Marie Green´s last blog ..FAIL! =-.

  21. Rachael Levy

    I enthusiastically endorse the pogo stick. My three big kids received two last year and spent hours and hours jumping on them. They held jumping contests (1,000+ was a record, I think), and raced down the sidewalk. And all that time spent outside during winter break was a bonus gift to me!

    Last year we made our most public effort to simplify by explaining our intentions to the extended family in an email. While some understood our efforts to shift the focus away from lots of loot, others felt offended by our request to pare down the presents. The whole thing was uncomfortable and I wrote about it here:

    This year, we’re adopting a live-and-let-live attitude: keeping our own list short and simple, and not meddling with what the grandparents’ plan.
    .-= Rachael Levy´s last blog ..Petrichor =-.

  22. Samantha @ Mama Notes

    Great ideas! Our son is 7 1/2 months and we are just going to get him one quality toy that will last a while. Maybe a good set of wooden blocks, or wooden cars or something like that.
    .-= Samantha @ Mama Notes´s last blog ..Pumpkin Baby =-.

  23. Prairie Girl

    We too struggled with the Grandparents going overboard (first grandbaby for both sides PLUS she turned one only a few days before Christmas last year – and even with pleading for minimal, it was still a disaster).

    This year. New rule. Since Baby Jesus got 3 gifts at Christmas, so do our kids. One from Grandma. One from Grandpa. (Grandma and Grandpa are not together) and one from Nana and Papa.

    This would also work well to have each set of Grandparents give one gift and then Mom and Dad supply the “third” gift. Unfortunately, my Mom and Dad are divorced, so them giving a gift together just doesn’t work for us.

    I also strive to make handmade presents. Last year, she received a felt board that I made (very economical and fun to make additional items). This year, I read about an awesome idea to make a felt play house that is basically a decorated table cloth that sits over top of a card table. I hope my kids grow up to appreciate the time and effort that go into gifts, not just the dollar value!

    Good luck everyone 🙂
    .-= Prairie Girl´s last blog ..Bye Bye Bottle =-.

    • Lauren

      The felt playhouse sounds neat. Do you know where we could find instructions?

  24. Tashia @ The Household Planner

    Great Ideas! I love the Room Makeover and the Want – Need – Wear – Read idea.

    One thing I have done the last 2 years is give coupons, which my now teen stepdaughter really liked. 12 coupons – 1 per month cover things like choosing a meal and game, get out of chores 1 day, free cd (parental approval required), date with dad, movie with mom and so on.

    Here is a template you can download & customize:
    .-= Tashia @ The Household Planner´s last blog ..You Can’t Afford To NOT Sell Toys On Ebay This Holiday Season! =-.

  25. "Gidget"

    One thing is magazine subscriptions- there are good ones out there for kids like National Geographic Kids, Wild Animal Baby, Highlights, Ranger Rick and the like. It’s a great way to remind kids you are thinking of them throughout the year.

    One thing that my older child (11) likes from his aunts/uncles is a “movie date”. He picks the movie and can have soda and popcorn and candy. We RARELY go to the movies and being able to not only go, but to have popcorn, soda and candy too is HUGE for him. A few years ago another uncle/aunt took him to the aquarium and then Rain Forest Cafe afterwards. He still talks about it. A gift of time is so important and builds memories.

    So for my little ones, I’m encouraging gifts to their 529 account with a dollar store item for under the tree and for my older one, 529 or events.

  26. Gina

    If you want to get your children excited about nature….this educational product is sweeping the country. It’s called the TickleMe Plant and its a real plant that Moves when you Tickle It. The leaves close and even the branches droop when Tickled. Now it can easily been grown indoors year round. Who knew a plant could move when Tickled. You can see the video and its even more fun to grow your own. My Students love it.
    Use Coupon code HOLIDAY for a $2.00 discount. Get back to nature!


    It is SO easy for the gifts to get out of control. Our daughter is the first grandchild on both sides, and, although we’re appreciative, we end up being inundated. AND, they’re not the toys I would chose… loud, battery-operated, etc! I agree with Renee that it’s hard to convince family that you don’t want or need those things… that they just complicate your life with too much stuff! I think I may take a more direct (though gentle) approach as the holidays approach.

    They usually ask, so I’m going to try saying “We really want to start focusing on not getting so many physical gifts for Christmas so that she doesn’t come to expect that… we’d love things to do… memberships, lessons, etc… and we’d love for you to do these things with us!” They’ll want to get her something she can open and play with, so I’m going to be ready with a list of things we can actually use… I may do the want. need. wear. read approach, spreading those things out amongst my good-intentioned family.

    We’ve trying to convince our family that all we really want are memberships to local attractions, like the science museum, which was a great item on the “clutter free Christmas list”. We’re really fortunate to live near wonderful places, but can’t always afford to go without some help. I feel like these places are rich in learning and fun memories… plus they give us a change of pace without having to drive very far or spend much!
    .-=´s last blog ..Easy Eating: Lentil Tacos =-.

  28. prerna

    Oh.. This is so helpful.. Am gonna bookmark it for reference.. Although my daughter is just 20 months, I think it isn’t too early to start inculcating simple values, joys and pleasures.. These ideas just further confirm my belief. Thank you.
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..Being a Writer : Staying Fit and Healthy While Working from Home =-.

  29. Melissa

    Great ideas and reminders going into the holiday season so I don’t get wooed by random toys and keep focused on what I want for my kids in the long run.

    We also have trouble with Grandparents buying crazy amounts of presents, especially my mom. It is hard because that is how she has always felt loved, and therefore shows love to others. So, she buys whatever she wants and we together pick out some of the toys that she will keep at her house for when my kids visit her. This keeps those toys exciting and allows me to not worry about bringing anything over to her house to keep the kids entertained.

  30. Mama Bird

    A lot of great ideas. We are travelling overseas this year for Christmas, so taking the opportunity to par down the gifts, since this year we have to pack them and can’t go crazy anyway. I’m so looking forward to it. My family WAY overdoes Christmas and it’s such an empty feeling for me watching the kids frantically go from one gift to the next, one after another (especially since we open family gifts on Christmas Eve, a Danish thing, so everything is always really rushed). I dread it every year. This year we will be with my husband’s family who have always had a much smaller Christmas, followed by food and fun and relaxing and the kids playing with their new things. Bliss!

    As for taming the Grandparents, I’ve found it helpful to maintain an Amazon wishlist for them to refer to. This way I can put things like books, craft items, puzzles, and specific/nice toys I know will last and be played with. This way I don’t have to worry as much about getting a bunch of huge, fad toys that I immediately want to cart off to the thrift store.

    My mother has also set up a 529 plan for both of my kids that she contributes to as well since she always likes to spend a ton. I suggested this to her as an alternative to buying so much stuff and she liked that idea too. It’s hard to tame a spendy Grandmother! Good luck!

  31. Julie

    We do something similar to the want, wear, need and read. We buy three gifts like the three wisemen. One outfit, one book and one toy. It is a fun challenge to really think about what is the best outfit, book and toy. I can’t stand having tons of little toys everywhere! Thanks for the ideas, very insightful!

  32. Tiffany

    I just got done watching home videos with my kids. We watched a couple of past Christmas’s. One Christmas we had so many presents because my daughters school donated gifts to families in need. As thankful as I was for the help it was alot of gifts. They were getting bored and distracted after awhile. At the time they were 4 and 2. Last year my husband and I decided to only get each child a couple of gifts. They were happy with it an didn’t complain that they did not get enough. Grandparents, uncles and aunts sent gifts as well. But we saved money and we didn’t have a bunch of toys to figure out what to do with.
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..To Discipline or not to Discipline =-.

  33. Chris

    A great list that leaves no clutter all over the floor…I like it. The idea of the trampoline is a good “big gift” idea that will have the children smiling all year…though we should still stuff their stockings a bit so they can feel extra special!
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..What Are The Hot Christmas Gifts This Year =-.

  34. Susan

    I just notice they have a video of the TickleMe Plant here I’ve never seen this before! so cool

  35. Meaghan

    These are great ideas! Kids always have so many toys and things that it is nice to give them something fun like a membership without having it take up space!

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  38. Jen

    These are some great ideas. I love the one about family tickets to somewhere like a zoo. My gang would love that. Thanks.

  39. Ian

    Some great ideas

    Every year we have the same issue with our daughter who has soo many toys already. your “want, need, wear, read” approach seems to have a lot of sense and we will try that this year.

    We have used the idea in the past of buying items she needs for clubs and dancing lessons which also help financially in later months

  40. Aimee

    This holiday season I registered my children at It’s an online gift registy with a twist. Instead of registering for “stuff”, you register your child’s educational or college fund. I requested that all of my family members use the site to make contributions to my children’s college funds. The family loved it. It was easy for me and easy for my family too. Plus, the college funds are growing!!! YES!

    Thank you for the article. Great information.

  41. Albert Jackson

    thanks for sharing this information..i really like your site… thanks for the excellent idea.

  42. Jc

    I have to say, I can still remember the christmas when all I wanted was a pogo stick. I used it endlessly, difficult to master at first but then oh so….soothing to jump out my energy. I played with it so much that a few years later I had to ask for another pogo stick, the originals springs wore out!

  43. Lindsey

    I often suggest food gifts for those folks who just can’t resist bringing a gift to a party. My kids a ND hubby eat a TON and it’s something that truly helps us out and is inexpensive for the giver. A bag of apples, a box of fruit snacks, or a can of trail mix makes a fun gift.

  44. Paula will tell you who is the best at distribution of funds in their organization.
    How about #11- support a charitable cause and give the recipient a trinket reminder of the donation in their name.
    Such as samaritians purse: honey bees, then give the recipient a jar of honey, or help with digging a well and give the recip. A nalgene bottle…. So many ideas!

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