Kids Safety 101
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Too Many Toys? Dealing with Unwanted Gifts at the Holidays

Every year, families want to make sure that their kids have the most magical, memorable holiday ever. For most of us, that means buying lots of presents. But “more” not necessarily better, as any parent who has seen an overwhelmed kid have a meltdown can attest.

2021 has been a challenging year in so many ways, and we’ll probably be seeing the effects on our children for a long time to come. It’s understandable to want to make up for it with a big pile of presents, and many families are going a little overboard with the shopping this year.

What do you do with unwanted gifts? How do you cope with kids who don’t like–or, honestly, need–all those new toys? Here’s how to navigate this tricky issue.

When Kids Don’t Like What They Get

When a child unwraps a gift, you hope that they’ll be delighted by what is inside. Realistically, that’s not always the case. Maybe it’s the wrong color. Maybe they asked for an expensive toy and didn’t get it. Maybe they’re just overwhelmed by too much stimulation on Christmas morning!

Whatever the case, it’s important to model polite behavior for your kids. If you receive a gift, even if it’s not what you wanted, at least say thank you. Work on managing expectations in the future, and talk to kids about how giving gifts is one way that people show how much they love you.

When Kids Get Too Much

More and more parents are being mindful about the number of toys and other possessions they bring into their homes. While most of us won’t ever be true minimalists–especially not with kids in the house–setting boundaries on the number of presents your child receives can actually do a lot of good.

Unfortunately, the rest of your family may not be on board with the idea. They want to spoil your kids… but they’re not the ones who have to deal with the consequences. If at all possible, strategize with your family about gifts that your children actually need.

The pandemic has made experience-based gifts, such as a trip to the zoo, a no-go, at least for now, but next year consider making a wish list that involves less stuff and more doing. Putting the money they would have spent on presents into a college fund is another solid choice.

What to Do with Unwanted Gifts

When kids get gifts they don’t want or need, that stuff should not remain in your house. Ideally, everyone included gift receipts with their presents so that you can return the unwanted items. But that’s not always the case.

Donating the gift to a charity organization could be your next best bet. Kids may not want to give away their toys, however, so help them take ownership of the decluttering process.

Sometimes, family members will “check in” to see if your child is enjoying their gift. This can be awkward if you’ve decided not to keep it and may cause hurt feelings. Talking to family in advance about gifting is the best strategy.

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Erin Long