Disclaimer before you continue reading: I am very grateful that we have family and friends that care about our kids and want to give them gifts. Seriously, I am. I'm even grateful for all the toys we've been gifted or handed-down in the past. But, for the sake of the environment, and our sanity, I'm going to share some ideas for non-plastic-y, non-toy type of gifts.
If you are a parent in this modern world, you've probably realized that the amount of kid STUFF that piles up in your house is insane. And, in my opinion, most of it is CRAP. Plastic toys, battery operated stuff that just makes noise or blinks lights at your kid, blah! Your kids play with them for a day or so, and then the newness has worn off. And then... it sits there....staring at you...waiting to be organized, dusted, put away, stored, etc.
Before I had kids, when I would go to a friend's house that did have kids, it would totally boggle my mind at how many toys they had lying around. It was nuts, and I swore that I would NEVER have this in my own home if, and when, I had kids. Well, now that I have kids, I see how much and how easily those toys pile up when I look all over our house. Whenever Christmas or birthdays approach, I start dreading the amount of stuff that I predict will be coming into our house. We live in a little house, and the last thing we need is more STUFF. And most importantly, the world does not need more stuff. These toys that provide a few moments of entertainment are eventually going to end up buried in a big mountain of garbage, and will remain there for hundreds of years. Not really worth it in my opinion.
There is a solution! And, no, it is not just telling people to not give your child a gift. I've tried this, and I usually end up getting a look that says they want to call Child Protective Services on me for being so mean (eye roll).
The solution is giving a gift that can be used up or can be experienced! Here are some ideas for you parents or gift-givers out there:
1. Small Children: Okay, as we all know, small children just love to rip open wrapping paper and find something new. For babies and young toddlers, they really don't care if it is new or used or expensive. If it's new to them, they love it. So, if you want to be environmentally conscious, my suggestion for the best way to give a gift to a small child is to get them a used/handed down toy (obviously give it a good cleaning) plus a gift of money for a college fund. This way, the kid gets something to open and that they can enjoy, and the parents are happy because they get to add to the kid's college fund, which is always awesome. Then, when the kid is done with the toy, the parents can just donate back to a thrift store or pass it on. No adding more "new" crap to the world.
2. A magazine subscription. Kids LOVE to get mail! I used to love reading Highlights when I was little! And, they have magazines for younger kids too. This way, they get a present that lasts all year, AND, once the child has read it through and through, you can avoid a pileup by just putting them in the recycle bin.
3. An Experience Gift. You can give the best gift of all, which is a great memory. This lasts forever but takes up no space. Except in their hearts (awwww, like how I did that?). Here are some ideas for that: Take them out for a movie and ice cream. Or out for a concert if they're older (who doesn't remember a concert?! great gift). Putt-putt - always a favorite. Take them to get their nails done (older girls love this). Tickets to a museum - there's a cool hands-on kids museum I've been wanting to take my kids to forever. Tickets to some kind of dressed-up-character-on-ice or on stage. Speaking of on-stage, take them to a play! Take them bowling and pig out on bowling alley food together. Or take them out to dinner at some super special place that they want to go. Your time with a kid is the best thing you can give them. Seriously. If you can't think of something, ask them what they would want to do if they could do anything. Then, if it's not unreasonable, do it. Plus, that's bonus points if this results in the parents getting a small break of time where you take the kid(s) out :)
4. Gift Card. And not just a random gift card that means nothing to them. Get them a gift card that they would really want to use. If it's an older kid, it could be a clothing store they like, or if they're old enough to just be getting their driver's license, get them a fully loaded gas card. They will love this when they don't have to spend money on gas. A gift card to a restaurant or ice cream place. A gift card to a place they wouldn't normally spend their own money on, but would love. Find out from the parents where they like to go or what they like to do.
5. A Play Kitchen: This one can be a lot of work, BUT, is an awesome idea. If you have the time and the DIY skills, you can turn a small piece of furniture (like a nightstand) into a play kitchen with some paint, cheap knobs, fabric, etc. For the play stuff, like bowls, spoons, etc., you can get those things at a thrift store (just give them a good cleaning). Kids love real kitchen stuff. This is a gift that does take up room, BUT, it is a form of recycling, so it's better than random plastic junk.
6. Cookies or Other Baked Good: Gift them with a yummy treat along with a college fund check. This is a win-win for everyone.
7. Art supplies: This is always good. Kids like to paint, draw, glitter up stuff, glue stuff, cut stuff, etc. And, it's a gift that gets used up and doesn't just sit around being useless and taking up space. Tip: Find out from the parents if they already have something specific first. You don't want to get them their millionth box of crayons and gazillionth coloring book.
What to do with the toys you currently have and no longer want/need:
Now, if you already have a pileup of old toys sitting around, and you don't have ANYONE to pass them down to, you can always use my FAVORITE method of bidding toys farewell (if they can't be passed down for some reason):
Post them on Craigslist in the FREE section! Those toys will get picked up so fast, you'll love it. I've done this and it makes me feel good knowing that they're going to someone that actually WANTS toys and is actively looking for them. You can always donate them to a thrift store, but I like knowing that they are going directly to some kid instead of sitting on a store shelf for God-knows-how-long. TIP: Upload a picture. Stuff in the FREE section goes super fast if there is a picture so the person can see what they're making a trip out to get first.
I hope this has given you some ideas for gifts that can be better than just regular toys. There are lots of things not even listed here, so if you have a great idea and it's not listed here, please add it in the comments. I love new ideas!
Until next time!