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The holidays and unwanted (but appreciated) gifts

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 

I hope this is the right place to post this. Hubby and I have been discussing going plastic-free, and have realized it's not going to be that easy with our DD (18mths) and Christmas. Both sides of our family LOVE to buy her things..lots and lots of plastic junky toys.  While I appreciate any gift and am thankful, I just would rather they spend the money on something that is of WORTH and isn't toxic to our DD. I hope I'm not sounding selfish or awful..I feel comfortable explaining to my mom and my family, but not so much his side. I really don't know how to approach this. Should I say something? I don't know what to do without seeming completely ungrateful. Also, we already have a TON of plastic toys and I would like to know how I can dispose of them responsibly. Any ideas, ladies??

post #2 of 64

My feeling is, there's really no tactful way to say anything, unless they ask.  If they do, "We're doing her big-girl room in natural woods and getting her a lot of wood toys, so if you want to match that, that would be great, but she'll love anything from her Gramma, you know!"  is probably about as diplomatic as it gets.  If they don't ask... sigh.  Between this age and around four, when kids can write "letters to Santa" that in my case shall be posted on Facebook with gift-givers tagged, LOL, it is just hard.  I really empathize.


As for existing toys, I would donate them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  If you live near an airport to which Pakistan International Airlines flies, they are taking boxes free to earthquake victims in Pakistan.  No toys of pigs or scantily-clad women (baby dolls okay).  The government relief arm is delivering them.  So that's a thought.  Those children truly will not be in a position to have other toys, and probably this plastic exposure is not going to push them over the edge, LOL.

post #3 of 64

Give a list for them to choose from. Most people appreciate having an idea of what to buy.Yea,you still might get the odd and ends cheapo stuff,which you can pack up after the holidays and donate to a woman/children crisis center.


I have gotten catalogs and the kids have circled items of interest.Makes it pretty easy to know what to buy.


If you talk to family just focus on the things you would like for your children to get,and avoid calling anything cheapo plastic crap(even if it is),because they will take it personally. Just keep pointing them in the right direction.Some will get it,and some will always buy junk they see jsut as they are checking out at the store.

post #4 of 64

My son's father's family has always been really good about asking. I always, always encourage books and movies. I talk up my son's love of reading, and they have been really great about giving mostly books and movies with one or two crappy plastic toys for him to play with at their house. Can't ever have too many books. :)

post #5 of 64

in order to have a real relationship with people--rather than building up resentment--i decided to go ahead and just be blatantly honest with people.


i told both my parents and my ILs before DS was born that anything we received that was not what we wanted, we would donate it to charity *immediately*. So, i suggested that they A. buy from our list; B. ask before they buy; or C. make a donation to the charitable organization instead of buying an object that I have to donate.


it worked.


i did this not because i'm not grateful for whatever they would gift. Certainly, i am grateful for their love. 


but the reality is, the object *is not* their love. it is how they are *expressing* their love. Thing is, objects are not my love language. Getting a ton of objects that i do not want, that i feel that i have to hold on to because it is how they chose to express their love, actually really frustrates and upsets me. The object does not communicate love to me, instead if communicates "You are not listening to what i want or need for myself; you do not value me for the way i am and how i want to live, and by buying these objects that i do not want, and effectively foisting them on me, you are forcing me to live the way that you want me to, not the way that i want to."


i don't think (many) parents really want that for their children, even grown ones, and their grandchildren. so, they are likely to listen.


this is just me though.

post #6 of 64

by the by, i never talked about the stuff in terms of quality.


it's like this. My mother wanted to buy us a bassinette, a this a that, another thing. i didn't want these things. they were all really lovely, expensive, high-quality objects. *but i did not want them*


it's ok to not want certain things. it's ok to say "i do not want these things." i keep toys to a minimum in our house, and this is part of how i do it. he gets 1-2 toys per holiday/gifting time. because they are mailed to us, i can always keep one packed away for another time. But, i try to keep it to a minimum.

post #7 of 64

I'm not sure that there is a good way to say it but if you absolutely plan on not keeping plastic toys,I suggest you deal with it now.It's easy to get rid of things you don't want in your home when kids are little but telling your 6 yr old that you're getting rid of their beloved gift because you don't like it,is a whole lot harder.I think it's easier to tell family how you feel about plastic than it is to tell your kid they can't have the gifts given to them.


Good luck.I know it can be hard to have those conversations.

post #8 of 64
I'm facing the same issue. Subbing to see what other people suggest. smile.gif
post #9 of 64
Originally Posted by rere View Post

I'm not sure that there is a good way to say it but if you absolutely plan on not keeping plastic toys,I suggest you deal with it now.It's easy to get rid of things you don't want in your home when kids are little but telling your 6 yr old that you're getting rid of their beloved gift because you don't like it,is a whole lot harder.I think it's easier to tell family how you feel about plastic than it is to tell your kid they can't have the gifts given to them.


Good luck.I know it can be hard to have those conversations.


yeahthat.gif Definitely decide now that you are addressing it at the source, or you realize that in not doing so, you are accepting that you will have these things in your home.


My side of the family is on-board with these things-without having to say anything. DH's family, not so much. So before DD's first Christmas DH wrote an email to his parents letting them know that we would prefer to avoid plastic toys for her. It was worded in terms of our preferences, and included links for some of the natural toy catalogs, like Nova Naturals. Worked beautifully.  Also, I think that with all the recent alerts about toys from China being toxic (most recently the "superhero" character drinking cups w/ 1000x the safe levels of lead) that you could present it as a safety issue that you avoid toys/children's products made in China/other countries that are big exporters of cheap toys. While I am sure that there are some plastic toys that are made in the US and Europe, they are unlikely to the of the "cheapo plastic crap" variety. And, since in general quality=$$, that also helps cut down on the sheer quantity of stuff.

post #10 of 64

We were honest with people from the start, when they asked what we wanted for the baby.  We said, "We're hoping to steer away from plastic toys and anything that needs batteries."  When people asked what we did want, we'd say that we were saving up for a bike trailer and would appreciate contributions to that or DD's educational fund.  If they were folks who I knew preferred to give 'things', I'd suggest books, cloths in older sizes (why does everyone give the itsy bitsy clothes!?!), wooden toys, craft supplies, dress-up clothes, memberships to family-centered places, etc. 

Everyone got on board, for the most part, but not entirely.  One grandma insists on buying DD plastic, MIC crap, along with giving DD beautiful homemade clothes and stuffies.  She was just here last night, delivering a beautiful handmade advent calender filled with tiny gift-wrapped presents, one for each day.  I think I'll open them the night before and see if it's suitable.  Whistle, suitable.  Chocolate lollipop, no suitable.  She also gave DD several plastic bracelets and rings that were choking hazards and just awful.  And several plastic Dora bath toys that reeked of chemicals.  After bedtime, the bracelets, rings and plastic bath toys went into the bin to take to the thrift store.  I always send thank you letters, and I never make comments on the actual gift.  I figure, I've said my piece, and that's that.  I'm not going to harp, but I'm also not going to keep the crap in our house. 

She also gave DD a LARGE plastic snowman who sings and scares the crap out of DD, and I don't know what to do about that ... she'll want to see it every holiday season! 

post #11 of 64

^ If it were me I'd just explain that the snowman scared her and you had to put it away. Then get rid of it. orngbiggrin.gif


I know plenty of parents who simply want fewer toys for their children, and let their friends and families know this if they are going to be giving gifts. For some of them the underlying reason is cutting down on cheap plastic crap, and for some it's simply that they have a small home and space is at a premium. There isn't really a need to go into details; when all's said and done it's your home, your child, and your decision. I think asking for books instead is a great idea. It's never too early to encourage a child to love books.

post #12 of 64

I agree with just being honest. Sharing that you are shifting your values and why. In the end what matters is how you receive whatever you are given. But there should be no problem having an honest and friendly conversation with family letting them know what is important to you.

post #13 of 64

i am envious of all the people who feel comfortable being honest with their family. for us, i am afraid that trying to explain about no plastic/battery operated toys to the grandmas and grandpas will just hurt feelings and add more to the tension that already exists due to our "alternative" parenting. so i have come with 2 solutions for us. the first is to make an amazon wishlist. that way, grandparents can see what books and toys we like, and i feel like this might be helpful as DS gets older to relieve some of the cost of homeschooling if we can get grandparents to help out with books and materials. my second solution is to just let go. i really wish that ds would only be exposed to toys made of natural materials that foster open ended play, but in reality i do not think he will be terribly harmed by occasional plasticky toys. despite my wishlist, the grandparents have already told us what they have gotten him and most of it is stuff we personally would not have chosen. i am just going to let it go. when DS is older, hopefully i can say things like "oh he's really into art" and they will get him art supplies (should work bc DH is an artist, so they have respect for developing those kinds of abilities).

post #14 of 64

We're not plastic free or anything, but I definately prefer real & quality playthings and am much choosier than any of our gifting relatives.  There's a lot of stuff I wish we were never given.  I *try* to keep at least some things not opened and save them to give to toys for tots if that's possible.  And I'll say that my mom, at least, has no expectation that we keep all the toys she gives us forever (melodramatic, yes, but that does seem to be the expectation on the other side of the family shake.gif).


I've asked everyone to limit gifts to 2-3 ONLY after our first xmas.  We haven't gotten crazy about this 'rule' but it's helped a lot (and in part is cause all the gifting dwarfs her holiday experience with us her parents, which I don't like).  When I give suggestions I'm heavy on books and clothes and cd's and other 'useful' items instead of toys.  I also make a point to our kiddos that we go through our toys before gifting occasions and give stuff away ALWAYS.  

It also helps to know where they (gifting relatives) prefer to shop and make the point of going there to find some things you can suggest.  Some places are really more full of plastic character things than you realize and people don't notice a lot of the other things that are there (sports balls, art stuff, often some nice wooden toys, science-toys, games, etc).   We've found a few relatives are creatures of habit and won't make the trek to other toy stores with the nicer stuff and won't order things.     

post #15 of 64

I totally hear you--some people ask for ideas; others just give what they want to give regardless of what we want...I have found that explaining our preferences falls on deaf ears, and just makes it awkward.  I assume that gifts are given with no strings and once it's ours, we can dispose of what we want.  For us it's also quantity, because our parents are divorced and remarried, so that's 8 grandparents.  Do the math, people!  But giving gifts really isn't about us.  It's about them.  I might mention some ideas, but whatever you get, just do what you need to do after you get the presents.  Good luck!

post #16 of 64

We can totally relate to all the above posts. I emailed my SIL last year as she wanted to buy DS a plastic swing/slide set for combo bday and xmas and politely explained that we don't want plastic toys, that we'd rather go the park to use a swing etc. and made specific suggestions about what to buy in the price range for the gift she had planned to get. We thought everyone was up to speed, but then when my DH built a sandbox, MIL arrived with plastic bags full of sandbox toys (anybody have any lasting alternatives to these?). Then we thought she was going to get wooden musical instruments for DS for xmas but we exchanged gifts over thanksgiving and voila - plastic. What do you do when you've said it and oh she loves to give oodles of gifts? DH mentioned no gifts for DS bday which is in January since we don't want him to be overloaded for one, but also because he doesn't need more gifts and suggested putting money they wish to spend in a savings account. His sister agreed, but I think my MIL is still going to buy him toys. I'd love to hear how you react to such gifts in the giver's presence without saying what you are thinking!

What about gifts you receive that are ick?  I have a hard time purging the new things family gave us with good intentions, DH does not.

post #17 of 64

Some people get it, some people don't.  It is hard when the kids are big enough to want the toys, and you can't disappear them. 


BTW, I think ThredUp has a beta for toy swapping, which might be a good way to send the toys somewhere where they'll be played with...


I hate plastic.  Some plastics are better then others, but I don't like it... Our house it tiny, too. so we rotate toys frequently... But they often get very attached to them and its hard to make them go away... y/k?


I've said it over and over to my family and DH's and people still buy whatever they want.  Which is fine, I really am thankful for the gifts, and it is the thought that counts, RIGHT? 


But I don't want to have to live with toxic plastic because of someone's good intentions...


I don't know the answer... but I am just rambling about it. 

post #18 of 64

I totally understand the want for plastic free, especially with young children.  My kids are older now and I wish I had the information I do now when they were little.  However, as they get older plastic is going to make it in the door.  10 yr olds don't want play scarves, wooden kitchens, felted food, etc.  Even though we are almost out of the toy stage totally, my ten yr old likes play tractors, cars, wagons, etc.  Even the nice Ertl ones have plastic on them.  Even if I found all metal ones who knows about the paint.  Do what you can to limit it but be realistic about it. 

post #19 of 64

OP, you spoke to your side of the family and they were on board; I would think your husband could do the talking to his side... presumably they know him well enough not to take offense!

post #20 of 64

We prefer toys that are not plastic and don't require batteries as well--my side of the family understands and usually buys things that we like. We have a pretty small house so any toys that I bring into it need to be something that I don't mind looking at! As for my in-laws I have tried subtly hinting, sending them catalogs, and at times being very honest--like the other day when they said they wanted to buy my two year old a TV FOR HER ROOM--not going to happen! Anyways, they continue to buy her expensive, large, plastic, and noisy toys. The clothes they buy for her are also of the obnoxious blinged out style that I cant stand. I consign somethings, and the others I just give away. Some friends have really appreciated some of the things, like a giant plastic baby 'ring' to corral your children in, and a complete 'Teach Your Baby to Read Program'. I know my in-laws are giving these things from a good place in their hearts, so I just feel like I can pay it forward to someone who appreciates it. although, I have yet to run into the "Hey, where is that giant plastic flashy toy we bought?" yet! They don't live nearby so hopefully it wont happen anytime soon!

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