So I have been trying to do preschool at home this year in anticipation of officially homeschooling my daughter next year for kindergarten. I have been trying to incorporate more natural objects (think Waldorf) and reorganized how my house is setup. I now keep all the toys stored in a spare room and have toys available in the family room under different categories (fine motor, a block corner, etc.) which I switch out weekly. This works great for me because my daughter doesn't get bored, and there's not just a humungous mess. Doing this has made me realize what she has enough of for toys in different areas, and what areas she could truly use toys in. I made a list of what she could use and gave to the grandparents (who had asked me for ideas for her) and nobody seems to like the ideas. The list is pretty much the same I had for her birthday this past summer, because they asked for ideas then and they didn't buy her any of the items. I did add some things to use on the light table my husband and I are making for her. I think part of it is they don't think she will like the things, and they said they just want stuff they can go buy at the local store. Even though some of the things can be bought at local stores... which makes me think they just don't think she'll use gemstones, magnet wands, etc. The problem is they still are asking for stuff to buy her, and I don't know what else to say.
We maintain amazon.com wishlists for our kids, making heavy use of the 'universal wishlist' feature. It doesn't mean we are over the "just go buy something at the local store" thing, but it does give grandparents a wide range of ideas, and the links are built right in for them to shop online.
Have you checked out nova naturals? It's officially a toy website/company, but lots and lots of their stuff is waldorf-style. Maybe grandparents would feel more comfortable buying "toys" from a toy site?
The magnatiles and legos are great open ended play ideas, but we splurged and got her magnatiles for her past birthday, and she already has legos. She also has plenty of board games (mostly thrift finds.)
We did use the amazon universal wish list along with verbally telling them some other things and my family looked at it, but they just don't buy it. One family member doesn't want to buy anything off the internet, even Amazon. By the way that Nova Natural Store looks amazing! I love those types of toys, I'm actually sewing a waldorf doll to look like my daughter for Christmas, and then my MIL called and said she wanted to buy her an American girl doll that looked like my daughter.... I told her I was already mostly done sewing it, and MIL said she'll just get her something else.
Some of the more natural stuff is pricey but I have been making my own, last year dyed some play silks, and told family if they wanted to craft something I have lots of good suggestions, but nobody really wanted to (even though they do craft.) It's more like they just want to go to Walmart and buy a plastic dollhouse then get a sturdy wooden one (I'm not asking for one but that's the idea of it.) They just don't understand/appreciate outside the box, or open ended, or natural toys. You should have seen the eye rolls when they came to visit and I explained how I make my own laundry soap from soapnuts.
Sorry for going on, just needed to vent, thanks Mamas for being there!
What if you think outside the toy realm? Books, art supplies, sleds or outdoor toys come to mind. I know it's frustrating. My MIL gets the most dreadful things for my DD, and she even TRIES to get what we ask. Just always gets it so wrong.