My sister-in-law has a friend who got fed up with the amount of toys her children were receiving and said: enough of the things, give my kids experiences instead.
This was years ago, but I absolutely fell in love with this concept as soon as my SiL told us about it. I can remember gifts I've received since childhood, but the best memories and stories come from experiences I've had.
The other week I dropped the boys off at their grandparents' house so I could organize their rooms and the playroom. I sorted through toys with the intention of tossing a bunch of them into a bag for Goodwill.
I really think my kids know when I'm ready to do a toy purge. Every time I've set my mind to do one, they get a new-found fondness for the toys I've gotten my heart set on donating. Unless I find the toy especially annoying (usually the ones that talk in whiny voices or go off when we aren't even in the room), I find it hard to put it in the donation bag. My latest purging session was no different. Sadly, I was unsuccessful other than a handful of kids meal toys and an annoying Grover toy that doesn't have an on-off switch.
Other than books, the boys really don't need more things. Every time my kids spend time with a relative, they seem to acquire something new. I've even found toys secretly stashed away in our diaper bag. Every time my husband takes them out to lunch, they bring home a toy from a kids meal.
I've mentioned that this needs to stop. But I'm usually met with, "What's the big deal? I'm not hurting any one" or "I'll spoil them if I want to."
And I get it. Truly I do. I'm sure I'll want to spoil any grand kids I have one day. But a problem is emerging: G has started asking where his surprises (presents) are when he sees his relatives. He gets mad when I tell him I didn't get a kids meal; just a burger and fries. I'm working on teaching him that certain occasions and visitors not equal presents/toys/treats, but it's hard to get a 3 year old to understand that when presents and treats keep appearing.
On June 25, my Facebook feed was constantly reminding me that there were six months until Christmas. Honestly, this freaked me out. I might have had half a year until we're subjected to Present Overload, but the stress of the holiday -- the stress of knowing that gifts (toys) are coming and I can't stop it -- starts now.
Between last Christmas, L's birthday in January, and G's birthday in March, we have brand new gifts that are still in their boxes stashed away in a closet. My intention was to bring them out when the boys seemed to get bored with their old ones. But they aren't getting bored and I'm torn between letting the hidden gifts stay in the closet and giving them back to my in-laws to keep at their house.
I've been thinking of non-toy gifts I could suggest if anyone asks what the boys would like for Christmas/birthdays. This is what I've come up with:
- Children's Museum passes
- Lifetime fishing licenses
- Swimming lessons
- Soccer classes
- Gymnastic classes
- Dance classes
- Gift card to a paint-your-own pottery studio
- Braehead Farm season pass
- Tickets to Baltimore Aquarium
- Tickets to Day Out With Thomas (we LOVED our trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine last year!)
- Kiwi Crate subscription
- GiftLit subscription
If I had to rank my ideas, swimming lessons would be #1 for sure. Nothing sparks my anxiety like my kids being near water, or the thought of them being near it. By Christmas, G will be old enough to take lessons without me at the nearby indoor pools, so this is the one idea I am going to promote over the others for him.
Poor L doesn't have a decent library of books like his older brother (yet), so I love the idea of GiftLit for him. They offer a 3-, 6-, or 12-month subscription where they'll send you one book a month. Keep it if you like it, or substitute or return it if you don't. It sort of reminds me of Stitch Fix, but for books!
Do you struggle with Present Overload? How do you handle it?