How to (Nicely) Tell People to Stop Gifting Your Kids Junk

Junk (to clarify), I mean disposable toys, that get played with for moments, discarded, tossed aside, to eventually end up in a donate-pile, after you spend two months picking them up.

Eighteen months ago we took stock of the things in our home. We took stock of the ‘stuff’ that we’ve accumulated that was doing nothing but taking up space in our lives – without bringing us any real value. We got rid of half of the stuff in our home. HALF.

We started to think differently, and this reflected in the things that we were buying for the kids. In addition to buying fewer items, we started to really think about the items when we did buy them. Where were we going to store them? Was this item something that we were going to use months down the line? Do we already own something similar that performs a similar purpose? Do we need this? Do we really, really need this?

We started to really evaluate every. single. thing that was coming into our house – and so we thought it would greatly reduce the amount of things that we own, reducing the amount of time we spent tidying and moving these items around our house.

However, the clutter continued.

Where was all the junk coming from?

First, grandparents. Grandparents have this way of loving on the kids by providing them with toys when they spend the weekend, boxes sent through the mail containing items that they don’t really need and only play with for fifteen minutes when they arrive, being sent to a donate bin shortly after.

Second, birthday parties. Birthday parties seem to come with toys, toys and more toys. Birthday parties are tricky though, I mean, you want your kid to have a good time, and let’s face it – what kid doesn’t like presents? The problem though, is those trendy toys, like a Shopkins house our kid went to the store to pick out with her aunt, get lost in the shuffle, and were played with for about five minutes.

How can you start the conversation about stopping the gifting of ‘junk’?

Before you start the conversation, check the motives for the giving. Talking about it with my Mom, she enjoyed picking toys out for them, wrapping them – and giving a gift card or an ‘experience’ just wasn’t the same for her. Be patient, changes take time – it won’t happen overnight. Now, she sends gift cards and they go to the store and come home, to show her what they chose, over Facetime. Books, craft things – things they need, like new seasonal things, or money put towards an adventure or vacation spending fund aren’t as fun to shop for, as toys for little kids.

  • Start by explaining your values to anyone who will listen, namely grandparents. Explain the value of experiences over stuff and explain how much more added value comes from the gift of experiences. Share resources, explaining the reasoning behind consuming less.
  • Give other children the gifts of experience. Rather than giving a toy or other item at the next birthday party you’re invited to, think about something that the child will enjoy, or something the child will use. One of my favourite gifts to give is pair of children’s movie tickets, or a family pass, inside something functional, like a water bottle for kids. This gift was actually given to one of my kids, and inspired me to start giving a similar option, myself.
  • Host a 50/50 birthday party. At this party, each guest gives the birthday girl or boy $5 –  I know, there’s some weird stigma about giving cash at the party, I get it – but half of the money is donated to a charity of the kids choice, and half is kept by the kid to purchase something, that they want.
  • Just ask. If you’re blunt, like I am, explain that you are trying to minimize the things within your home. Explain that you’re trying to aim to collect experiences and ask family members and friends to help with that. Suggest ideas for things that they can do with the child, or experiences they can gift or contribute to, rather than the usual ‘stuff’.
  • Give options for things that you need, or things that the kids collect: for us, it’s lego and magformers, craft supplies and pretend play. Giving options for things that you’re constantly running out of – like craft supplies, is a lot easier than giving a list of things that you don’t want. 

Have you been trying to reduce the junk in your house, and haven’t been able to make progress? Where do you find it’s coming from?



Lori is the mother of three young girls, passionate about exploring, experiencing and adventure. In between adventures, you’ll find her hanging out with her family, in the suburbs of Edmonton. Trying hard to be a winter-person, you’ll find her trying hard to get outside during the winter months, and barefoot, with the sand and grass between her toes during the summer months.

3 thoughts on “How to (Nicely) Tell People to Stop Gifting Your Kids Junk

  1. Love the 50/50 party gift idea. I think i will use that idea for my daughter’s 11th birthday next month. Also gifting movie passes is an excellent idea.


  3. Loving the 50/50 idea ! going to impleMent this for sUre

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