Toy Overload: One Mom's Plea To Stop The Holiday Gifting Madness

As parents, the holiday season means bracing ourselves for toy overload.

kid holiday gift overload

The holidays are upon us! I can guarantee you we aren't the only parents bracing ourselves to be buried in plastic, battery-sucking toys with flashing lights and other items that our 19-month-old daughter will play with a few times and then abandon.

I've seen it happen to every parent within my circle of family and friends. No matter how hard they beg and plead ("We don't have the space!" "He doesn't need any more toys!" "Our dog will eat the stuffed animals!), the crap marches in each December.


My hippie-dippie, granola ways make this even more of an issue for me. Despite feeling extremely grateful to those who want to shower my daughter with gifts, I hate plastic and waste. I also have strong opinions about what toys belong in our home. I don’t care how many languages that dog can speak, nothing is going to teach my child the ABCs better than singing the damn song to her over and over and over again! How do I know this is to be true? Because even before the invention of an alphabet school bus, children learned their ABCs. But that doesn’t seem to be enough to keep said alphabet school bus out of my home.


I imagine the older my daughter gets, I’ll need a better toy management system. Something like "toy in-toy out." Get a new toy. Donate an old one. This could work, all while teaching the little one about the importance of giving. But in my house, there is one problem: my husband's hoarding tendencies.

Although my husband and I appear to see eye to eye on the issue of too much "stuff" in our private conversations, when it comes time to let the family know our limitations or suggestions, he gets gun shy.

"Oh, that dancing elephant sounds like something she would like. Sure! Thanks!"

Then when I’ve decided to donate something, he suddenly becomes very attached to the toy our child never played with anyway.


"But my grandma’s neighbor bought her that. That was really nice of her. We have to keep it."

We have to keep it? As in, forever?! My husband has bins and bins of old toys, Garbage Pail Kid cards, and beloved cereal boxes from his childhood. Yes, cereal boxes. Thirty-two years of no purging requires space in your parents’ and your grandparents’ attics. I donate his least-treasured items when he's not looking, and I can tell you he does not miss them.

But it can get confusing, for kids as well as adults. How can we distinguish between items that are special and worth hanging onto versus those that are disposable? Not every doll or set of cards can be special enough to cherish for a lifetime, which is why it's so important to choose quality over quantity and to make sure that what you’re buying is something the child really wants before adding it to the cart.

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There is a fine line between being incredibly grateful for the generosity of loved ones and feeling totally overwhelmed by the piles of stuff (an emotion intensified by the realization that there are so many children out there with nothing). It helps to have a place to store some of the toys and bring them out one by one on a rainy day. It also helps that we hope to have another child in the future, so anything our daughter outgrows can be saved for the next baby.

The holidays are a source of stress for many families. If we believe this time of year is truly "all about the kids," I vote for actually making it about the kids and the few special things they have had their eye on all year long. Parents everywhere will appreciate it.

Do you struggle with toy overload in your home? How do you keep it all under control—especially during the giving season?