Please Don’t Buy My Kids Toys for Christmas. Here’s What You Can Do Instead.


Throughout the years I learned a very important lesson, and this year I vow to remember it.

It’s this. If you shower kids with toys, then your house will become filled with toys.

No brainer right? But until I was buying my 500th tote to hold all the Little People and Barbie shoes and Lego pieces and Matchbox cars I didn’t realize what I had gotten myself into.

I found myself organizing and cleaning and reading articles with titles like: Awesome and Attractive Toy Storage options! The Joy of Having a Toy Library in Your Basement! How to Build Shelves to Hold All Your Fun Stuff!

The momentary joy we were all getting fulfilling the kids every passing toy wish and whim added up to my family living in a sea of crap that needed to be constantly picked up, managed, stored and sorted through. My kids had so much stuff they couldn’t possibly play with and enjoy it all. That sea of toys was built on good intentions and love but still we were drowning in it.

So, like so many things in motherhood, I learned from my mistakes and we regrouped. We now try hard to minimize what comes into this house and to teach our kids that stuff isn’t what life is all about because it’s also no fun when your kids turn into greedy little monsters. As they tend to do when they are given too much.

In that spirit, this list was born. I’ve dug out from under the mountain of toys and I vow not to let this holiday bury my again. Besides, as we have worked to put stuff in it’s place, my kids have started to realize that memories can be the best gift of all.

Here are 12 things to do for my kids besides buy them more toys this Christmas.

  1. Buy them tickets to fun. This could be as simple as buying movie passes that can be used anytime or as elaborate as tickets to Hamilton (Mom would love this too!). Bonus points here if you buy them the tickets and take them to the event. Memories, my friends, are a gift for everyone.

  2. Show them some culture Day passes or memberships to museums or zoos are awesome gifts. Oftentimes these are things that can be used right away over the Christmas break and having a fun place to go can help cut that post holiday letdown.

  3. Give the gift of time. Along these same lines, time can be it’s own gift. Maybe it’s a day spent playing lazer tag or going to a jump park. Maybe it’s a day of shopping. Maybe it’s a day spent walking the trails at at a special park. One on one uninterrupted time is such a gift in this busy world.

  4. Give them the world through books. You. Can. Never. Go. Wrong. With. Books. Seriously, I’m not just saying this because I’m a literacy coach. Books open up whole new worlds to our kids. I can remember every single Judy Blume book I received growing up. And if you want to go truly minimalist get the kid a Kindle and Amazon gift card or a subscription to Audible so they can listen to their books on the go.

  5. Hand out drive thru gift cards. Nothing makes my kids as happy as the elusive drive thru. I am a “Nope” mom when it comes to this unless we are in a bind. What kid would not love to be able to say, “I’m picking dinner tonight and it comes with a toy for me.”. Find out their favorite restaurant. Give gifts cards to each and the bonus gift here is a night mom doesn’t have to cook.

  6. Head to a restaurant together. Take that special kid (or the whole gang) out for a special meal someplace fun. Maybe it is the local Japanese Hibachi Grill where kids can watch their food catch fire right in front of them. Maybe it’s the dreaded Chuck E Cheese. Pick somewhere they love and enjoy a special meal together.

  7. Give the gift of fashion. My kids love when my mom takes them to buy a special outfit to start the school year, letting kids pick their holiday fashions is a great idea along these same lines. My kids have loved getting t-shirts that advertise their favorite show or favorite hobby or their local sports team. Clothes can be a great gift (although we draw the line here at underwear, it’s never the right choice.).

  8. Bake holiday treats together. If you have awesome recipes to pass down, share away and bake together. If you don’t buy some prebaked sugar cookies and get to decorating. Spend time together making memories around food and then allowing kids to feel the pride of creating something. Make cocoa and serve it in a special mug they get to take home.Or send the kids home with the goods you made on a special plate that you bought just for them.

  9. Plan a group trip. Instead of giving individual gifts in a family, no one buys a thing and instead you all go away together. This one works great for families or friend groups that do big exchanges. We had a blast one year all going to a water park for a weekend. The pressure was off since we didn’t have to do all the shopping and we made awesome memories together.

  10. Walk down memory lane with photobooks. One of my kids’ favorite gifts every year is a photobook I do for them that showcases their past year. They rip open this gift and spend so much time leafing through the pages, remembering all the fun the year held. This keepsake is something they will have forever.

  11. Do a family game night or movie night. Plan a night to get together and each family buys a game or movie for the other, then play or watch together. All you need to do is add in some snacks and you have the gift of time and the gift of fun rolled into one!

  12. Shop together for kids who have less. Each year my kids donate one of their gifts before they even get it. We head to Target to buy a gift for a child their age and then place it directly in the Toys for Tots donation bin.Having kids actually walk into a store and pick out a gift is for someone they don’t know, but that will completely appreciate it, is powerful and teaching the gift of giving.

While we appreciate any gift we are given around this joint, and of course get some toys for Christmas each year, looking beyond the toy aisle has actually made the holiday more fun. We’ve made more memories and even made it feel like Christmas has lasted longer, when we’re heading to the drive through a few weeks later. And of course, I don’t have to spend January buying more bins or figuring out how to build some shelves. A total win.


I’m Amy Betters-Midtvedt and I write along with my friend and former teaching partner Erin over at Hiding in the Closet With Coffee. We write to help find our sanity and our joy and sometimes joy is found hiding out in the closet with our coffee…or hiding out on Facebook…come and join us! You can also find us hiding out over at InstagramPinterest and on Twitter.

I have been published on Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, Babble, Mamalode, Blunt Moms,, TODAY Community, Red Tricycle and Sammiches and Psych Meds.



  1. Love all these suggestions! I’m a huge fan of gifting time and experiences so we love the gift cards and coupon cards for one-on-one dates with mom or dad to the dinner theater or miniature golf or anything fun (free is fine too!) we can do together. We also love filling shoeboxes for Operation a Christmas child together. ????

  2. Thanks for sharing such a valuable information. For gifting give them something intelligent that becomes important for parents.

    Take a good decision for your kids.

  3. I loved one idea I heard about where each child receives only three gifts along with a lesson about the birth of Jesus and how the three wise men brought Him three gifts on the first Christmas.

  4. Hi Amy, loved all your ideas for Christmas. I too believe that gifts shouldn’t consist of loads of toys kids will never play with. I’m a Grandma of two boys 3 and 6. This year I’m giving my grandkids a new bedspread and sheets. Something they will be cuddling with all year.


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