One thing all 30 of us share was a January ’09 due date. With birthdays happening right after Christmas (and a few before), I wanted to ask how all the ladies manage the windfall of toys this time of year…
Tanya: We always ask for gifts of experience – swimming lessons, zoo memberships, etc. This year we received season passes to a nearby amusement and water park from my in-laws for the whole family for Christmas, and Santa brought us a night away at an indoor water park. We love to make memories together rather than collect more stuff we don’t need!
Heidi: I ask for things they need, money for their savings, or experience gifts. I agree with Tanya memories last forever… they don’t play with certain toys or they out-grow the toys. The kids love to see pics of things they have done and who they did them with… that is what really counts! Additionally, we go though the kids rooms and get rid of the outgrown toys and clothes, broken or ripped, etc. There are always about 3 garbage bags to donate. I usually go through their rooms while they are at school… and put the full garage bags in the garage… if after 3 weeks they don’t ask for anything, we donate them.
Cassie: This year we asked for mostly experience gifts from family. David and I follow “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.” Each child gets 4 gifts from us, plus a Santa gift (even though they know Santa is a game we play in memory of St. Nicholas.)
Bonnie: We go overboard for Christmas, and then for birthdays (we have 3 kid birthday’s a in row) we get one bigger item and leave the rest up to guests. We also alternate toys, save some for later, and donate a lot. For M’s (’09) second birthday I asked everyone for clothes and it was the saddest thing. She was NOT happy and NOT excited, and I felt horrible.
Amy S: I have my girls go through their toys at various times during the year and we talk about giving some of the things they have in excess, like dolls, to other children who might not have a doll. I like teaching them the joy of giving and practice that at Christmastime when we choose tags from the “Angel Tree” at church and buy new gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated. My girls get a lot of joy in shopping for another little boy or girl and wrapping their presents – they know they are doing something special! When it comes to Christmas gifts, we don’t have many restrictions or limitations other than staying within a budget. Paying in cash for all Christmas expenses keeps me on track. When it comes to birthdays, our main gift to the kids is throwing them a birthday party. They get to choose a venue or outing every other year and the opposite year is a fun home party.
Mellie: We do an Amazon.com wish list for gift ideas. It’s a bit of a challenge to find gifts that J (’09) can use well due to his physical limitations that are not too “baby”-ish for him. I like to purge a couple times a year. We put bins on the driveway marked “free” and the toys are usually picked up within an hour. It’s nice knowing that someone else is getting some use out of them. For his upcoming birthday I’m requesting iTunes gift cards for his new iPad.
Stevie: We also go through toys several times a year. Most of the things we donate, but I do sell some of the things to help off set our Christmas expenses, and now that I am teaching preschool, the girls often donate some of their toys to my classroom. When it comes to birthdays, we usually get one “bigger” gift, a small gift from her sisters, and a book. C (’09) and S (’05) are at an age where they enjoy shopping for themselves, so if anyone asks, I tell them cash is great – even if it is just a few dollars! We then save the money for a bit and, once the novelty of Christmas gifts (and other birthday gifts) has worn off, shop for something new.
Leti: We go through toys throughout the year and purge the ones that aren’t played with. We go all out for Christmas (maybe even a little overboard). For birthdays we throw a party and in the past have given one “big” gift. This year we are still doing a party but the gift will be smaller. When family asks what to get I either suggest something that can be used with a toy we already have or clothes in the next size. I also make a wish list and add ideas based on what the kids show an interest in through the year. Regardless there are way too many toys in my house!
Rachel: We are lucky because the grandparents do not go overboard for Christmas or birthdays. They usually only buy each child one toy and then useful items such as clothes and books. We also try hard not to go overboard with a few toys at Christmas, a game, a DVD, a book and clothes if needed. On birthdays they get a party and one toy and some special activity. The most important thing is we go through the toys regularly and donate, hand down to family or resell. When needed I also rotate toys by taking some of the toys and putting them in a large bin for a few months and then switching out as they bore with the toys they have. As they have gotten older I’ve done this less and less.
Gena: We have gotten a little creative with this. One year for their birthdays (which are December 17th and Christmas Eve) we had everyone bring an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. They still got one gift from Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa, but it was also a good way to teach them to give. N (’12) got one bigger gift for her birthday and E (’08) got a day of fun with Mom. She didn’t even ask why she didn’t get a wrapped present. For Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa got a subscription to a child magazine for E (’08). I have come to realize that a lot of toys don’t get played with. So this year, I got a lot of arts and crafts activities and that has been getting much more play time then any of their other toys.
Shellie: Some years we get all the kids a big group gift. Last year, it was a puppy and this year it was a trampoline. Having birthdays so close after Christmas has always been challenging for me because we have three January birthdays (January 7, 19, and 20) to celebrate. Typically, I’ll look at their Christmas wish lists and hold back something from that for their birthdays. I have also thrown them birthday parties in July for their half birthday so they could have a pool party or some other fun outdoor style party!
Linda: This was the first year that we–or I should say I–didn’t impulse buy. The girls are easy because they like baby dolls and doll houses so we just kept it to that. Now we just need to weed out all the old baby dolls and baby toys to donate. The boy on the other hand doesn’t play with toys. Instead of giving him things he wouldn’t play with after a couple days we asked our family to get him for hunting equipment. So my 5 year old got duck calls, binoculars, a hunting back pack, and walkie-talkies for Christmas and he loves all of it. I’m hoping to just keep things simple from here on out.