“What would you like for Christmas this year?”

How many times will our kids be asked that question?  Santa, grandparents, teachers, neighbors, and friends all seem to be very interested in what is on the wish list. 

Even though they are simply being friendly and making conversation, we know there can be a subtle negative effect.  As this question is asked over and over, our kids are encouraged to focus on the things they want but don’t have.  They might not think this way the rest of the year, but at Christmas time, an “I WANT” mentality suddenly becomes the norm. 

When asked what they will put on their wish list, children usually respond with whichever toy they happen to be most excited about in that moment.  My son might ask for the elaborate Star Wars Lego set he saw at his friend’s house.  But I can’t help cringing, knowing that Nana is going to run out and buy it, when he already has four unfinished Lego projects scattered all over the basement!

As parents, we are desperately trying to raise grateful and content children.  We are also desperately trying to slow the influx of toys that bombard our house.  The “wish list” culture has the potential to destroy both efforts.

We have two choices: We can fight against it, or we can use it to our advantage!

Since we can’t stop people from asking our kids what they want, let’s use it as an opportunity to transform their attitudes.  Here’s how . . .

Step 1:  Expose the excess

Take your kids to their play areas, and bring out all of their toys.  You don’t have to dump out the bins, just slide them off the shelves and place them together in the center of the floor.

Let everyone feel the shock when they see clearly just how many toys have accumulated over the years.  Acknowledging the extent of the excess is a necessary first step.  Take a picture so you do not forget!

Step 2:  Curb the over-gifters

If you have any relatives who consistently send far too many toys, this is a great time to let them see the situation through your eyes.

Text them the picture you took (or better yet video-chat with them!).  Let them see with their own eyes why toy-reduction is so important to you.  Thank them for their amazing generosity, and let them know that this year the family is requesting non-toy gifts.

For more strategies on tactfully curbing over-gifters, check out the Home On Purpose Toys lesson series!

Step 3:  Help your kids understand their toys

Working as a team, separate the favorite toys from the ones that haven’t been played with in a while.  Slide each group of toys to opposite sides of the room so the proportions are clear.

It may take a little work to sort and rearrange the toys within the bins, but it’s worth it when the kids realize how many of their toys have been sitting around just taking up space.  

If they can handle it, take the opportunity to donate some of those un-played-with toys!

Step 4:  Create thoughtful wish-lists

Scroll to the end of this article for your free printable “My Thoughtful Wish List.”  Print out one for each child and begin brainstorming gift ideas that will not add to the mountain of toys.  Here are a few ideas . . . 

EXPERIENCES: Movie passes, bowling passes, tickets for mini golf, tickets to a ballgame, or a bag of tokens for the local arcade all make wonderful gifts!

CONSUMABLES: Bath bombs, bubble bath, stickers, coloring books, temporary tatoos, and art supplies are perfect examples of gifts that will conveniently disappear.

REPLACE-ABLES: Never underestimate the joy of practical gifts!  My daughter recently announced she was tired of pink and loves light blue.  She would be very excited to get a brand new lunchbox, backpack, or bedding set in her new favorite color!  Since the old one would be donated, we break-even.


Rather than fearing the “I want” mentality, let’s use this season of wish-lists as an opportunity to transform our children’s attitudes! 

As they begin to see the toy situation more clearly, they will realize that more toys will not necessarily make them happier.  As they create thoughtful wish-lists, and get excited about other kinds of gifts, you will be able to duck the tidal wave of toys. 

If you are ready to overhaul your play areas and completely transform the way toys function in your home, check out the Home On Purpose Toys Lesson Series today!

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