Dealing with Unwanted Kids Gifts
What to do with those awful gifts your kids receive.
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Dealing with Unwanted Kids Gifts

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Unwanted gifts – we’ve all received them, we’ve all probably given them!

When it comes to our kids, we often end up with gifts we wouldn’t choose.

Quite often these come from kind and well-meaning family members and friends.

Making the situation even harder.

When you’re trying to simplify your home, declutter, and keep the toys at a reasonable level it can be completely maddening to see more stuff coming through the door.

And let’s be real – Christmas and birthdays as well as other gift giving events happen EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.

How to deal with unwanted gifts given to our kids can be a tricky situation.  

I’ve heard of people being so upset by some of the gifts their child was given that it strains family relationships and causes a ton of worry and stress.

So, what’s the best way to deal with unwanted gifts?

Every parent is probably going to struggle with the following questions.

Do you let that person know that you would prefer a different type of gift?

How long do you keep the unwanted item before getting rid of it?

My philosophy on unwanted gifts has a few parts.

First, I want to make sure to model graciousness for my daughter and teach her that it’s not the gift but the thought and kindness behind the giving that matters most.

Gratitude and kindness are important qualities.

So I want to make sure that she understands that we always say thank you (even if it’s not exactly what we wanted) and appreciate the gift giver’s thoughtfulness.

Part of that also includes keeping the item long enough that there can be a photo or the giver can see them using it in person.

Just because a gift is something that was not wanted doesn’t mean we can’t be kind and gracious!

Next, I want to take my child’s preferences into account.

Even though it’s a gift that I may not want in our home doesn’t mean that my child feels the same.

I think we’ve all hated a favorite toy and had no idea why our kid likes it so much!

I wouldn’t want my child to feel like I didn’t care about her feelings because I was too busy simplifying.  After all, it is her gift and she deserves to have some control and ownership over things that belong to her (with some guidance, of course!).

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that children are people with their own ideas, preferences, and priorities.

As long as the gift is safe and age appropriate, I want to try to let her decide what she does or doesn’t like.

All of this is great, but how do you really get to the point of feeling ok with an unwanted gift?

The biggest thing that I’ve found to be helpful is realizing that gifts that are given to my child are not my responsibility.

I am only responsible for what lives in my home.

Let that sink in a bit.

You are NOT responsible for the gifts your child is given.

You are only responsible for what gets to stay in your home.

For me, realizing this was extremely freeing.

It really relieves a lot of the pressure around holidays and birthdays to let go of the need to control the gifts.

Kind of reminds me of the serenity prayer – ya know, accepting the things you cannot change.

You’re never going to be completely able to control what someone else decides to give your child – so, in the words of Elsa – LET IT GO.

And then you can decide what gets to stay (that whole courage to change the things I can part).

Unwanted gifts don't have to live here forever.

Just because unwanted gifts come into our home doesn’t mean they have to live here forever.

I read this in a simplifying book once and it was an absolute light bulb moment for me.  I don’t know why I never thought about it this way before.

And it makes it so much easier to let things go and give them away when I think of stuff as not being a permanent resident of our home.

They can just be visitors that provide joy for a while and then we can give them to someone else to enjoy.

I think this is another great teaching moment for our kids.

We have the opportunity to help our kids learn that they don’t have to keep everything and how to categorize their possessions as always things or just for a little while.

We do this with books – we buy or ask for really great books and we borrow others from the library.

Helping kids learn the difference can also be a great opportunity for charitable family giving!

Your kids might even enjoy the idea of another child playing with toys they don’t use anymore.

The number one way I avoid unwanted gifts takes a little thought and effort.

The biggest way I avoid the majority of unwanted gifts is through an Amazon wishlist.

I created one for my daughter when she was very little and I add to it when I see something that I think would be a good addition to our home and before holidays/birthday.

I make sure to share with family who want to know what to send.

This makes it super easy for them to order with Prime, choose a gift, and leads to fewer unwanted gifts.

Because no one wants to give a bad gift.  But if we don’t let people know what a good gift would be, they’re often left to just pick something that looks fun.

Picking a gift for a kid can be really hard if you don’t have a child of a similar age – kid fads come and go so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up!

And, unless they are around your child regularly, they likely won’t know what would be most interesting or beneficial at your child’s development stage.

So, make things easier for everyone and create a wishlist!

And know that you’ll still get some unwanted gifts but they’ll just be a great teaching moment for your family.

How do you handle unwanted gifts?

You may also enjoy these posts:

Choosing Slow Living and the Fear of Missing Out

The Surprisingly Simple Way to Slow Your Mornings

Parenting with the Magic Number 5

How do you deal with unwanted gifts to your kids? Tame the toys this Christmas with a few key tips and ideas!


Alexis is a wife and mom on a journey of gentle parenting, slow living, and lower toxicity in a laid back way.

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