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I Refuse to Buy My Kid Any Toys for Christmas

Photograph by Twenty20

Yeah, you read that right.

But I’m not here to spin some granola-coated story for you about how I avoided giving toys for Christmas this year because I don’t want my precious daughter to become a greedy, ungrateful, Santa-worshipping slave to advertising and capitalism. This isn’t about the “reason for the season.”

When I was making the shopping list this holiday season, I couldn't help but think of what my daughter got for Christmas last year—and how little she plays with any of it anymore. Perhaps that can be chalked up to changes in her developmental interest, but I wanted to avoid the same result this year.

I thought about all of the activities my daughter is drawn to, and it dawned on me how using Christmas gifts to help her grow her mind, her artistic skill, her bodily strength and her passions were the gifts that would keep on giving, not end up smashed at the bottom of an overstuffed and dusty toy box.

Now, it was time to get the rest of the family on board. And time was running out, because Christmas was coming earlier than usual. Early, as in before Thanksgiving.

So, I had to get on top of things immediately. I emailed the relatives who are wily enough to use the internet. I texted a few others and had to make an old-fashioned phone call to my grandma. It was a long battle, but eventually, I got everyone on board.

It takes a lot to convince your more traditional relatives not to buy their great-grandchild/grand-niece the hottest new toy for Christmas.

“Doesn’t she want a baby dolly?” my grandma asked.

“Grandma, she would love that, but she has three of them,” I said. “Please, just consider my ideas.”

I crossed my fingers and prayed everyone would understand.

My relatives came through, and I couldn’t be happier.

When my daughter woke up on “Christmas” morning, she did have presents under the tree. Quite a lot of them, actually. Plenty to open, with glitzy paper to rip and bows to shred. However, none of those gaily wrapped packages contained toys.

Yes, she got some clothes. Clothes and shoes were an easy gift for relatives who hadn’t seen her in awhile. I could send the sizes and let them go crazy online. They knew it was a gift she’d get use out of. But the majority of the things she opened that chilly morning were things her family wanted her to use and enjoy in a way that was productive, as in using them produced something, whether it was a physical object or the growth of a skill.

My relatives came through, and I couldn’t be happier.

Instead of a talking baby doll or pretend makeup play set, we bought her her very own apron, chef hat and basic cooking tools. Yes, she’s 3 1/2. And, yes, I let her help me cook every single day. It’s one of the highlights of our family time. She can crack eggs, stir, sprinkle in spices and, with a bit of help, run the electric mixer. Cooking is a bonding activity and when we’re done, we’ve made cupcakes or supper.

My daughter also received new ballet shoes, leotards, tights and leg warmers, as well as her very first pair of tap shoes. These she can use to continue her dancing education. She also opened a package containing gardening gloves and tools, and a gift certificate for a nearby garden center to pick out seeds this spring. She got a size-up swimsuit and goggles for summer. Then, of course, we had to load up on art supplies for our blossoming artist.

Getting everyone on the same page was a major achievement. But the bigger win was when my brother and his wife told me privately they wished they’d made the same requests for their daughter. Their kudos meant so much. As I speak, my daughter is in the kitchen, practicing her tap dancing with her brand-new tap shoes.

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