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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Skipping green gifts for the kids

I have to admit, I don't buy green gifts for my kids. It ends up being a complete waste of money since I have yet to find anything they like and they won't play with them, so it ends up a huge waste. I've learned to not push them or myself on gift giving holidays and just give in to what they actually want.

What do I do instead? Well, we limit the number of toys the kids get in return for getting what they want, craptastic, plastic, Hecho en China and all. Books are another story, I'm willing to spend more on whatever books they want, but we inevitably end up getting the vast majority of our books from the library anyway, so that's kind of a non-issue. So, it's a parade of Lego toys, Bakugan or whatever suits their current fancy.

I figure I make up for the consumption in other ways and don't sweat my decision. It's certainly not my preference, but after 7+ years of doing this, I know what works and what doesn't. Even when the kids were very young, they always preferred the bright shiny plastic toys over the carefully selected, non-toxic toys made of natural materials that I bought for them. I sure liked them, but since I was the only one playing with them, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to continue buying them.

It is a little easier when the kids are younger since you have a lot more control over what's available to them in their environment. But as they get older and exposed to other kids, media and advertising, they start exerting their own preferences and it can become a huge battle. One that I'm not willing to take on.

So, what do you do about holiday gift giving for kids? Do you stick to your guns and only give them environmentally friendly toys? Or do you give them what they want (regardless of its impact) and just limit what they get?

28 comments:

Jenni said...

I'm in the same boat with you. Can you imagine my 11 year old unwrapping a bamboo choo choo? Not going to happen. MOST of my gifts are practical, like flannel sheets, warm clothing, and shoes. Things that they really NEED. I buy from garage sales most of the year. My 4 year old put on her list "NEW skinny jeans with butterflies". What's wrong with the skinny jeans I got for a quarter?

Green Bean said...

We often do the same as you. This year, I did make each of them a hand made gift - a knit teddy bear for my oldest and am working on a knit chicken for the younger. Beyond that, we go by the tried and true: 3 gifts per kid. 1 to wear, 1 to grow on (book or game) and 1 hearts desire. This year, our hearts desire might be a lego minifig - unless grandma gets the one they want. Then it will be my old digital camera - held together with a rubber band but still works!

Glenda said...

I get kids (mine, as well as nieces and nephews) things off their wish lists. For the older kids, that tends to be video games -- since I enjoy video games myself & I'm mostly in-tune with what's what in that area, I absolutely enjoy buying those for them. One of my SILs asks us to hand down any like-new toys/books/etc. so we do that when we can, but when we can't then I choose off the wish lists :). Sometimes I add a handmade item, too.

Alison said...

We have a toddler who is into trucks, trucks and trucks. We've been fortunate that Sprig and Green Toys have been making things up his alley, so he has a backhoe & dump truck and will be getting a recycling truck for Christmas. He loves trash day (wakes up early), so that is a rather appropriate gift for him. In general, I try to buy used and suggest the "eco-friendly" gifts to the grandparents for gifts, since they still feel a "need" to buy new. We'll see though, my mom has been pretty impressed by some of my more recent new-used presents! I grew up in a mostly plastic free household (my mom's been against it since day one) and I also had minimal toys as a kid, so I don't have a problem restricting/redirecting at this point. I'll get back to you though in a few years to see how it is going! ;)

Mama A said...

I was trying my best to stick with just homemade this year, but there are several things I am just not able to make. We have decided that since we too make up for it throughout the year (we haven't bought anything new in almost a year), that we would splurge and buy a few presents for the little one for Christmas.

My daughter is not even 2 so she can't really complain about the "green" toy purchases...LOL!! She does seem to enjoy the simple wooden toys though, so we are lucky so far! We'll what time will hold as far as that goes :)

Aimee said...

my daughter is getting an entire set of knitting needles in a fancy case which I bought from a neighbor. I try to give them things that I would have to get anyway - like clothes - or books. And christmas is a time for treats, so we make cookies and candy, etc. Toys tend to stay small. I absolutely refuse to buy any more hunks of plastic, but it's not really an environmental stand, I just can't stand all the beeping and the darn things never last more than a week anyway before the kids lose interest or they break. The best toys I've found so far are dolls, board games (only if you are willing to sit down and play chutes and ladders with your three year old) and building toys like blocks or train tracks. None of those are offensive to me.

Oh and I always buy a movie or two since we don't have TV the movie library can never get too large

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Thanks for addressing this. I really appreciated your point about not forcing your convictions on them - particularly when it comes to gift giving. My two are young enough that I can guide them to choose things that are more naturally geared (Magic Cabin, etc), but I know the days of gaming systems and iPods, etc. are just around the corner. It's helpful to have the perspective that you shared here.

Tree Hugging Mama said...

Its decision to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and its their choice when they are older. I don't want them to look back at their childhood and feel like they missed something, and as a result of missing something have a negative attitude about sustainability.
That being said, I do tell my girls that I don't like to buy things made in China (and I often go without because I can't find an alternative). And my girls ask if something is made in China before they buy it.
This Christmas, one wants a DS Lite and some games (we are getting her a used one and used games). The other DS wants a digital camera (buying used doesn't make sense here, a refurbished is the same as a better new, so she will get new). All the video games are used, and they prefer to go to the used store and get 3-4 games for the price of one.
We only get one big Santa gift.
My gift and my parents gifts are books or homemade, and they are all good with that.
So it all depends on what they are into.
For my DH's little cousins, they will be getting felt food and pans to go with the kitchen they got this summer, and I trust they will enjoy those as much as the little plastic variety.

Amber said...

Our families buy our kids boatloads upon boatloads of cheap plastic toys. So, honestly, I avoid them. I don't necessarily buy all natural toys, but I do take things like packaging and so on into account. We can usually compromise - I bought some fun dress-up hats from IKEA for instance. Not super green, but not completely horrifying to me, either.

dixiebelle said...

We try to buy or make toys that are good quality and go with what they already have & can be used by both kids (and will be donated when we are finished with them)... some more clothes for the op-shop dolls, something for our Fisher Price Little People collection, or some more Megabloks... and we often make suggestions to the grandparents (when they ask) along these lines too.

The last couple of years we have bought bigger play equipment that will last many years, then just a few things in the 'Santa Bag' and made the focus of Christmas spent having fun together with the play stuff, rather than opening (cheap, crappy) presents all day!

And my tip is, if you are buying battery powered toys for your kids, also buy a recharger and rechargeable batteries (perhaps a solar powered recharger!).

http://eatatdixiebelles.blogspot.com/2009/10/frugal-and-eco-christmas-present-ideas.html

owlfan said...

My boys are 10 and 13 so heavily into video games and iPods and such. They will mostly be getting things off their wish list, but I do hunt for and sometimes find things second hand (The 13 yo is getting a yard sale shirt that he will love.) I used to do really well with that when they were younger. The wooden blocks we have may not be the greenest, but they were played with for years (and still are sometimes) and will still be around for my grandchildren. The legos are even less green, but they do have lasting play value.

For my 8 yo niece this year, I restocked a craft kid my oldest had loved. The only thing I bought new was some embroidery floss so she can make friendship bracelets. I think she will love it and it is almost entirely recycled. Win-win.

debra said...

i don't buy the kids "things" there's too much crap lying around my house as it is. i don't need/want one more pile of bits and pieces to add to it. instead they get activities. last year it was lessons; ballet for the girlchild (6), drums for the middle kid (11) and golf for the oldest (15). other times it's been movie passes, concert, sports or theater tickets, etc.

koolchicken said...

I don't have any kids to shop for but I can remember when I was little. My Mum didn't like to buy me the clunky plastic toys and she wouldn't buy me anything that needed batteries. She said she once saw me just sitting and staring at a toy that's batteries just died and she realized that I didn't know what to do with it. The toy had been playing for me. She was a big fan of wood blocks, stuffed animals made out of natural fibers, and other "green" toys.

She still let our family buy me plasticrap but asked them not to buy things that needed batteries if possable. She realized that this was how they showed their love and didn't want to tell them not to. But it was easier to satisfy me with a handmade item as I always appreciated fine craftmenship (I was a weird 4yo). And I could be trusted with things like a porcelian doll or other collectible. So sometimes I got things like teapots and other pratical items. But I understand not many 8yo's would be happy with a gift they were only supposed to look at. I just hope my future kids turn out like me!

Farmer's Daughter said...

I don't have a lot of kids to buy for, but I try to buy books that I know they'll like. For example, for a couple of my younger cousins that live on a dairy/horse barn, I bought them a copy of "Farmer Boy" a few years ago. The like the book and their parents liked it, too.

When I was a kid, wooden blocks were the BEST toys. We did so much with them and played with them every day. That and my dollhouse. I spent hours arranging, painting, and organizing that dollhouse. I even remember collecting gravel from the driveway and glueing it together to make a stone fireplace, and stealing extra tile from my dad for the bathroom floor. I tore pages out of a wallpaper book and wallpapered the rooms, and my grandmother helped me crochet furniture. When I think of it now, it was very eco-friendly, creative, and cheap. But I also had about a million naked Barbies that lived there, so I guess they cancel out the eco-friendliness :)

Greenbaby said...

Our kids are rather young so it's a bit easier to avoid the mainstream toy aisles. My little ones do love thrift shops and garage sales and know that they'll be able to get loads of loot there without a fuss. My son thinks Goodwill is the greatest store on earth and is currently obsessed with (used) Beanie Babies. I'm going to ride that wave as long as I possibly can!

Anonymous said...

My kids are teenagers and want video games, DVDs, etc. My tip for all of the parents with gamer/movie-centric children is: Buy used and trade in the games they are done playing with or don't like. The big chain video game retailers like Gamestop (I have NO affiliation with them--btw) have taken trade-ins for years AND sell used games and gaming systems as much if not more than the new ones. We traded in my kids' old Gameboys and games for the newer DS model and games. Also, pawn shops are great places to buy video games and DVDs.

And for my oldest daughter---I bought her a vintage Bob Mackie compact off of e-bay...which she is going to love! That's also where I get funky/quirky jewelry for her and myself at a fraction of the price!

I can't speak on the topic of toys for younger kids...but for older kids---the eco-friendly options DO get easier!

~Just Ducky

Naomi said...

My 8yrd old DD is getting a small Ipod this year - much wanted, and as she will shortly be living in a household with two under one, a valuable tuneout tool when things get a bit noisy ;)

We buy/request clothing, craft stuff, books and music for the kids from family, and they are generally happy to go along with this.

We're also making gifts here at home, crafting and baking (which DD loves), so we are doing a 70% homemade/handmade christmas.I think we will do this each year - the kids get a "big" present each, either bought or homemade, and only a few smaller gifts, as otherwise the pile of "stuff" gets too much to bear!

Lil said...

I don't have kids but do have to buy gifts for nephews in law this christmas. And those kids are kinda crap-lovers... Last time the 3yo girl asked for dress-up costumes, I handmade her a fairy skirt and fairy rings but she only played with the Disney dresses another aunt gave her. I don't want to buy madeinchinaplastic toys, I buy fantastic gifts (in MY opinion), but she probably won't like them so much. It's a hard choice, but I've made my mind, I don't want kids to make me deny my principles. But I do understand those who buy plastic anyway, as it is always quite hard to see you gift unused and/or unloved... On top of that, it can be taken as an attempt to change the worldview of the parents. A little rude. But, well, a little true.

Billie said...

I have given my kids several used presents that have gone over well. At least the plastic wasn't new.

I have attempted to give some eco-friendly gifts and they really don't go over that well with the younger set. Mostly, I give what they are interested in but usually draw the line at anything with characters. That is just too much commercialism for me. That said - their stocking is going to be full of characters because that is in those 1$ bins.

This year, they are getting 1 large gift(shared) from me and 2 small gifts. 3 of the 4 small gifts are home-made and 1 is a book. The large gift is the entire 4 seasons of Fraggle Rock. They can split the set and take 2 seasons to their mother. I think my husband (their father) is getting his son a Wii. I have no idea what he is getting his daughter.

Cheap Like Me said...

I love this! We do try to limit things all the time, emphasizing quality, and especially limiting to things my daughter really wants and will use. Some plastic items are enduring, if still plastic -- my daughter has a huge collection of Papo and Schleich figures that she plays with constantly (and has for at least 4 years) -- we will hand those down to grandchildren, I'm sure, and they are well worth it in my opinion. Sometimes we get what she wants -- sets of blocks; a castle -- and pay extra to do wood/nontoxic. Other times -- like with this year's marble track -- I can't stomach paying $180 for a mass-produced wood version of a toy I found at Costco for $40. But I am valiantly resisting the Littlest Pet Shop junk she wants, when she does very nicely building them homes out of rocks, sticks, string, "jewels," blocks and the rigid packing boards that came with our IKEA shelves.

susancoyotesfan said...

I kind of took a different position. I would get my kids the video games they wanted, and the other crap as well, as long as I could find it at either a pawn shop or the thrift store. They still have their Nintendo and their Sega, and they still work these 15 years later. I hope the Wii they each got last year lasts as long as the thrifted gifts have! I didn't buy the Wii's, their S.O's did.

When they were younger, they occasionally got made fun of for the used stuff, but I notice that out of all their friends, my (now adult) kids are the ones who took the best care of their stuff, and are the ones with the vintage games that still work.

Condo Blues said...

I try to get nieces and nephews something that THEY will like even if it isn't a green gift. I have some tweens on my list, and it's hard to find a green toy that's age appropriate and that they'd like. So yes, I have purchased them video games or a card to play an online MMORPG (with their out of town uncles and dad.) I prefer to do experience family gifts like tickets or memberships but then again, I tailor it to each family. I've had both a hit and a miss when giving the same experience gift because it wasn't a place they really made an effort/great desire to go to.

Madz said...

i don't have any kids but i buy gifts for my two nephews and know what u mean there. while they're younger it's alright as there's lots of green gifts for babies and toddlers. i find Trade Aid which stocks fair trade and usually sustainable, organic and sometimes recycled toys but for young children. now that hte nephews are getting older they're a bit more particular about what they like and what's cool.

Lynn from OrganicMania.com said...

Oh man, are we ever in the same boat! And I thought I was the only "green mom" whose babes hated the eco toys! And they are so expensive....But as for Legos, well, I just went on a rant about them on my blog. I've fallen out of love...$300 per item? C'mon.

cynthia said...

Aimee, do you find that your kids are less influenced for "the hottest toys" due to the lack of advertising exposure (no tv)?

Debra ... very cool! getting them activities!

Mama said...

We peruse craigslist for our kids favorite toys for Christmas. Legos, Thomas the Train, and even a DS were scored this year. We also stick to the 3 gifts per child. Thankfully my father in law sends money for us to buy his presents. I can buy used and thoughtfully this way, otherwise it would be right off the WalMart shelf from him!

Anonymous said...

I stick to legos. yea they are plastic but don't require batteries just imagination....

Robbie said...

We limit to 3 gifts each and have tried to encourage the grandparents to shop "experientially." One is getting my daughter a gymnastics class at the parks & rec and my sister in law is getting her a leotard. (There's being green, and there's watching my poor child trying to squeeze into last summer's swimsuit to "do gymnastics!")

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