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It was mid-morning on the day after Christmas when my husband stopped dead in his tracks in the middle of the living room, looking like he was about to be swallowed up by an untamed ocean of toys, clothes, dolls, books, gift bags, and boxes.
"I can’t live like this," he said. He sounded panicky and claustrophobic, as though the house had looked like this for 12 weeks, not 12 hours.
"It’s the day after Christmas," I replied. "What do you expect?"
But in truth, the mountain of gifts—mostly for our three-year-old daughter, Chloe—was overwhelming, bordering on ridiculous. It eventually took me nine hours to rearrange and reorganize the house to accommodate all of her new stuff.
We regularly purge old toys, books, and clothes to donate, but even still, our relatively small condo is absolutely bursting at the seams, especially right after Christmas and birthdays. Our friends’ homes are the same way.
I realize that this sounds like the ultimate first-world problem; oh, my poor little girl has too many toys to play with! Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for what we have. But we could stand to have a little less of it, and I suspect a lot of other parents feel the same way.
Christmas might be over, but we still have lots of gift giving to do for little ones' birthdays throughout the year. Instead of toys, though, I like giving "things to do." I encourage people to give Chloe those kinds of gifts, too, and she loves getting—and redeeming—them.
Here are a few gift ideas for kids with too much stuff:
Museum tickets: Get the kids exploring with tickets to a local children's museum, science center, or aquarium. Even staid art museums have programs and activities for kids, such as scavenger-hunt-style gallery games (find all the paintings with animals) or hands-on art activities.
Movie gift cards: What kid doesn't love the thrill of munching popcorn in a darkened theater, while larger-than-life characters and stories sweep them away?
Indoor play place passes: Indoor play places are like playgrounds on steroids, complete with bouncy houses, multi-level mazes and jungle-gyms, dress-up stations, music rooms, and more. There are at least five of these places within a 10-mile radius of our home. Unless I live in the bouncy-house capital of the world, I'd guess there are lots of them everywhere.
Art class gift certificates: Whether it’s painting their own pottery, learning how to make beaded jewelry, or letting them splatter a canvas Jackson Pollack-style, kids will love the chance to get creative (and messy!). Look for one-day or multi-day classes at places like community art centers, local high schools and colleges, or pottery studios.
Theater or puppet show tickets: Keep your eyes peeled for kid-friendly plays or kids' concerts that are coming to town. Also scope out local puppet shows or community theater events. This type of programming is fun, energetic, and often gets kids on their feet, singing and dancing right along with the show.
What sort of gifts do you like to get for your children?