Do you get a lot of gifts you don’t want your children to have?
We’ve all been there! Your child unwraps a present on Christmas morning and it’s the loudest, brightest, most annoying battery-operated piece of plastic junk you have ever seen. I’m sure this plastic monstrosity was given with the best of intentions and from the bottom of someone’s heart (Or it was an Amazon afterthought.), but that doesn’t change the fact that this isn’t a toy you approve of for your child.
What types of toys make the best Montessori gifts?
We Montessori parents have specific types of toys and activities we like for our children. We like natural materials, toys that require the child to actively engage in play, and we want items that have educational value, but not the mainstream idea of what “educational value” is. We like toys for our children that challenge them to figure things out on their own, “brain training” items, and we follow our children’s interests, paying close attention to their schemas.
I’m not insinuating that non-Montessori parents don’t care about any of these things. But from what I read in books and on social media sites, I’ve learned that Montessori parents tend to be…pickier when it comes to receiving gifts. And how to handle gifts that don’t align with our values and parenting goals is a common question I come across.
What to do if my children get non-Montessori gifts?
Since there are no hard and fast etiquette rules when it come to receiving gifts you don’t want, here are a few pointers!
Pre-emptive strike. Now, this is going to depend on your personality and how receptive family and friends are to getting suggestions about what to get your child for a gift. Some family members will actually ask what your child would like as a gift, and this is a perfect opportunity to explain the kinds of toys you are open to having in your home!
What to do if people don’t ask, and they just go ahead and buy something. You have a few options in this, the most common, scenario.
The very first thing you do is accept the gift graciously. We are grown now and the time for voicing every dislike has long passed. We have our way of parenting, but expecting everyone around us to respect and conform is just not realistic. Say, “Thank you!”.
What to do with gifts that I don’t want my children to have
Gift receipts. If there is a gift receipt included with the gift, take full advantage! People typically include these receipts specifically for the chance the recipient wants to exchange it for something else. So, don’t feel bad! Do it!
Re-gifting. If the person who gave the gift doesn’t seem invested in it; if it seems like an afterthought or an obligation, and they clearly didn’t have your child’s interest in mind, I would re-gift it or donate it. The reason for this is you don’t want it in your house and it isn’t something your child would be interested in, anyway. So, why keep it around? There is a child somewhere that would love to have it!
Keep it. If the gift giver clearly put a lot of thought into the gift and they are excited to know if your child likes it, you have a few options:
1) Don’t put batteries in it. Yep! Super simple solution. Your kid will press the buttons, pull the levers a few times, then move on with their busy little lives.
2) Put batteries in it and let your child play with it for a little while, then donate it. Your child will forget about it, as will the family member who gifted it.
3) Keep it, put batteries in it, and let your kid play with it. Here’s my reasoning: Children who are used to engaging with their toys and with their environment are likely to get bored with toys that don’t require engagement. After months or years of playing, who wants a toy that does the playing for you? They will get bored with it quickly, I assure you!
Should I let my Montessori kids have a tablet?
If the gift is a tablet or something that is a big no-no in your house for their age group, that’s when all you can do is be direct. “I feel that he is too young for his own device right now, I am truly sorry you went through the trouble of getting it for him. If you would like, I can keep it tucked away for when he is a bit older.” or “If you would like, I can go with you to exchange it for something that’s more his speed.”
How to let family and friends know what your Montessori children are interested in
I would also suggest, throughout the year, to send family and friends pictures and videos of your child playing with their favorite toys. Keep people “in the loop” about what your child’s interests are. If your family and friends are open to learning the reasoning behind why you would rather not have certain toys for your child, then talk to them about it!
First world problems
What lucky children we have that this is even a “problem”, right? So, be kind, be gracious, and don’t lecture or push your parenting philosophy those that don’t care to hear about it. Just appreciate friends and family and enjoy the season!