We've all been there! Your child unwraps a present on Christmas morning or on their birthday 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. So, the issue is: how to accept gifts you don't want.
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 developmental 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 can sometimes be a bit pickier when it comes to receiving gifts.
And how to accept gifts that you don't want; gifts that don't align with our values and parenting goals is a common question I've come across.
What to do if my children get non-Montessori gifts?
Since there are no hard and fast etiquette rules when it comes to how to accept 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 understand and conform is just not realistic. Say, “Thank you. This was really thoughtful of you”.
What to do with gifts that I don't want my children to have
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!
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, you can re-gift it or donate it.
The reason for this is you don't want it in your house, it isn't something your child would be interested in, and/or the gifter likely doesn't care.
So, why keep it around? There is a child somewhere that would love to have 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 llikely forget about it after a period of time, 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 for the 3rd option: Children who are used to fully engaging with their toys and with their environment are likely to get bored with toys that don't require that same level of engagement.
After months or years of engaged playing, who wants a toy that does the playing for you? They will get bored with it quickly, I assure you.
Or maybe they won't.
Aside from the aforementioned reasoning for just giving the gift to your child as-is, it was intended for them to have. It's theirs.
Ask yourself if a couple of loud and bright toys out of a sea of Montessori-aligned toys is going to impede your child's development. The answer should be “no”.
How to accept gifts you don't want: What if the gift I don't want is 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.
Here are some ways you can address getting a tablet as a gift when your child is not ready.
- “We think he's a little too young for his own device right now. I can keep it tucked away for when he is a bit older so he'll get more out of it.”
- “He's shown us that he's a bit too young to handle a tablet. If you would like, I can go with you to exchange it for something that's more his speed, like one of those fun music devices.”
Avoid getting unwanted gifts by letting your family and friends know what your 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!
A few articles you can share with family and friends, just to give them a heads up on the type of things your kids might like:
- A Very Merry Montessori Christmas Gift Guide: Ages 0-6 Years
- Why Wooden Toys are the Best
- STEM Toys for All Ages
- Complete Montessori Toy Guide
Getting gifts you don't want is really not the worst problem to have: keep perspective
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 on those that don't care to hear about it.
Just appreciate friends and family and enjoy the birthday or holiday.
Cheers and don't forget to subscribe!