An Open Letter to Grandparents :: No More Toys This Holiday Season

Dear Grandparents,

Christmas and Hanukkah are right around the corner. Historically, this means that the temptation to pile on the gifts, especially the plastic gifts and character toys, is particularly high. But let’s take a minute to be honest with one another. While we appreciate the generosity, and while we realize that there are thousands of kids less fortunate, do we really need more plastic stuff in our house? Our playroom already looks like a toy store exploded in there. And – with help from the kids – we purge it at least once every 2 months AND whenever we go on a cleaning rampage. The toys usually end up overflowing from the playroom into the living room where they inevitably end up under the couch. We are priviledged. Very, very priviledged to have a playroom that literally runneth over. But it is this exact realization that compels us to our next point.

grandparentspostNo more toys please. Especially the plastic ones that make noise. There, we said it. We get that you want to spoil our kids, and that is great! They are blessed and lucky to be surrounded by such generosity. This is not a lack of gratitude or appreciation at play. Hear us out. We, too, enjoy seeing our children’s faces light up over a familiar character or that item they HAD.TO.HAVE when they saw it at Target. But your idea of spoiling is our cleaning and parenting nightmare. If you insist on buying all the toys, why not keep them at your house for when they come and play? But more importantly, our children already have more toys than they “need” or can even reasonably play with.

Yes, we KNOW that spoiling is a given right of grandparents. But spoiling should not be limited to material items. There are other things our kids would really enjoy that aren’t made of plastic, don’t make noise, and stand the test of time. So instead of giving another princess castle, Barbie, Lego set, or Disney something or other, all of which we generally have too much of, consider longer lasting gifts like zoo memberships, clothes in the next size up, shoes for the following season, or a small deposit in a college savings account.

Times have changed, but children haven’t. What our children want most of all is memories. Our kids love spending time with you, whether that’s making cookies or going to a movie or just playing at the park. They don’t care nearly as much about the toys as you think, as evidenced by the sad fact that many get tossed aside, lost or broken way sooner than we’d care to admit. Our children – your grandchildren – would rather get a day or weekend of your undivided attention. As an added bonus, this counts as a gift for the parents, too, since you are giving us much needed time off.

We know you mean well, dear grandparents. You like spoiling our kids. And you’re entitled to do that. But spoil them with memories instead of toys. Trust us when we say that they get bored with the toys about 15 minutes after they open them. But they talk about how much fun they have with Grandma/Grandpa for days! And they beg us to see you more. Every time I do something they don’t approve of, the first words out of their mouth are, “I want Grandma.”

Therefore, this holiday season, we beg you to think about this: in 30 years, the plastic toy will be long forgotten. But memories will not. Please shop with that in mind.


Well-meaning Parents Everywhere


  1. Yes! We are celebrating our son’s 2nd Christmas AND Hanukkah (yep, that family). We put a restriction on the grandparents for the holidays. One small Hanukkah gift and on Christmas – something to read, something to wear and something to play with. This has really kept things to a minimum AND seem to get more thoughtful gifts.

  2. Yes indeed Megan. Thanks for this…I always have an underlying discomfort about what getting too many Christmas gifts teaches our kids about materialism…we’ve started installing grandparent “dates” with our kids – which can be a special activity, meal, or holiday concert / outing. Our busy curious boys get more mileage out of this than a new toy…and everyone is happy ( yes, admittedly mostly me as a parent bc my boys feel special and I also get a helping hand)


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