So the question is: how do you politely request certain kinds of gifts for your children? We have been blessed by many grownups that love our children and don't ever want to seem ungrateful. It's just that after so many years, I have had to discard so many cheap plastic/battery-powered toys, or worse, toys that cost lots of money BECAUSE they were battery-powered. They still break. We're overwhelmed with boxes of stuff our kids don't really play with, or those toys that have so many parts it's impossible to keep them together.
About four or five years ago, Mothering Magazine featured a letter that could be sent to friends and relatives well before the holidays to polite state your intentions for your children. I've always felt a bit unsettled about sending it...like I was being difficult, or a toy snob, or taking the fun out of the mad consumerism of Christmas. But I think this is the year.
After visiting a friend's small and beautiful home, I was inspired to take things in hand. The limitations in space demand that her daughter's toys are well-chosen. A few baskets of Waldorf toys (play silks, wooden tree blocks, felt fruit and vegetables, a little wooden play kitchen, and so on). I breathed of sigh of peace at the sight of these beautiful toys. My children HAVE toys like this. But they're so bound up with all the other "stuff" that they're hard to find.
So, upon returning home from her house, I fired off this email:
Relatives and Friends,
I'm just thinking ahead to Christmas (and the many birthdays ahead of us) and the INSANE amount of toys we have in our house. I would like to gratefully acknowledge the wonderful gifts you've given over the years, and respectfully request a certain "kind" of gifts this year. We're working hard at simplifying the "stuff" in our house, and are ditching a lot of toys that have broken over the years, or requires constant battery changing, or was brought into the house from yard sales, thrift shops, etc.
We just have too much; the kids don't even know what to play with anymore, pieces have gone missing, and we're always struggling to keep the toys in order.
Order her at www.babynaturopathics.com
So, as we attempt at achieve a bit more order in our busy house, I'd like to ask you to consider checking out www.babynaturopathics.com or www.naturalpod.com which are both Canadian businesses that support handmade/natural toys. We'd LOVE to build a collection of Holztiger animals (available at the first site)...we love the farm animals, daughter, farmer, and princess/queen/king/etc. kind of figures. Natural pod carries "Baby Bolga baskets" which would be so handy for the kids as they wander on their adventures (eggs, berries, apples, beach treasures!) , as well as beautiful coloured play silks (which are marvellous for dress up and imaginative play).
|Visit http://www.naturalpod.com/ to order!|
Please, no plastic toys this year, or toys with tons of little parts that will get lost...there's no need to spend tons of money on wooden stuff; a lot of the items I've mentioned are around $10.
Find this beauty of a marble run on etsy!
If you enter the code KnittyGritty11, you'll get a 5% discount, and so will I!
Kirk's wife Erin grew up near my hometown; they're good people. Support real craftspeople!
Jude is really into experiments and building stuff; we hope to get him a wooden marble run on etsy (made by Erin Egan's husband, Kirk); he already has a microscope, but would probably love a magnifying glass, or a small aquarium/terrarium, or anything that allows him to keep things from nature to study! He also loves drawing and music as usual.
Other ideas include: an amaryllis bulb that they can watch bloom in the winter months, gift cards to a bookstore, a bug-viewing kit, art supplies, or camping gear (a flashlight, an enamelware cup and bowl), contributing towards lessons or classes, or just making a date to spend time together!
I hope no one thinks me rude...this is the desperate plea of a desperate mother; I really want to pare down the amount of stuff in our house and have found through experience that the toys my kids keep returning to are the open-ended, natural ones...they feel nicer, last longer, encourage imagination, and don't need batteries or make annoying noises. They are made by hand, with little or no impact on the earth. These are the values we hope to pass on to our children, and hope you can help us!
Thank you for reading through all these mama thoughts of mine, and for respecting our request!
With all that said, please know that our children do not expect gifts; they do not keep track (nor do we!), and always remember the joy of being with loved ones when they talk about Christmases past.
We so appreciate your role in our children's lives, and appreciate the love you show them by choosing gifts thoughtfully.
When I mentioned in yesterday's blogpost that I'd written this letter, several people commented on my courage. It's less courage (because it's taken me six years!) and more that I really, really want to stop stepping on sharp plastic toys. I want to feel peaceful when I see my children's toys. That, I hope I can achieve with words.
If you're feeling similarly fed up, and possibly courageous, please feel free to copy or adapt my letter! You can replace the Canadian sites with others (I also love Nova Natural Toys in the US!), or tailor it to reflect your child's interests.
It is time to do more than THINK about making change. I'm the person who picks up messes and has to dispose of broken craptastic toys (with the eco-guilt that entails). So I'm taking charge of what comes into my house. I should have done it years ago, but I'm starting now instead!