Written by: Heather White
The holidays are a special time for giving and receiving gifts. We show our love and appreciation for those closest to us through special offerings. But we’ve all been there, your child unwraps a present from grandma (or an aunt, uncle, or neighborhood friend) and it’s loud, bright, battery-operated, plastic and surely will give you a headache by the end of the day!
Certainly, this gift was given with love, but it’s not what you’d prefer and certainly not what you’d choose for your child. So, what do you do with these gifts, or better yet, how do you try to avoid this situation in the first place? Let’s be real, you can’t always avoid it and that is the beauty of these tips because we have plenty of suggestions on what to do with them!
Explain your toy preferences
It can often be helpful to have a conversation with loved ones before the holiday season, explaining the Montessori Method and why you have chosen this as your preferred parenting style. Help them understand why it matters to you for your child to receive Montessori aligned gifts. Maybe you show them some short videos or share a podcast or blog explaining Montessori, give them an easy to read book such as “How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way” or “Montessori for Every Family,” or invite them to a virtual or in-person workshop introducing Montessori.
Some other helpful ways to let friends and family members know about your preferences include:
- Giving a gift list – People often have enough to think about in their own lives, especially around the holidays, so they’re really happy to have the thinking done for them. Giving a gift list like on Amazon or Target online can allow you to add Montessori aligned toys and activities. Here’s a link to our Amazon shop where we’ve created lists just for you based on your child’s age and interests: https://www.amazon.com/shop/guideandgrow (affiliate link)
- Ask for experiences – Another great alternative is asking for experiences or memberships to places like the zoo, aquarium, or museum instead of toys. This might even be a special way for the gift giver to bond with your little one!
- Explain your child’s interests – Describing your child’s interests like climbing, throwing, and puzzles can help family and friends choose gifts that are appropriate and preferred.
- Set boundaries – Be clear with loved ones about the types of gifts that are preferred by setting boundaries such as no plastic or battery-operated toys.
What to do when you receive ‘that’ gift
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to follow our request for gifts more aligned with Montessori so how we handle these situations are great teachable moments for our children. These are opportunities to model Grace and Courtesy, a foundational element of Montessori.
There are always going to be things that others think are useful for us and our kids but we feel differently. Be gracious with them. Although it may not be your preference, the odd non-Montessori toy will not be detrimental to your child’s growth and development. Try to shift your thinking, instead, to how lucky your child is that they have people in their lives that love them and want to shower them with gifts. Accept the gift with gratitude and decide what to do with it later.
Here are a few ideas of what you might choose to do with those gifts and some helpful strategies:
- Ask friends or family members to keep the gifts at their house as a special toy to play with when you visit.
- Keep them for special occasions. Perhaps you bring them out when friends come over to play or when the gifting family member stops by to visit so they can watch the child enjoy their present. You may also use these as special toys when a child isn’t feeling well or when you need them to work independently for a few minutes while you accomplish another task or when there’s a disruption to their routine such as a new sibling.
- Consider how the toy might be used in a more Montessori way such as if only one element is used or if the batteries are removed.
- Donate unwanted toys to a good cause like a local children’s hospital, a children’s home, or a refuge for parents fleeing domestic abuse.
Ultimately, just remember that it is your family, your child, and your choice. Don’t feel bad if you decide not to keep something. Perhaps most importantly, be sure that you’re modeling grace and courtesy for your child, helping them to see what it means to be grateful, thankful, and appreciative during the holiday season and beyond. At the end of the day even if you DO decide to keep all the toys, you are no ‘less Montessori’ than anyone else, so have grace on yourself too and enjoy the season of giving!