What To Do When Relatives Want to Buy Your Child a Toy You Don’t Approve Of

Every parent has ideas about the sorts of games and toys they want their little one playing with. For example, in our home we love our boy to play with creative toys and things he can take outside and we don’t let him use screens or play with toys that model violence, like toy guns. Usually, since my partner and I are the ones who purchase his toys, this isn’t a problem but around the holidays, when friends and relatives start making purchases for our little guy, we’ve had to learn to be clear about what we will and won't allow in our home. Check out the tips below to help guide your friends and relatives towards games and toys you feel are appropriate for your child. 

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1. Start with gratitude 

Sometimes sharing what you do or don’t believe is appropriate for your child can be challenging because you don’t want to potential gift giver to feel judged (especially if they let their child play with the toy in question) or to feel that you don’t appreciate them thinking of your child. Starting with gratitude can make a huge difference, “Aunt Joy, my mom told me you were interested in getting Hadley a toy this year – thank you so much for thinking of her!”

2. Be clear and firm 

If you want others to follow your rules, you need to be clear and firm about what those rules are. “It may seem a bit unconventional but we really prefer that Hadley not play with princess-themed toys. We don’t let her watch movies, read books, or play with any sort of princess-themed toys.” Don’t feel the need to over-explain or justify your opinions. You are your child’s parent and you get to decide what they’re exposed to. Over-explaining can also open the topic to debate and the “but you played with toys like that when you were a kid and you turned out fine” kind of thinking that makes it hard to move forward in a discussion.

3. Offer suggestions 

Instead of just letting people know what you don’t want in your home, be sure to share some ideas for what you do want. “Hadley loves art supplies and outdoor games!” Keeping the suggestions open-ended and focused on your child’s interests, as opposed to suggesting specific toys or games, allows the gift giver to think creatively and to shop within their budget.

4. Don’t hesitate to remove the toy if it’s given anyway 

If the gift-giver in question still decides they want to purchase something for your baby that you don’t want them to have, don’t feel guilty about removing the toy in question. Head off the issue by asking the gift-giver what they purchased in advance of exchanging gifts. “I’m going shopping for Hadley today and was wondering what you ended up getting for her – I want to make sure we don’t get her the same thing!” Or, if you aren’t able to intercept the gift in advance of your tot opening it, promptly remove it and either return it or donate it when you get the chance.

5. Thank them for following your lead

Though respecting your guidelines and boundaries as a parent should be a given, thanking the gift-givers in your little one’s life for following your rules shows that you appreciate their effort and encourages them to continue to do so.

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What To Do When Relatives Want to Buy Your Child a Toy You Don’t Approve Of

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More

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