11 Ways to Get Friends and Family on Board with the Limited Gifts Idea

It’s important to teach children contentment, moderation and definitely imagination. It’s fighting an uphill battle in our American culture! Most of the toys sold in toy stores these days, do everything for us, no need to make noises for vehicles or talk for baby dolls, even the toy phones have someone on the “other end” talking back at us.

Even if we’re picky about what toys we purchase, many other people in our lives are not on the same page. And what do you do if friends and family tend to shower an overabundance of gifts upon our young ones?

Here are 11 ways to get them on board with limited gifts:

  1. Talk to them about it. Share that you do want what is best for your children and remind them that having everything we want, or having excess isn’t promoting anything good in the children. As humans, we are not satisfied with more. Let them know that you are very grateful for all they have done, but, wish to make sure the kids don’t become ungrateful. When children have an overabundance, they do become ungrateful. We’re all guilty of it, it’s not just a kid thing. It’s part of being human. The grass is always greener mentality. Perhaps pass on this great article from Becoming Minimalist: Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids
  2. Ask for time gifts. Request a cookbook and ingredients for a dinner, along with a date to cook together. Request trips to the park, sleepovers, taking the children one night a week so they can play games with grandparents and parents can recharge with some alone time.
  3. Ask for Experiences. Tickets to a play, concert, dance or sports event, yearly membership to a zoo, museum, children’s museum, science center.
  4. Set boundaries. Gently let them know that you want toys that challenge the imagination. No batteries or sets with many little pieces (my exception is lego sets)
  5. Start a savings account and request the majority of the money go into the child’s savings for a car, college, etc.
  6. Request items that can be used up: art and craft supplies, food items, etc.
  7. Suggest they cover the cost of classes/lessons for your child. Music lessons, dance, art classes.
  8. Request one item per child. This means that thought and quality will go into the purchase of the gift.
  9. Do combined gifts, where all parties chip in on larger items. Bicycles, swing sets, furniture sets, (cribs for babies, large beds for growing kids, etc)
  10. Keep the larger toys at their house. If they want to give them larger toys (rocking horses, drum sets, train tables, etc), gently let them know that there is simply not enough room at your home, and it will need to stay at the grandparent’s house and enjoyed there.
  11. Have small, intimate birthday parties. Parties with just parents and grandparents are wonderful and any more than that is rather overwhelming. Think The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday. Allow children to invite friends to every 5th birthday. 5 years, 10 years and 15 years. Have them invite who they want to. For our family, the kids have only ever invited 2 or 3 friends, as more seemed to overwhelm them. On the invitation, specify no gifts necessary, but if they would like to give, keep it to something homemade or crafting items.

What to do if they just won’t stop:

Read The 5 Love LanguagesWith some people, their love language is giving gifts. In this case, it may hurt feelings if you ask to limit gifts, and they may take it as you rejecting them personally. In this case, request that they read The 5 Love Languages as well, and let them know what love languages each person in your family has and suggestions on what type of gifts will be most appreciated for each person. If your children show and receive love in the form of gifts, then stress consumable and experience gifts. (See suggestions #3, 6 & 7.)

Make an agreement with the children to purge toys and clothing. Give them a week of “enjoying” their new toys and then set a date to sort. Have a limited amount of items (see How to Declutter: Toys) and have the children decide which ones to give away. They may pick from the new toys, or they may pick from the old ones. Whatever the kids decide, allow it. Don’t guilt them into keeping only the new toys.

In the end, don’t feel bad giving away or re-gifting unwanted gifts. Be sure to thank the giver, but understand that it was a gift, which means belongs solely to the receiver and if the receiver decides to do something different with it, that’s okay.


Need some clutter free or non-toy gift ideas?


About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Nancy on 09/12/2013 at 5:03 PM

    Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions! You’re right about “Love Languages” — great book. Some people need to give gifts to express love, but we can guide them in their gift-giving.

  2. Victoria on 09/23/2013 at 6:46 PM

    What a great article! My friend and I were talking yesterday about how we want to do the limited gift option this year. This is a great article. Can’t wait to share!

  3. Jen on 07/20/2014 at 11:51 AM

    I find it absolutely tacky to “guide” people in their gift giving. As a giver I would be so hurt if someone basically told me what I was giving wasn’t good enough and I needed to do it differently. It would wound me deeply that I didn’t please them. Instead teach children to be thankful for what they are given and just purge stuff and your children wouldn’t have an over abundance. Unless you’re asked what to give it looks rather greedy to ask someone to get you other things. Even if you do it gently. It’s rude. I don’t like these items so please get us these instead. Just freakin be greatful for what you’re given. There is immense pleasure in choosing a gift and giving. Especially if it’s something that a child really wants. I do no gifts on birthday invites etc for my family. But I would never dream of being so rude and un thankful to a gift giver.
    You can teach your children to be minimalist and I be thankful and to have manners and to consider others feelings at the same time.

    • Rachel on 07/20/2014 at 4:11 PM

      Thanks for commenting Jen!
      I in no way intend to be ungrateful or recommend other be ungrateful for what they receive.
      I do find that many people giving gifts ask what the receiver wants, many grandparents ask for a Christmas gift list. In these cases, it’s fairly easy to offer these suggestions.
      And yes, we absolutely need to teach our children to be thankful.

    • Lauren on 11/24/2014 at 5:21 AM

      It sounds selfish (and therefore rude) to be so focused on the pleasure you receive from gift giving that it takes priority over other people’s feelings. Gift giving is about making the other person happy—not yourself. At least it should be. What about the feelings of the parents when you put them in an awkward situation? If material objects are teaching someone’s children bad values/behaviors, certainly it’s unfair to expect them to reinforce those bad values/behaviors just because of your feelings. The parent is the one dealing with the disappointment and hard lessons because someone thinks of themselves (and the joy they get from gift giving) first. Why is the gift giver more important than the parents or the gift receiver? I think all parties involved are important and a mutually agreeable solution should be reached in a charitable, kind way. It sounds like you want everything your way with no willingness to compromise. There is a middle ground and a balance. And just because someone doesn’t like your gift doesn’t mean they are ungrateful for it. Those are two separate things. In my opinion, it can be just as rude to force gifts on people they don’t truly need and end up making more work for them figuring out what to do with it and how to handle the situation.

      • Linda on 03/24/2015 at 12:07 AM

        I totally agree with everything you said.

      • Rosalyn on 07/24/2015 at 8:07 AM

        Me too! Well said

    • Ruth on 02/27/2017 at 2:48 PM

      Thank you, Lauren. We don’t have to get culty about it, so that it hurts the people who love us. Hey, you got rid of a load of stuff, you have room for one or two gifts from the important people in your life.

      An important person in my life criticized my gifts several years in a row. I stopped giving that type of gift and gave other gifts the last few years, but the hurt remains. Just don’t do it – it’s not worth it.

      Keep asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

      Minimalism is supposed to free us for the people and things that are most important to us, not cause us to push them away and hurt them.

    • fred on 12/29/2017 at 12:25 PM

      Are you volunteering to come over to my house 3x a day to pick up all the toys? And come over and make dinner while 10,000 electronic toys and video games are playing in the background? Or deal with my kid at the doctor’s office while he’s having a melt down from boredom because he never learned to entertain himself?

    • Fe on 01/31/2018 at 4:25 PM

      As a gift giver myself, I understand where you’re coming from, but I also disagree with you. I find i’m happiest when people give me an idea of what they want or need. I HATE giving meaningless gifts that do nothing but clutter up needed space and waste money. I would rather they truly appreciate my gift instead of just pretending and giving it away at a later time. And I don’t find it rude to ask for specific gifts, especially if it’s coming from a family that struggles to meet all of their needs. It makes me so happy when I know for a fact that I can help them fill a need instead of buying something that doesn’t help them at all.

  4. Catherine on 07/25/2014 at 2:32 PM

    This so speaks to where we are in life right now. We have someone in our live that is so generous but it is absolutely making our daughter so unappreciative. The gift giving would be ok if the giver understood when we pass many of the items on to others, but unfortunately the giver wants to see my daughter with the items etc. It is just too much stuff, we are being inundated and must set limits, thank you for these ideas!!

    • Rachel on 07/25/2014 at 2:49 PM

      That’s so difficult Catherine! I hope you’ll be able to resolve it soon.

  5. Jenn on 07/26/2014 at 11:57 AM

    I don’t feel it’s rude to guid gift giving at all! My partner and I decided when we had our first child that we did not want plastic electric toys in our house for various reasons. Both our families have welcomed and embraced the idea of the amazon wish list. It took some time for my mom to come around, they don’t have a lot of money, which is often a complaint when it comes to wood and natural toys. She is an amazing sewing artist though and my children love the pajamas and costumes she makes for them. I was gental but firm on the toy thing and when we got plastic stuff I took it back to walmart and got books or craft supplies instead. Luckily we only had to do that a couple of times when our kids were really little. It worked, it might seem a little harsh but we feel our family is more important than hurt feelings.

    • Rachel on 07/26/2014 at 1:19 PM

      That’s great Jenn – Thanks for being an encouragement!

    • Karil on 12/03/2015 at 10:05 PM

      I’m curious, how old are your children?

  6. Sarah E on 08/03/2014 at 11:28 AM

    This is so helpful! We’ve been trying to get the gift givers in our lives to understand why we don’t want a lot of toys, and why we prefer the few toys we have to be open-ended. It’s been tough, and I think will get tougher as we’re about to move to a bigger house with a yard, so the “not enough space” excuse probably won’t be as effective. What we have done for birthday parties and baby showers is to say on the invitation that guests shouldn’t feel obligated to bring a gift, but if they want to bring something, we encourage them to instead bring a new toy, stuffed animal, or blanket for patients at our local children’s hospital. That tactic has been especially successful, particularly since our second child spent his first three weeks there for heart surgery. Although people will still bring a gift for the child, they usually tell us that we can donate it if we’d prefer. (Why, yes! We would.)

    • Rachel on 08/03/2014 at 6:14 PM

      That’s an excellent idea Sarah!

  7. Amanda on 08/18/2014 at 9:32 PM

    We have kids get a party or event every other year. When my daughter’s 7th birthday ended she was already thinking about what to do for her 9th! I was amazing at this concept of waiting and planning. Even though some years I want to cheat and do something huge having my son and daughter alternate years has been a great decision! Not sure if we could go every 5 years but I am glad to see this list and that there are parents out there thinking about long-term life skills.

  8. Jill on 10/27/2014 at 2:17 PM

    I get a little irritated when my children are invited to a birthday party and it does not say “No gifts please” on the invite. Now this is not for every single invite. This applies to when I have been to the person’s house and they have so much stuff that you can barely walk around it. Kids need toys, but they don’t need hundreds. That is overwhelming and not necessary. You can only play with one item at a time. I have my kids toys in bins. So they take a bin out and it has Legos in it. Another bin has My Little Ponies and so on. That way they are enjoying what they are playing with at that moment vs wandering around not knowing what to do with themselves. I am not a fan of clutter. I find that at my age, I am not a fan of toys with 100 pieces. How many different Polly Pocket stuff does one need? I can’t stand all of the plastic junk that ends up everywhere. A couple of years ago I started saying that I was done with Christmas junk. Craft stuff is fun and keeps them busy as does Legos and other items like that. My kids actually enjoy clothes for gifts as well. Last year they had a great Christmas. The got some good quality items and then we went on a little vacation for New Years Eve. There was a party that night and an awesome indoor pool. The kids will remember going there more than getting another pony, or another Polly Pocket or another race car. This year we have a new Lego place that opened up. So I am getting them tix to go there. They will love it and remember it. Giving a memory from an adventure is much more important than giving them the latest Barbie or remote control car. They don’t need 10 of everything. That is just my opinion. I am done with the junkie stuff. We are the only ones that buy for our kids as we have no grandparents, aunts or uncles. If a friend buys for them, I prefer it be a bigger gift like a membership or an easel they can share. Picking out the latest pony is not love. They are excited, but that passes. Love all of these ideas. So good to know I am not the only one that likes to think outside the box.

  9. Helen on 11/10/2014 at 2:48 AM

    I really love choosing gifts for people and am sometimes disappointed with specific requests but I do appreciate guidance. Now I have my own kids, I think very carefully about the toys that I buy for them and sometimes get irritated with the absolutely overwhelming amount of his the grandparents buy. Our little one was born 3 months prem and only just made it, making him a miracle that that want to shower with their love. We also live overseas so when we go back to the grandparents’ for a visit it can be crazy with the kids surrounded with new toys but you can see on their face that the grandies just want to show how much they care. It’s hard, and we try to guide when asked, but sometimes you graciously accept, then teach the kids to choose their favourite toys and move others on. We sell things every 6 months or so and use the money to buy new craft items, books, clothes and music or to pay for classes. We also decide on some toys and clothes that we will give to charity and explain to our eldest (2 1/2) what that means and that he is helping other people. You have to know your gift giver and know how to handle them without tears. Your kids need to learn that moderation is no bad thing. Not all easy, but all works out in the end.

    • Amanda on 12/09/2014 at 12:27 AM

      What a wonderful comment! I too think it can be rude to guide the giver with unsolicited advice. It’s such a fine balance because we also have very specific wishes when it comes to our children’s play. It is their primary job, after all! I love the idea of purging regularly, especially framed with the concept of sharing our many toys with those who don’t have as many. Another thing we do is put away some of the gifts after an occasion to get out a few months later and rotate out the current toy batch. This year I plan to have my 3yo help chose which to keep out and which to put away.

  10. Jessica on 12/11/2014 at 12:00 AM

    I was never really into toys and as a pre-teen I was busy building my CD collection. I was really into music from the 60s and some of the CDs I wanted were hard to find so my parents just began telling relatives “Why not just give her cash so she can get exactly what she wants and save you the headache of hunting down obscure old albums?” Super easy and no one’s feelings were hurt.

  11. Donna_in_Ohio on 12/20/2014 at 12:55 AM

    The time I put “no gifts, please” on the 9-year-old’s birthday invitations, every last one of the guests brought a gift anyway!! So frustrating. However, the following year I said, “Carl would like to help the puppies at the animal shelter, so instead of a gift for Carl please bring something a puppy would love!” and THAT worked. I think the parents wanted to have their kids be thoughtful for my son’s birthday, and really I do know that many kids like to explore the toy store and buy for their friends. So, that time they got to go to the pet store to shop, I heard from the parents that the kids had fun, and everything they brought went immediately out of the house in the process of giving my son the pleasure of the donation and visit to the shelter. We’ve done that several years since, for both my kids.

  12. Linda on 03/24/2015 at 12:18 AM

    My children are grown now, but many years ago when they were young, my husband’s sister showered them with gifts. At Christmas, they would need to use their camping van to bring all the presents–roughly 50 per child. My oldest child had an obsessive streak, and we wanted to limit his exposure to video games. One Christmas, she took him into the kitchen, and had him secretly open a Nintendo game. My husband felt so betrayed. Of course, we ended up being the bad guys by taking the game away from him. After that Christmas, my husband very politely suggested we limit the number of gifts per person, and focus on gifting experiences. My husband’s sister was furious, and refused to speak to us for over 10 years. Now she is back to lavishing the “kids” with gifts, even though she lives across the country and has no idea about clothing sizes, etc. It’s hard to be grateful when you feel disrespected.

    • Rachel on 03/24/2015 at 11:25 AM

      I love that last sentence Linda. Gifts are supposed to be a demonstration of love from the gift giver to the gift receiver, But when wishes aren’t respected, gifts are burdens.

  13. jennie on 04/13/2015 at 4:49 PM

    We do many of the same things you do…. Birthday parties at 1, 5, 10 etc. We try to have extra decluttering before Christmas and Easter. When giving a present, I always ask if there is something that is needed. Then maybe I can give the boring needed item and the parents can use their resources to get the gift that will really mean something to the child.

  14. Leia on 06/12/2016 at 4:52 PM

    Everyone has made some great points. We often ask for no gifts for our children as well. I wanted to make a comment on the book suggestion of “Too much Birthday”. It is one of my most dislike book by the Berenstien Bears because the way Sister gets over her meltdown about the huge party Papa insisted on was by opening all her presents. So she was happy when the attention of the party goers was turned back on to her and the pile of gifts she was given. Not what I teach my boys at all.
    Just my thoughts.

  15. Nancy B. on 11/29/2016 at 11:04 PM

    We relieved our family members of shopping for the perfect gift by asking for a month’s membership to the YMCA. That way 12 different family members could donate if they wanted. We were also happy with needed sports equipment or clothing. Seriously, people want to know their gift is appreciated and used!

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