Parenting Insights for the Holiday Toy-Buying Season

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Researching the toys with your child will help you select toys that won't languish in the closet. Pictured here is the Fisher-Price ImagiNext Bigfoot, a gift my own children ranked highly for this Christmas.

In the blue-collar Latino family that I grew up in, you sacrificed everything you could to give the kids the presents they wanted for the holidays.

My brother, a cop, for example, is going to be working numerous off duty gigs this month in order to go all out for my niece’s Santa list.  Like robots, my sister and I have always done the same for our children.  None of us has ever stopped to question the FAMILY TRADITION about gifts because it seems so harmless.

I would have continued the tradition this year except for a revelation that I got recently while cleaning my kids’ closet.  My liberating insight? If you have kids ages infant to 14 years of age, TRUST ME, with few exceptions it is almost always WASTEFUL to buy your children more than two to three toys for the holidays.

Here’s what I saw in my kids’ closet: shelves of practically unused and even unopened toys.  In fact, some of the toys we’re selling this coming weekend at our garage sale are THE ONES our kids had picked for their Christmas wish lists.

If you want to avoid my mistakes here are some holiday tips from me, a father of three:

  • Less toys makes for better toy use.  If you buy your children more than two or three toys, you will often see that beyond the first day of those toys, most of them will not be played with again.  Kids almost always play consistently with two toys for a consistent period of time.  (This also applies to video games unless you have children that play video games all the time and don’t study).
  • Don’t assume that the more expensive, sexy toys are necessarily the ones you’re children are going to like most.  My experience shows me that there’s a world of difference between the toy YOU think your kid will like most and the one they actually will after they unwrap it.  (You don’t often get this lucky but one of the best, most used toys I ever gave my son Jonathan was a $6 slingshot!)
  • Click on the image to download the English version of the bilingual guide.

    Before your child creates their holiday toy list, try to see if you can have them “test” the toys they think they want.  The Internet is packed with researched resources like my 2010 PapiBlogger Holiday Gift Guide, which features some of this holiday season’s top kid-tested toys.  YouTube is also packed with videos about specific toys.

  • Suggest toys and games for the whole family.  I often find that parents are too far removed or shy about the toy election process.  This year my guide featured several toys/games that I think are fun for kids and the whole family.  These toys/games can be some of the best ones to buy because you can create family memories with them.
  • Don’t put the entire toy-buying burden on yourself.   In my family my kids will often end up with 15 new toys each Christmas and that doesn’t include the Day of the Three Kings, when a bonus gift or two often sneaks in.  This is another major reason why I think it’s frequently useless to buy more than two or three toy gifts for your kids.  In our family I often find that my sister, brother and sister-in-law often buy some of the catchiest toys my kids play with most.  If you have a family that buys your kids toys every year why bother buying so many of them yourself?  (If you have a family that doesn’t often buy toys for your kids then you may want to buy more toys for your children but probably no more than five in my view).

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