Books for Kids · Family Life · Reading

What to Do on Birthdays When There are Already Too Many Toys?

Our daughter’s birthday is in October and with Christmas following soon after, gift-giving has been on our minds. Increasingly, however, this presents Kyna and I with a conundrum: we want these events to be special and for our kids to get gifts that they’re really excited about, but they have so many toys already! They’re not bored with the ones they have and really don’t even have space in their rooms to add more.

“But it’s a birthday! It’s Christmas! Of course we need to get them toys!”

Hence the conundrum.

Maybe this is just foggy memories, but I don’t recall having such abundant and frequent access to toys as my kids have. Example: Getting a Lego set was a really big deal when I was a kid. I distinctly remember one Christmas where, because of a K-mart “going-out-of-business” sale, I got two significant sets. It was glorious. To be honest, I don’t remember very many individual Christmases. But I remember that one! It was special. I knew I was getting something extraordinary that our family usually couldn’t afford. My kids, on the other hand, have Lego’s coming out their ears. It’s not that we’re extravagant or buy them things all the time, but between the sets they get at birthdays and Christmas and the sets they can afford with their own allowance, Lego’s don’t have the same “wow” feeling that they did for me.

And it’s not just Lego’s. For whatever reason – be it socioeconomic, cultural, etc. – my kids just have lots and lots of toys. They play with them. They enjoy them. But when gift-giving season comes around, it feels silly to just pile on more. They would certainly enjoy and appreciate them, but there’s nothing at this point in their lives that they are just dying to have.

So what do we do? As I mentioned in another post, I stumbled on a business called Owlcrate which provides a book-a-month subscription. It was really cool: every month the child would receive a newly-released, hardcover book and a bunch of cool side items that matched the theme of the book (i.e. stickers, games, crafts, costume pieces, etc.). Unfortunately, it was a bit pricy and we wouldn’t have had any control over what books were sent.

So we decided to make our own.

I’m super excited about this idea. This year for Ivy’s birthday she’s going to get three “book boxes,” one a month for three months*. We came up with a fun little character to “deliver” the gifts and add some creative fun to the whole process (Buzzby the Book Bee was a hit) and hid the first installment for her to find on the morning of her birthday.

Here’s the details of our first attempt: The book is The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, and to go along with this tale of survival, we included a survival tool, an emergency rain poncho, a zipper-LED light, and some postcards (you know, to send from wherever it is she’s forced to “survive”). The total came to about $15.

It’s a win-win. Ivy got a gift that was cool and creative, she loves books and reading, and the “story” about Buzzby added a special flavor to the gift. Plus, the fun will stretch on for a couple more months, rather than being finished in one day. For our part, we provided her with good reading material and avoided just piling on toys she didn’t need (and didn’t have room for).

Anyway, I was really excited about this idea and thought I’d share it. I’d love to hear if anyone else decides to use it!


  • Full disclosure: we did get her one other gift, but it wasn’t a toy either!

5 thoughts on “What to Do on Birthdays When There are Already Too Many Toys?

  1. I like how you kept it simple. (yet another grandparent lesson to be learned). We too enjoyed the planning of her book box from us. Thanks for the really great idea. It will really help for many more birthdays and Christmases to come. And from teacher grandparents, we feel much more satisfied with giving good books.

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