When you have small kids it may be tempting for others to give gifts that appear to be cute and mainstream such as noisy plastic toys, Cartoon DVD's, popular dolls and action figures etc.
Many people enjoy giving toys as gifts and just assume your child would love them. If you feel you are overwhelmed with too many toys and your house and it is starting to look like a daycare center there is an alternative! If you educate your friends and family on your values I am sure they will love to participate! Many people just assume you would love to get the latest noisy gadget for your child.
I was lucky, when I was young my Grandmother would make me a handmade quilt or blanket as a birthday or Christmas present- these are the gifts I still cherish the most today! I really believe that my Grandmother helped to instill in me how important it is to put love and intention into the gifts you give others.
I tell friends and relatives that we are teaching our kids to not focus so much on material items (a very valuable lesson in these economic times!). Our tradition is coming up with creative ways to make gifts for others on special occasions and holidays rather than just buying what is "in". We focus on creative and imaginary play with natural toys and spending time outdoors. I understand that the Grandparents are busy and do not have time to make gifts so I offer the suggestion of something my daughter can use such a swim, art or dance classes- a zoo, garden or park pass etc.
If you find you are already inundated with toys, start a tradition of giving some away! It really is not as hard on the kids as you may think - it teaches your kids the valuable lesson of giving and empathy for others (you will find that they soon forget about those toys- once the excitement wears off they are off they are soon interested in something new!).
When friends come to visit instead of videos or TV, how about putting on some music and dancing! Try an outdoor scavenger hunt or create a campsite in your own yard (my husband set up a tent in the living room and my daughter just loved it! I told him he should have done it outside because it took up half our living area and she did not want us to take it down for days!)- the friends will welcome the change of pace!
If your friends and relatives must buy toys there are some natural online resources
- willowtoys , palumba, novanaturals
or they can visit their local farmers market- there are many handmade crafts there that the kids would love! You don't always have to make the gifts yourself. I enjoy trading with others in the community for handmade gifts- I recently traded some herbs I wildcrafted for a wonderful handmade necklace for a friend.
You can get very creative at your local second hand store! Make a kitchen set out of wood bowls and find unique tea sets. Find wood beads and yarn for necklaces and crafts.
If you think that computer toys are the only type of 'educational toy' Check out my prior posts on natural learning.