3 Tips For Avoiding Holiday Toy Overload

The holidays are here, which means parents all over the world are thinking the same thing- For the love of God, the last thing our kids need are more toys!

My husband and I are right there with you. At least once a day, I find myself standing in the middle of our playroom wondering how in the world we ended up with so many damn toys.

Right now, my husband is thinking, um, I know how we did, you bought them!

He's right, I do most of the toy buying in our house. When our older son was younger, I was a little overzealous about buying sensory-related toys. During his weekly therapy, the second his OT or PT brought out a sensory toy, I whipped out my phone and ordered it on Amazon.

Though I've curtailed my impulsive sensory-toy purchases, our toy room is still in constant need of spring cleaning.

It took us a couple Christmases to realize that we needed to lay down some ground rules in order to prevent our already packed playroom from becoming unmanageable.

If you're in the same boat, here are three tips to prevent holiday toy overload:

1. Clean out and organize your child's toys BEFORE Christmas/ Hanukkah. Every year before Christmas, we schedule an afternoon to clean out and organize our boys' playroom. We make sure to do it when they're at their grandparents' for the day so we can get in there and get rid of the toys they've outgrown (donate what's still in good condition, throw out the rest), without any resistance.

2. Adopt the gift motto: too much of a good thing is a bad thing. In our family this means Santa brings one present, mommy and daddy give one present and the grandparents give one present. Fewer gifts = less overstimulation. If you have other relatives who want to buy presents for your kids, suggest books or some kind of "experience" (museum tickets, movie or zoo passes).

3. Get a toy, give a toy. For each toy your kids receive, have them choose a toy they don't play with anymore to donate. Put them in a bin and once it's full, bring it to Goodwill.

I know what you're thinking- that sounds great in theory, but there's no way my kids are going to part with any of their toys, no matter how long it has been since they've played with them! I thought the same thing. But, I think you'll be surprised by the increased willingness to say goodbye to old toys brought on by their excitement about all the new toys.

The holidays are such a fun time of year for young kids. But there's a fine line between fun and too much fun. It's easy for holiday activities and rituals to cause overstimulation, especially in kids with sensory processing challenges.

These tips to avoid holiday toy overload are one way to help minimize overstimulation and to keep your sensory-sensitive kid regulated during this fun, yet simultaneously stressful time of year.

One more way to minimize overstimulation is to choose "passive" over "active" toys.

Passive toys- blocks, Legos, dolls, manipulatives- don't do anything on their own; they require the child to use his imagination.

Active toys- anything battery operated, high-tech or with a screen- do something that entertains without any use of the child's imagination; the child simply presses a button, turns a knob or flips a switch.

In a nutshell: Active toys make passive learners while passive toys make active learners.

If you need some good passive toy suggestions, stay tuned for my holiday gift guide for sensory-sensitive kids coming your way next week...

How do you handle holiday gift-giving? If you have any tried and true strategies for minimizing overstimulation, leave them in the comments below...the Sensory Mom community and I would love to hear from you.


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Hi! I'm Cameron, mom of two incredible, "differently-wired" boys who have sensory processing challenges, wife of a nerdy surfer, mindfulness practitioner and Parenting Coach with master's degrees in education and psychology.