Clutter. Mess. STUFF. 

Those who know me, know that I can’t focus on a damn thing if my home isn’t tidy to the standards of a boutique hotel. In actual fact, that’s the feeling I like to evoke around here. Minus the room service (although it would be a nice touch).

But beyond the fact that it doesn’t look or feel good, hoarding loads of useless shit is not good for anyone’s soul. Especially not your kids’.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the sheer amount of toys and clothes my son receives every time friends and family come over. (This is excluding birthdays and holidays… although, can someone please tell me when Easter became the new Christmas?)

In the beginning, I thought this was something temporary – that it would pass after his infant novelty wore off, but alas, here we are… three years later and the guys still gets a firetruck for showing up.

I’m not trying to be an evil mother who sucks out all the childhood happiness here, so let me break down why it irks me.

First – HE DOESN’T NEED IT. In every sense of the statement.

Why? Because he has thirteen variations of that shit. And he’s got the attention span of a small rodent. He will play with your toy for exactly ONE day (at most) and then it is forgotten, disregarded, and probably dying a slow death under a pile of snow in the backyard.

What’s worse is that now he thinks that merely by existing and laying out a cute smile, he will get a present every single time someone comes over or if he asks nicely enough when we’re out and about. Not cool.

I work really damn hard to make sure I simplify his childhood in an era of over-consumption and instant gratification. I do my best to show him that it’s way more fun to take a walk in the neighbourhood and see what we stumble across, instead of hitting a plastic button to make noise.  I also work hard to explain to him that “stuff” isn’t really all that important, and many people aren’t as fortunate. So you see, it’s sets me back a few steps every time people shit all over our values.

Listen, toys here and there are ok. They’re kids. I get it. I also understand that it’s more for you than them because I get the elation that comes from watching a child open a gift and be genuinely excited about it.

But may I suggest we get a little creative about it? There’s plenty of things you can do to make the lil guy jump for joy that will have you maintain your Uncle of the Year status that doesn’t involve spending $100 on plastic my kid will quickly forget, or another *SO CUTE* H&M hoodie that he will wear twice because he has five other *SO CUTE* H&M hoodies and he doesn’t have enough time before his next growth spurt to wear them all.

There’s also another underlying issue in all of this and that is the incredible (actually terrifying) amount of waste that is destroying our environment. We are ALL responsible for our consumption, and the awesome job we’re all doing recycling and buying sustainable, eco-friendly products for our ourselves, needs to be translated towards gifting too. Let’s teach the littles what’s up. 

So, I’m asking folks to be mindful and proactive with the things they choose to gift our children, because we all play a part in raising them.

* Also, if you really want to know… we donate A LOT. So it’s likely that the Fisher Price set you dropped off last Christmas is on a shelf at Value Village right now. In case you wanted to drop by and say hello.

Spanish Harlem, 1965 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images 


– Go ahead, splurge on your best friend’s new baby. You’re allowed! Lord knows I’m guilty. Just don’t do it for the next three years every single time you see her.

– If you’re gonna buy a toy, buy something you can both do… an activity toy. A ball, a paint set, play dough, puzzles, Lego’s. All of those things are better together.

– Grab something easy, simple and forever lasting. AKA: A bag of cool balloons. I guarantee the kid will be happy AF about it, they’ll last a lifetime, and every time you drop by you can blow one up and play catch.

– Books. Books. Books. Because in the age of TV, iPads, iPods, and Smartphones, the kid will need just as much to balance out all that screen time and books never get old. They are loved, passed down, and used over and over until the pages are worn. Wanna be extra special? Add an inscription. 

– The gift of music has the ability to transcend time and speak in a language everyone can understand. It teaches, it unifies, it evokes feelings and uses the imagination. Whether it’s an instrument (check with parents before you ball out on a drum set pls), records (someone has to keep them alive) or even a freakin’ Spotify subscription… Music is life. Let your kids in on it.

– Do something with them instead. Take the kid for gelato, the best pizza slice in town, or be the first to teach them how to eat with chopsticks. Bake a cake together. Plant some flowers. Just a few things they will easily blab about for a month.

– Kids are super simple, so really bring it back to basics and go for a stroll through a new park, along the lake on the boardwalk or deep in the ravines of Toronto. Get dirty with them. Let them explore with you.

– Take them for a drive. Yah. It’s that easy. Grab the little buggers and go for a ride around town. Make a pit stop somewhere that looks interesting. Choose your own adventure; it never gets boring! Plus, you’ll likely learn something new in the process too.

– If you’re just DYING to get clothing, ask mama what the kid actually needs because they may actually be in the market for a spring jacket, and not Air Jordan’s.

– Kid likes monster trucks? Instead of gifting him with a massive one from Tonka, check when the Monster Truck show is coming to town and do that instead. Lifetime memory. (Same applies to baseball games, basketball games, motocross… you get the idea.)

– With so many incredible places to visit in Toronto, why not spend a few hours at the ROM (dinosaurs are a hit with toddlers in case you didn’t get the memo) or at Hockey Hall of Fame where pretending to be a goalie is way cooler than watching it on TV. Hit the open market at Kensington, get dirty at Evergreen Brickworks, or visit the financial district on a Sunday. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Experiences over toys. Memories over stuff.

The possibilities are endless, you see, it just takes a few more minutes of thought. So next time you’re about to hop in the car and drop by Toys R Us and purchase something that will broaden your carbon footprint, take a second to think about it.

And if you’re really stuck on what to bring, anything from the LCBO for mom is always a welcome offering.

x A


Follow Aleks Jassem on Instagram

Featured Image: Princess Marianne Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn


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