Better to give
Half your kid's gifts are untouched. Should you suggest donating a few?
"I think the more practical thing to do is to suggest donating used things that the child has outgrown or doesn't use anymore to make room for the new stuff — unless the new gifts are of no interest," said Dodie Hofstetter, a member of the AP's panel of parent staff contributors.
"This is a great habit to instill and take into adulthood: Don't bring anything new into your home until you get rid of something old. Emphasize that there are many children who have much less than we do, who would greatly enjoy the items that are neglected in the corner of the closet or under the bed."
And our experts' advice? It's fine to suggest a gift giveaway, but don't force it.
"I love the idea of keeping the holiday spirit going," said clinical social worker Patti Criswell, contributing writer and consultant to the American Girl magazine's advice column. "If the gift isn't a good match."
No need to coerce your kids into giving away their gifts simply because they haven't gotten around to playing with them yet, Criswell says. They may just be pacing themselves.
"But if a brand-new toy hasn't even been touched in a couple of weeks, you could say, 'Maybe this isn't a good match for you, and it may be a good match for somebody else,'" she said.
Another approach, Criswell says, is to do a routine purging of old toys and clothes to make way for the new stuff.
"Every year we take the boxes that the new gifts came in and fill them with old toys and clothes we're no longer using," Criswell says of her own family. "To this day, that's what my kids think boxing day is. Out with the old, in with the new."
Either approach (or both) reminds kids of the importance of considering others and keeping a handle on the stuff we own before it starts to own us.
"We live in such a culture of abundance, and we hang on to so much more than we need, to the point of being burdened with finding places to put all of our stuff," Criswell says. "And what do families fight about all the time? Keeping the house clean.
"What a wonderful gift to give your child: the idea that we don't have to keep every single thing. That sharing has value, that we don't need to grow up with a strange attachment to things we aren't even using."
Making way for new things by donating our gently used items can extend beyond the holidays as well.
"Why is it that we need an angel tree to remind us that others need things?" Criswell says. "You can do a routine cleaning out before birthdays and over the summer before the new school year begins too. It's something we can do all year-round."