Santa Conundrum No. 3: Why Do We Donate Toys?

As a family, we make a number of charitable contributions this time of year. Flora’s school had a Toys for Tots drive, and I had the girls pick out a new toy when we were shopping to donate to that.

One of the other things I did was donate gently used toys to a charity called Play It Forward Pittsburgh (this link goes to the Facebook page). One Friday, before I dropped Kate off, we stopped at the house in my neighborhood that was collecting the donations.

When I got back in the car, Kate said, “Why are you giving our toys to this house?”

I said, “They are collecting used toys to give to kids who won’t get toys at Christmas.”

“Why doesn’t Santa give them toys?” Kate asked. “Because they are bad?”

Oh, shite.

“Nooo,” I said, trying to think fast. “Sometimes Santa needs help getting more toys to give to more children. If kids have a lot of toys that they don’t play with, Santa likes us to give them to him, so he can give them to children he knows don’t have lots of toys. He knows the toys will get played with that way.”

This explanation, brought to you by the seat of my pants, seemed to satisfy Kate quite well.

I just wish I had dropped her off first, *then* donated the toys. It’d would’ve made my morning a little less stressful.


Speaking of donating toys, check out what readers of helped Michelle do this year. Wow, is all I have to say.


I have a coworker whose wife has a rare and hard-to-treat cancer. They have six children.

The most recent baby-loss mama I know lost twins in her 22nd week of pregnancy.

The father of one of Flora’s classmates died suddenly.

And I have a now 7-year-old who wants to know when her roller skating birthday party is. Even though she just had a weekend of parties and and a sleep over with her friends and three separate cakes.

It makes my head a little explodey.

I have to teach my children how to be grateful for the things that they have. I know that it’s hard to grasp that simply having two parents in good health, a roof over their heads, access to private education, and three meals a day (plus snacks) (KNOCK ON WOOD) is more than many other people have. Not just around the world, but even here in the United States. They don’t know different, so of course they take it for granted.

Telling them to be grateful in the abstract isn’t exactly age-appropriate.

So I am embarking on a mission to help my children learn to be grateful. I don’t want to club them over the head, and I don’t want to act like Mother Teresa. (I’m no Mother Teresa.) I also don’t want them to feel pity for those less fortunate than we are. Compassion, sure, I think that can be constructive. But pity isn’t pretty.

Thus far, I’ve got a few ideas:

1. Go through all the toys we own — and I mean all of them. The basement, the toy box and bins, the arts & craps drawer(s). Pare down then donate to the Toy Lending Library and/or Salvation Army. My girls have so much that sometimes they don’t even know what to play with, and the dreaded “I’m bored” comes out of their mouths. Plus, with a birthday just past and Christmas and another birthday coming up, I know the onslaught will continue. I love that my children are loved, it’s just we have so dang much already. I’m advocating for memberships, event tickets, or money, frankly. Not stuff.

2. Ditto with the kids’ books.

3. I picked up a tote bag from DCL that we will fill with items to donate. We were given a very specific list, and maybe by helping me buy and pack these things, my girls will glimpse an understanding of the fact that some people don’t even have soap or shampoo.

4. Point them to this site, and have them come up with a festive mission that we can do over the next few weeks.

5. We will also be donating to @burghbaby’s Christmas Crazy. Just because.

Kate is young for volunteerism, but maybe I can find something for Flora and me to do. We’ll see how these five things go first.

How do you encourage your kids to feel grateful?