How to Shop for Kids with Insufferable Hippie Parents

by Katherine Clover December 20, 2017

Child is rearranging alphabet letters

I'll admit it, I'm that mom. The one who wrote a cheerful "No gifts, please!" on my child's birthday party invitations, and the one who snuck all the plastic battery-operated toys out of the house in the dead of night in January. I know it's frustrating for people who just want to get my kid something nice. Every time people think they have my confusing standards figured out (except my sister, good job sis, you get it!), I throw in a curve ball.

"Oh yeah, we're not really doing character-themed toys."

I'm not the only one. Most of us know a hippie or three, and while hippie moms (also known as crunchy moms) can vary in specifics and intensity, there are some general themes. Frankly, there are some items most of us would rather our little ones not get their hands on. And with the magic of holidays coming up, it can be stressful for everyone. Us hippie moms are anxious that our homes are about to be filled with screeching Elmos and blinking lights. Grandparents, friends, and other gift-givers are usually trying to be respectful, but they also want to do something special and fun.

If you have hippie-ish parents in your life, and you're panicking about how to shop for their kids, you aren't alone. You can do this! We're not monsters, I swear. We’re just a little bit weird. And I’m here to guide you through your shopping experience so that the hippie parents in your life don’t give you that deer-in-the-headlights look.

These tips work for all your gift-giving holidays that might come up. Happy Shopping!

1 | Ask about boundaries, and then respect them

If you’re biting your nails, unsure what's okay and what isn’t, the best policy is just to ask. Different parents will have different guidelines. I have a friend who asks her parents to get only one gift for each of her kids. In our family, we generally ask that gift-givers keep it to one toy, but we don’t limit books and other gifts. Some parents might be really strict about not wanting unnatural materials (especially for babies and toddlers). The point is, a simple “Hey, we were going to do some shopping this weekend, and are wondering if there’s anything we should steer clear of” goes a very long way.

Of course, the trick is, once you ask, you do need to respect their wishes.

2 | Wooden toys are generally permissible

Crunchy parents just love things made out of wood. It’s like they remind us of forests or something.

All joking aside, most kid’s toys these days are made of plastic. Your hippie friends are probably trying to limit the amount of plastic in their homes, and that can be hard when the kids get plastic-everything from friends and family.

If you feel desperate to get the kiddo a toy (and you have the go-ahead), stick with toys made of wood to keep everyone happy. Not sure where you to find wooden toys? Ikea actually has some cool toys, many of them wooden, and I’m also a fan of Plan Toys. There are also some great options on Etsy, and almost every big box store has a few Melissa & Doug offerings.

3 | Steer clear of aggressive branding and gendering

It’s probably not a good idea to go for the latest Disney Princess-everything or anything else that's covered in brand names and aggressive gendering and marketing. It’s not that gender is inherently bad (it isn’t! Gender is great!), it’s just that more socially conscious parents are trying to give their kids a more balanced play experience. We’re up against a lot since there’s a heck of a lot of marketing targeted at kids (and parents) to steer us into branded- and gendered-everything.

You can help by sticking to the classics when possible. A teddy bear might be more welcome than a stuffed Pooh from the Disney store, and a classic train set might be a better idea than the Thomas and Friends one. Remember that not every toy car has to be from the movie "Cars."

4 | Books, science kits, and art supplies might be more welcome than toys

Some parents, especially those with multiple children, are positively drowning under the weight of all those toys. Toys seem to multiply in our homes, and the frustrating thing is that our kids don’t seem any happier with 500 toys than they are with 10.

In my experience, most gift-givers shopping for a child really want to see the kid’s face light up at the sight of a brand new toy. There are other options. Books, science kits, and art supplies are all gifts that give kids something special to unwrap, but don’t add to the toy mountain. Plus, they’re fun and educational!

5 | Consider giving an experience

Of course, if you really want to be a hero to exhausted parents who are sick of toys, you can always give an experience. Tickets or a membership to a local children’s museum (or a kid-friendly museum) is an incredible gift. If you're local, you could also arrange to take the child out for a fun day! Plays and sporting events are other great options.

Movie tickets are popular as well, but if your goal is to be respectful, you’ll want to double-check with the parents first.

6 | Go ahead and get them the one thing their parents never will

I’m going to get in trouble for this one, but I’m going to say it anyway. If the parents aren’t giving you some direction, and none of the above tips are doing it for you – go ahead and get the one thing you know the kid wants and the parents aren’t going to get.

This works best for kids old enough to have specific wishes, obviously. Let’s say your niece really wants a specific Barbie Doll, for instance, but you know your hippie sister is never going to buy anything made by Mattel. Well then, you have a decision to make. You could be a hero to the mom, or you could be a hero to the kid.

Choose wisely.


Katherine Clover


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