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The holidays approaching, which means if you have kids and a mailbox, the latter is filling up daily with toy and children’s clothing catalogs. While witnessing your kids’ unbridled excitement at paging through them may generate nostalgia-fueled forgiveness of this influx of direct marketing, such holiday catalogs, if left unregulated in a house filled with small children, can also cause issues. (Ever tried to get a toddler ready for school when he’s decided to lounge in his Pull-up and “read” everything there is to know about the Monster Jam Grave Digger remote control car?)

Their glossy pages can inspire joy—or send a Bey Blade right thought the delicate emotional ecosystem of your house, doing more harm than good. Here are some suggestions for how to make those harbingers of Christmas fun work for—not against you.

First, hide them

The first rule of holiday catalogs is: Do not leave holiday catalogs lying around. While it may seem like a festive way to get the Christmas joy flowing (I’ll just leave them on the coffee table so they can peruse them whenever!), if there is but one of a preferred catalog, but multiple children, the ensuing power struggles about how long one sibling got to look at it and which one ripped the Barbie Dream House page can devolve into a very un-festive argument. In addition to catalog turf battles, the things are endlessly distracting. This is great when you’re making dinner and need to keep the kids occupied, but godspeed if a child gets a hold of one while you’re trying to make it to the school bus. Which leads me to my next point…

Set designated times to look through them

Does setting a designated time for kids to look at holiday toy catalogs sound micromanage-y and Grinchy as hell? Yes. Am I still going to do it? Also yes. In my house, giving kids free-rein over catalog consumption causes too many distractions and petty skirmishes, so I’ve learned to only bust them out when my kids have nothing to do and nowhere to be. Because you know what’s worse than limiting catalog access? Rushing an excited 6-year-old through it because he needs to leave for basketball in five minutes.

Set a limit on items-per-page

The first time my son got his hands on a Target holiday catalog and was told to circle the things he wanted, it came back looking like a Crayola marker massacre. Some pages had every item circled—all with great intention and urgency. There was no way to tell what he really wanted (probably none of it, but I digress). While the feasibility of this guideline will vary by age, set a limit of items your child can circle per page (1-2), or a total number for the whole catalog (10). They’ll be more selective about their choices, taking some of the guesswork out of it on your end.

Let them know they won’t get everything they want

When kids first get their hands on a catalog is the time to “have the talk.” Let them know that even Santa has a budget. He may be magical, but he’s also supplying toys for every child in the world, and will not be granting every one of their toy wishes. After their first, liberal circling frenzy, have your kids do a second pass to refine their requests and “X” out things that aren’t at the top of their lists.

Use them to pick toys for the less fortunate

Once they’ve gone through and made their own lists, use the catalogs as tools to turn your kids’ minds and hearts toward others this holiday season. Consider being a “Holiday Hero” or granting One Simple Wish to help brighten the lives of children in foster care. Through Doing Good Together, you can sponsor a child or family for the holidays. Or contact a religious organization in your town; they may have specific requests from local children. Have your kids pick out, wrap, and deliver the gift(s) to help brighten the holiday for others. Then put all catalogs away, out of sight—lest that carefully curated list be rendered moot with the next read-through.

 



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