What to Ask for in Lieu of Gifts One of my clients actually had three train tables! She bought one, and two separate friends gave her two more. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, she accepted them. Her kids didn’t actually need them, and they used them only occasionally to do art projects on. They also did art at the kitchen table, on the floor and outside. With a lot of encouragement, my client was empowered to put two of the train tables on Craigslist, and they sold the very same day. She used the money from the sale to buy gift cards for the movies, because movie watching was something they loved to do as a family. It was the perfect alternative to having unloved objects in their home.So what do you do about birthdays? In my experience it rarely works to set a no-gifts policy. We’re wired to be gift givers. If you're hosting your child's birthday party, you could include on the invitation a note stating that in lieu of gifts for your child, you'll be collecting new toys for the local shelter and giving them in your child's name. You could have a collection basket at the front door to collect the toys. Your child will have an awesome time at his or her party, eating cake and playing games in the company of friends, regardless of whether or not presents are opened. Now when it comes to asking a grandparent not to give a gift, it's a whole 'nother ball game. It's like asking them to stop breathing. It’s not possible. You can guide them toward more useful gifts, though, by being open about what your children really need. There are times when someone gets offended. They think you’re depriving your child — or them — of the joy of gift giving and receiving. The opposite is true. You’re actually trying to find unique and special ways to do both. I often suggest that parents have a conversation with family members to explain that instead of a new build-a-bear outfit, your child would really love a trip to the bookstore. That way people are still giving a gift, but one that creates memories that matter.