We are closing in on the final moments of the Christmas shopping season and the last hours of the miracle that is Amazon Prime. As we see the boxes and boxes of things being delivered to our home and offices it makes you wonder if it’s all just too much? But then you think of how magical the season is and how you actually WANT to give your child the toys they have spent the last 364 days begging for. So T&M decided to take a look at their own habits and also looked at what some other moms have done.
We will start with what we do.
M: Christmas and gift-giving. Always a challenge for me even after buying for kids for 14 years now. We still go overboard (compared to some) but I’ve definitely pared down over the years. Every year, I try to figure out what is enough and what is too much. Many years, while the kids are opening presents, I hit a point where I think – I wish we could just stop right now. I could put these wrapped presents away and return them, save them for birthdays, donate them, anything – they just don’t need any more!!
This starts when the kids are little and toys are fairly cheap and easy to buy. And it’s all so cute! I would pore through all the catalogs that came in the mail, dog ear pages, rip them out and carry them around, and then buy way too much. These days, for the most part, I just throw the catalogs out and buy more classic gifts and, with older kids, a few pricier items instead.
T: This is my son’s first Christmas and I am SO excited to share it with him. But I have to remind myself that while he is learning more and more every day he has no concept of Christmas….or toys…or Santa. So I tried really hard not to buy too much (and I was moderately successful!) But as an avid Target aisle walker I struggled. The boxes scream at you to BUY ME BUY ME!!! I’m not sure how I am going to manage when he is older, but it’s something I’d like to think about now.
M: The truth is, when the kids are little, they don’t need that many gifts. It’s the honest to goodness truth that they will likely enjoy the box more. (T: or an empty chip bag). Once they get a little older and understand “toys” they also will want to play with each gift the minute they open it. The adults have to pry the toy away and shove the next present in their hands to be opened – all the while the kid is crying because they want to play with the one toy they just opened.
M: I remember many years ago when my niece (who is now 21) was around 3 years old. My sister had told me to buy her a ball. That’s it – just a ball. I saw my niece open a much nicer gift and get so excited. I was concerned about my gift and wishing I’d gotten something nicer. Soon enough, it was time for my gift. Well, my niece’s face lit up just as much over the ball as it did over the expensive gift. Worry for nothing! And, chances are good that the ball was played with more than the expensive gift.
Now that I have five kids, I can’t go too crazy for Christmas. It’s too expensive, too much time, too much stuff, and too unnecessary. But I still worry about it and try to find a system. I worry about their expectations as well, since I have overbought in the past. But really, when I look at some of their lists, they aren’t looking for big ticket items. I’M the one worried about it and they are just happy to get some new things! I’m also focusing more on “experience” gifts when I can. For example, when the grandparents have asked about gifts, I’ve suggested Medieval Times tickets or a similar experience that the family can enjoy. The kids love it and we get to have more family time. Bonus that it doesn’t take up any more space!
T&M: So what’s the answer? Quality over quantity? Stick to the basics? Just one gift? We aren’t really sure there is a right answer other than to do what is right for you. That being said you should take some time to think about what you and your kids really need, what you have storage space for, and what will make them truly happy.
T: I’ve been reading a lot about other people’s traditions trying to find some version that works for me. Here are some interesting traditions I have found:
- The Big 4
These families focus on 4 areas for their kids: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great system for minimizing all of the “stuff”. T struggles with the idea of getting her son just 1 toy, but that’s sort of the point! This would greatly cut back on your stress and you can put your time and energy on something your child really wants. With that you can still modify it how you want. You could do this as what you get from family members and then they would of course receive another special gift from the big man in red 😉 (we can talk about him in another post)
- The 3 Wise Men
This one is SUPER interesting. My favorite phrase was if it is good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for you! In this method the families are scaling back on the gift giving and also reinforcing the point that Jesus is the reason for the season. In this method the child receives 3 gifts, and each one represents the gifts the Magi gave to baby Jesus. First, the gift of gold. This gift is something of value to the child or something precious to them. It can be a high dollar item or just something that they want more than anything. Second, the gift of Frankincense. This gift is meant to be something spiritual or healing. This could be religious based or not. Perhaps a book, or a class, or something that helps them on the road to better themselves. Third, the gift of Myrrh. This gift is something for the body. It can be something physical such as sports equipment or work out clothes or it could be something like bath salts, make up, etc. An interesting twist on this was that Mommy and Daddy each brought the kids 3 gifts and Santa brings 3 gifts. So each child got 6 gifts 2 of each. This allows you to do a little more while also keeping it within reason.
- Donating before Christmas
This suggestion has less to do with managing the gifts given at Christmas and more to do with teaching your kids the spirit of giving and decluttering BEFORE Christmas. These families spend some time helping their kids go through the toys they have and pick out a few (or many) items that they don’t play with anymore to give to other children. Of course this kindness definitely puts you on the nice list, but it’s more than that. Teaching your kids now about the spirit of giving will hopefully instill a lesson that will stay with them for many years to come. The Patriarch of our family is one of the most giving people we know, and that has been passed down through the family. We hope that our kids learn that as well.
For both T&M, the holidays will continue to be a struggle of determining how to gift give, but we hope that some of these ideas resonate with you and help you determine your own method of gifting at Christmas. Do you have any other methods? We would love to hear them!