How Many Christmas Gifts for Kids: Different Approaches

My sister-in-law Traci has a really smart Christmas gift rule that we’ve tried to adopt: each child gets something to read, something to wear and something to play with. This is supposed to prevent me from going overboard and it mostly works. But I manage to make a lot of exceptions.

-For example, Christmas PJs don’t count as the something to wear.
-For example, everything in their stockings is also exempted from the rule.
-For example, if the thing to-play-with isn’t BIG (read: doesn’t make a big Christmas Morning Statement under the tree — like a bike or a dollhouse or huge Lego set), then I tend to compensate with a few medium size gifts.
-For example, the siblings also exchange gifts which means 4 more presents each, which I mostly shop for because my kids are pretty young.
-For example, Grandmas and Grandpas still send gifts, or money to buy gifts. And so do aunts and uncles.

This is all lovely, but my kids end up with way too much under the tree. Not that they complain. And frankly, I love to see their faces when they open something they love. Plus, as I mentioned before, there are so many pretty things out there, and I get such a kick out of finding them. . .

So my question is: what are your best solutions for keeping the holiday excess in check?

11 thoughts on “How Many Christmas Gifts for Kids: Different Approaches”

  1. I do the same thing you do – something to read/wear/play with, but then I make TONS of exceptions. I just get caught up in the Christmas fun – especially the closer it gets to the real day. (I’m not much help with avoiding the excess.)

  2. That is a hard one. Last year, I tried just doing three presents. It was awesome. They opened for as long as they wanted, the PLAYED with the stuff and I didn’t end up with extra junk.

    How did I do it? I shopped for everything in one day (well, two) and what I couldn’t get on that day, I ordered online. Then, I didn’t enter the store again for the rest of the month. It killed me. I love the Christmas wrap, the displays, etc. BUT, I didn’t overbuy (something that I tend to do) and threw myself into making a family quilt intstead. It worked.

    This year, I have been going to all the Christmas sections (esp Target…how much do I LOVE the Tord Boontje stuff?) but since it isn’t my “day” to buy, I don’t get tempted, I just make a mental note. After Thanksgivig, it is hands off. Lucky for me, that gives me a whole month to “shop”.

    The last few years we have been saving for adoptions, our house, africa trip donations, etc. This year we don’t have a huge “project” to be saving for. We will see how well this works with no motivation. :-)

  3. I tell the kids they can ask Santa for one gift (no need to be greedy–he’s gotta give something to every kid in the world, after all!), and one from mom and dad. That helps me from overbuying, but I’m like you–exceptions everywhere!

  4. My solution is to just run out of money before Christmas. One way I suggest that’s working for us this year is having the sale fall through on the house you’re trying to sell, then you HAVE to have a small Christmas, danget!

    Lucky for us, Gabby (my 4 year old) just wants a $20 skooter, and Alex (my 17 month old) is dead set on a $10 skate board of all things.

  5. we’re trying something similar: something they want
    something they need
    something to wear, and share, and read.

    let’s face it…when they are really little, wants and needs can both be toys. and i like the sharing concept…check out the cranium super fort!

  6. Love Boxes, you totally nailed it. I would be happy Christmas morning if it LOOKS excessive, but isn’t.

    Namona, exactly.

    Bek, you always have good ideas. Also, after all those years of saving and sacrifice I think you and yours deserve a super-luxe Christmas.

    Lisa, I love the greedy/save-it-for-the-other-kids angle. My kids would totally buy that.

    Factotum, total bummer on the house! I so glad your kids have simple wants.

    Syderette, I hear you on the wants/needs.

  7. I don’t have any children yet, but I can tell my parents have similar problems as you do when buying presents. (My husband spent his first Christmas with my family last year and I think he was SHOCKED at all of the presents) I have noticed however that my parents love to give each child something big they really want, then the rest is mostly clothes, books, favorite movie and essentials that my mom puts in our stockings… I really like what she does with stockings by the way (takes away from too much junk). She loads our stockings with combs, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, face wash (you could even do silly things-like a sponge bob toothbrush) She’ll also put in treats like beef jerky or our favorite candy. That way everything in the stocking is something essential or something we’ll eat that day and won’t be more junk around the house.

  8. last year we had huge exces for xmas. this year i’ve gone with the “get what i love and avoid the filler gifts”. it helps that we are travling this year too.

  9. We do the same as Lisa. One gift from Santa (can’t weigh down the sleigh), and one from Mom & Dad. Then smaller gifts from siblings, cousins on each side of the family, grandparents, etc. It helps it not get too out of control – until you factor in that Em’s birthday is that day (more gifts that evening) and Rebekah’s is 10 days later. The other thing, is that since we’ve re-done our entire house, and everything has a nice neat place – I don’t want to add any more toys I don’t have a place for!!

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