Thursday, November 19, 2015

Our family's simple Christmas gift system

I know some people love spending a lot of time and money shopping for their kids’ Christmas gifts, but the trouble is it tends to snowball every year as the kids get older — and their wishlist gets pricier.

We started using a gift system for our son’s first Christmas, when he was just six months old, and we’ve happily stuck with it ever since. It reigns in expectations all around, and prevents us from going overboard when we’re shopping.

Each of our children receives exactly five gifts from us at Christmas:


Something You Want: This is always a toy, at this point in our lives, but it really could be anything down the road — clothes, electronics, games, books, art supplies.

Something You Need: Some years this has been new clothes or outerwear, and other years it’s been a practical item — like a special new plate, or a table to hold a Playmobil set.

Something To Play With: At this age, our kids are all about the toys, of course. But I love the idea of continuing to get them a little toy even when they’re teenagers. I don’t care how old you are, who wouldn’t want to assemble a little LEGO set or attack their sibling with a foam dart gun?

Something To Read: A book! We have a tradition of always getting them each a Berenstain Bear book, actually, because we love collecting them. But as they get older, I imagine they’ll get a novel or a spacebook or whatever we’re reading from in 2024.

... and a new pair of jammies on Christmas Eve: I admit this is mostly for my benefit, because I love to photograph the kids in cute matching jammies on Christmas morning.

These were C's gifts last year

These were D's gifts last year

Sure, sometimes I finish up the shopping in each category and spot something else I know they’d love. But the problem is that there is ALWAYS something else I could buy. Having a system prevents returning to the mall to “just pick up a few odds and ends,” because once I’m done, I’m done. There’s no getting around it.

Continue reading in my monthly parenting column, "This DIY House," in Family Matters magazine

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