A simple Christmas means not focusing so much on gifts, that’s certainly true. But considering the time, expense, thought, and effort involved, it’s only natural to hope the gifts we do give and receive will be good ones.
I asked a panel of wise women for their advice in gift-giving, and they shared much of their experience, especially about simplifying how we give gifts to children.
Scale Back on Unneeded Toys
Alana had previously commented, “Over the past few years we’ve scaled back a little… The problem we have is convincing other family members to take it easy with gifts for the kids.” Alana suggests asking grandparents for “experience gifts” instead of things.
Knowing how some people get started with shopping early, it might be too late for this year, but early next year you can talk more with grandparents about your plans for fewer gifts. Be honest, be positive, and share about the imaginative ways your kids really like to play.
Prior to Christmas time is a great time to clean out the toy box, give it away to others, sell it at a yard sale, take it to a homeless shelter or to a battered womens shelter. Instill the sense of giving to your child as they see you model this in your life.
Talk About It
If extended family members don’t seem to want to cut back on gifts, then you can still make suggestions. Grandparents who live far away might not know what would either be age-appropriate for the child or what the child would enjoy, and your suggestions could help.
Have a list of gift ideas ready for those who ask: you can include the product name, price, and a store which carries it. You can even keep an ongoing wish list online.
I asked some of our family if they wanted to draw names for gifts, and they were glad to do that.
It’s Not About the Gifts
To take the emphasis away from gifts, don’t pile them under the tree right away. Wait until Christmas Eve to bring them out, so family members aren’t constantly being reminded of them.
Check your own shopping impulses. We know our families will want to buy presents for Lane, so we keep that in mind as we shop for her. We typically buy three presents for Lane (that’s as many as her attention span can handle, in any case).
No matter what the gift is, use this opportunity to teach your child to receive it in a respectful manner. You can always re-gift it later.
Let the Gift Be Secondary to the Experience
For small children, the surprise in opening a gift is better than the gift itself. I can see this so clearly in an old family photo.
On Christmas morning in 1981, I had a look of pure glee on my face after discovering a brown banana in my stocking. The stockings filled with fruit and little toys would have been enough, without the other gifts.
I see how Lane gets excited about gifts, even when they’re not for her. She mainly likes opening them, but even that won’t hold her attention all morning.
Promote Easy Gift Policies
Enclosing the gift receipt saves your loved ones from the embarrassment of asking for it, and lets them know you won’t be offended if they want to return the gift.
Along with providing the receipt, pay for gifts with cash instead of using your credit card. This makes it easier for someone to receive a cash refund instead of store credit for the gift. (Most companies won’t give a cash refund on a credit card purchase.)
When giving a gift card, check to make sure a store is located within a reasonable distance from the recipient’s home.
If the grandparents give your child something that doesn’t interest them, return it and purchase something that you can say is from them.
Above all, don’t compare the price of a gift to a measure for love. I know that goes without saying, but it still seems like people feel that way sometimes. Don’t try to top last year’s gift each year, and don’t believe for a minute that there is one perfect gift that can be found in a department store.