Gift Giving: The Kids

I mentioned last year that we give gifts to each kid in categories (Something You Want, Something You Need and Something to Read) from us. Santa fills the stockings and brings one gift for each kid. The three gifts from us to the kids aren’t extravagant, and I chose three over four because Baby Jesus received three gifts from the Wise Men. Thomas is at an age where this stuff we’ve talked about for the last two and a half years is starting to matter. As we were driving back from the post office last week, Thomas said, “Mama, tell me a story about God.” I {briefly panicked then} gave him a  rundown on the Christmas story {and then committed to brushing up on my bible stories} and Saint Nicholas and his modern version Santa Claus and decided that it’s definitely time to frame everything we do around Christmas in terms of our Catholic faith because he’s starting to pay attention.
But beyond the ability to tie it back into the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place, the categories help me keep things in line. We were out with friends this weekend and they were talking about all the things they were getting their kids, and I felt a moment of panic like I wasn’t generous enough or giving the kids enough. And then I gave myself a reality check. Anything they actually need, we buy for them when they need it. And there are plenty of cabin fevery days in February and March when a quick run to Target for a new Football or a $5 golf club set is all we need to make it through another two weeks without losing our sanity. So I don’t NEED to get everything for the kids at Christmas. Plus, they both have June birthdays to spread out the giving. Something that B and I forget about with our Holiday combo birthdays.
Here’s what’s on Thomas’s Christmas list this year (Santa conferred with us about whether or not our house had space for a train table, and we opted for a nicer quality set and if Thomas really loves it and uses it a lot, we’ll consider finding the room for a table later on. Or moving. But based on the beer and cookie exchange party our neighbors are doing this year, I’m pretty sure B will never vote for mvoing).
2 Year Old Christmas List

Sometimes it’s not easy to curb the present buying, even when the budget’s front of mind. But I have to keep in mind that our families are very generous, and what he doesn’t receive at Christmas we can always consider again for his birthday six months later. T really loves puzzles and adores a US States map we bought him when he turned 2 (I highly recommend this brand and this puzzle, it’s fun for T and fun for B and me, too), so I really wanted to get him a world map, puzzle or even a globe – GeoSafari anyone? I loved that thing when I was a kid! – of some kind. But there will be other occasions for that. If he doesn’t learn his countries until he’s 3, the world will go on. 🙂  I also really wanted to get him the train table of his train wanting dreams, but we just don’t have the room for it in our house right now. He’s at such a fun age where everything is cool and new, and it’s hard to not want to buy everything. You get the picture, the categories keep me from going overboard.

For our sweet Neller Bean, who is happy to play with the baby toys that were her brother’s, we keep to the same categories, but acknowledge that she doesn’t need tons, just a simple toy for her curious fingers, a lovey, and a “girl-y” book.

6 Month Old Christmas List

And of course, Santa will fill the stockings for all of us. He tends to opt for things like toothpaste, new toothbrushes, underwear, decks of cards, etc.

So that’s how we do Christmas over here. What about you? Do you have any traditions around the gifts you give? How do you choose gifts? One of my good friends grew up in a family of four and Santa brought one gift for the whole family to enjoy – one year a trampoline, one year a Foosball table…I always thought that was a great idea!

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  1. i really like this idea. tony and i never get each other anything really for christmas or birthdays, mostly because we don’t want to spend money just to spend it. but that’s a harder stance to take with kids 🙂 i think i might bring this idea of categories up to tony – and like you said, she will be getting spoiled from the grandparents, so we can feel better about being more frugal 🙂

  2. We do the typical 4 presents (although I admit that Avery’s ‘need’ this year was a car seat which has already been opened and installed). Not sure yet on how we’ll handle Santa. I’m pro Santa but haven’t bothered doing much with him since she’s still way to young to get it. I actually like the idea of one unwrapped present from him, mostly because I am lazy. I also asked all of our family to only get her one present. This wasn’t well received but I feel very strongly about it so I think people have given in. Since her birthday’s 5 days before Xmas she gets a lot that time of year and everyones been sending her both birthday and Christmas stuff. I’m sure things will evolve over time as she gets older and our family grows but that’s what we’re doing for now.

  3. I’ve bought very little for Henry for Christmas this year. But, I truly adore your categories and would like to try something similar as he gets older. I did order him a few recommended toys/teethers on Amazon, but I gave two of them to him already because I thought they may give him some relief.

    I ordered Henry a little book that I made for him with a Shutterfly free book code. It is a family book with a picture of him with each family member. So I guess that’s read. I also have a little Melissa and Doug set that I got on Black Friday. So, maybe that’s want? As for need, I can’t think of anything the boy actually needs. Maybe some bigger sleepers?

    Grandma and grandpa picked up the walk-behind Radio Flyer you recommended, so even though he’s still a bit small for that, I’m excited to see it.

    And, that was a novel!

  4. You are doing a great job of sticking to this! We do four presents (want, read, wear, need) after I realized I need some kind of structured guideline after C’s first Christmas. I also tried to buy some things ahead this year to spread out the cost in our budget, but the Christmas spirit really hits me and I have to fight my “must buy every cool toy I see” urges. This year he’s getting Annie and Clarabelle and a wooden train drawbridge (clearance at Wal-Mart for $6 and I couldn’t resist) for his want, a subscription to Thomas Magazine for his read, a long-sleeved Thomas shirt to wear, and a few big brother books as his need. The need was the hardest for me, since I feel like we get things he really needs as they come up, some of the things I could think of (potty seat, underwear, hats) we already have. As far as stockings go, Santa will be bringing some small treats we wouldn’t normally buy, like animal crackers and glow sticks.

    Oh, and if you ever decide you have space for a train table, I highly recommend it. We use ours every day and found it through a local consignment store in neutral colors, good condition and at a great price. I figure later on we can use it for Legos as we grow out of trains. Plus, many have some storage included, which is helpful if T will ever consent to having trains put away (C won’t).

  5. I wish I had started the 4 gift rule when my kids were tiny. Now that my oldest is 7 I don’t imagine it would go over well to have her usually large stash of Christmas gifts reduced to 4. We definitely include needs in the gift purchases though. My kid both have summer birthdays and I love that. I feel like we can get them the correct toys/books for their developmental level. We don’t buy toys for them anytime other than Christmas and birthdays though. Any random toys must be bought with their own money. Every family has to do what works best for them 🙂

  6. We do 1 Santa gift for each kid and this year are doing 1 joint gift (kitchen set). We really wanted the boys to have a train table, but I was sticking to my 1 joint gift. Solution: I asked my dad to build them a train table. It will be special because it’s from PaPa & I was able to ask for the legs to be removable for the option to put casters on if I ever want to tuck it under the bed!

  7. We do one Santa gift as well. December is hard for us with gifts with one birthday being 7 days before Christmas and the other being 2.5 weeks after. It seems no matter what we do we have present overload around here! My youngest has that giraffe lovey and its so sweet, she loves it and its easy to find a replacement if its ever lost. My girls have the barn version of that fisher price house and we love it. It has been the best toy for years now. We put it in our bathroom eventually and it still keeps them occupied at 2 & 4 years old so we can get ready without anyone getting too mischievous

  8. Im impressed with your ability to keep with the four gifts! My four year old son loves Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site! Merry Christmas!

  9. We usually do the want/need/wear/read categories, plus a present from Santa.

    This year we stepped a little outside that and got a few more things, but they were mostly things that the girls really needed and we’d been putting off buying for a few months because of the budget (like new markers since Lizzy’s are starting to dry out, pjs in the next size up, etc).

    PS- Not to step on toes if you already have one you love, but we just got the Jesus Storybook Bible for Lizzy, and we absolutely love it. It has a bit more info and details than some toddler Bibles, and just works better now that Lizzy’s in the “WHY?” stage…and helps me brush up on more story details too.