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Simple Formula for Kid’s Gifts Increases Gratitude and Enjoyment (for All!)

After spending one Christmas with an overwhelmed 2-year-old, I vowed to limit the number of Christmas gifts that I give my kids. Isabelle literally ended up in tears because there were just too many things for her to deal with. Even though both she, now 17, and my -six-year-old are past the “I’m losing it—this is too much!” reaction phase, I think that overwhelm is still something for kids and adults alike to avoid.

If your Christmas is a frenzy of unwrapping, it doesn’t allow for time to savor the gift, genuinely think about the spirit that it was given in, express gratitude, and enjoy or play with it.

I found that my kids get a lot of gifts even if I limit my choices because of additions from grandparents, my sister, and friends. So don’t feel like you’re depriving your kids! Slowing things down and allowing them to be grateful for even the smallest of presents is a far better gift.

If you would like to give more than a stocking and the 4 item formula below, read on to discover how our family has adopted Advent.

A simple formula for Christmas giving is:

  • Something they Want
  • Something they Need
  • Something to Wear
  • Something to Read

A lot of families follow this formula or something similar, and some use it for the adults too. There are other solutions of course – see Tera Langland’s post about how her family shifted to just stockings – yet my kids have really embraced our formula.

NQM Tip for kid’s ‘read gift‘, ‘need gift,’ and ‘wear gift: I LOVE (and I mean LOVE) the book “What Do You Do With An Idea? It is such a great thought-provoking book for kids (and for some adults too!). I gave the set of “What Do You Matters” books by Kobi Yamada to a friend this year and got raves. Reina’s also getting the North Face Mittens shown as her ‘need gift’ which might get eye rolls from some kids but since she’s super into playing outside in cold weather, she’ll actually love them. The Bear Cub pajamas for her ‘wear gift’ are so dang cute! They have matching adults versions too BTW.

I’ve adopted the wear and read portions as a Christmas Eve present, and give PJs and a book to each child. I pre-wash the PJ ‘s so they can be worn that night, and have the kids wear them to bed so that the new PJs are in Christmas morning photos. Some years I give Reina 1 Christmas-themed book to add to our collection, but for older kids, I’d recommend opting for a heart-warming but not necessarily Christmas-themed book.

We’ve found that on Christmas morning there is still a lot to unwrap in spite of our limit: stockings filled to overflow, something they want and something they need, plus the gifts from extended family and friends.

Our preferred pace is to have the grown ups drink coffee while the kids open their stockings, then serve cinnamon rolls and milk to the kids while the grown ups open stockings.  Then we take turns opening one gift (or 2) at at a time so that we all get to take in the reactions of the gift recipient. The kids enjoy delivering the gifts to grown ups so they’re having fun even though the moment isn’t about them.

Christmas is so much more enjoyable this way! 

What to do if gift shopping is almost complete:

If you’re the early shopper type and you’ve already checked off gift shopping from your holiday list, perhaps consider giving some gifts on Christmas Eve or even the days before? Or maybe just plan to dial it down next year?

If the NQM gift-giving formula above is a major departure from your Christmas Pasts, consider this year a mid-way year between the NQM formula and a major present fest. And don’t think I’m a Scrouge, but given that it’s only the 4th of December, you can easily return things if you’ve already gone bananas shopping. Your budget will thank you, and strangely with less to appreciate, your kids will too.

Another option to consider for next year is adding in an Advent tradition.

It’s the perfect solution if you’d like to give more than just the wear-read-need-want items! We like giving a mix of smaller and bigger as well as homemade and store-bought gifts so decided long ago to give Advent gifts.

Advent allows us to give all the gifts we want but in a more gratitude-based, enjoyable way. They get a single gift a day starting December 1st which gives them time to appreciate it and enjoy it to the fullest before the next day’s gift. The other bonus to this is that even the small and inexpensive gifts are appreciated!

If you do give the Advent option a try, don’t feel like all items need to be alike. Some days they get a tiny item like a single piece of candy, a Lego mini figure, or a card. Other days, it may be something more significant that they’ve been yearning for.

Another idea is to give things for Advent that are holiday oriented art projects (like Gingerbread house kits or Target dollar bin art kits) or items that can be played with ahead of Christmas (the puzzle shown is sold out but this is a great get-delivered-on-time-for-Christmas option). We love playing games as a family so there are always a few games given which allows us to play them throughout the holiday season. We’ve given complicated jigsaw puzzles out early for the same reason too.

And last but not least, experience gifts are fantastic as they end up being memories instead of items to outgrow. This year we went to a special Christmas festival in Seattle which was a blast and other years we went skiing. The skiing year also gave a reason to replace worn cold weather gear on the advent days that preceded the trip.

No matter what your Christmas and gift-giving philosophy is, I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

Feature photo by Angela Carlyle, Advent photo by Neturn78/Adobe.

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