Top Three Tips for a Less-Excessive Christmas with Kids
A minimal Christmas is about trading—quality over quantity, presence over presents, and experiences over stuff. – The Faux Martha
1. Talk to your kids about gifts. Planting the seeds in small doses around the idea of only keeping what we truly love, use and need is a gentler approach than one day springing a big toy-purge upon them. When developing their “wish list” or upon receiving a gift, help them process things by asking questions like:
When and how will I use and play with this toy?
Is there space in my room/toy bin/other designated toy space for this? If not, do I want this more than something else which will have to go?
Would I enjoy this item more than a [blank] (date with Grandma/tickets to movies/other experiential gift)?
2. Shift your child’s focus from receiving to giving. I’ve seen success with this in kids as young as 3-4 years old. Instead of walking around the toy store, asking “What do you want for Christmas?”, ask “What gift would you like to give to your brother/sister this Christmas?” – it immediately shifts the sentiment. I love when I see the kids more excited about what they are giving their siblings/parents on Christmas morning than about what they’re receiving.
3. Set limits for yourself. You can try to control the onslaught of gifts from family and friends, but at the end of the day, you cannot control their gift-giving. What you can control is the amount and type of gifts you (and Santa) buy. Temptation (and absent-mindedly forgetting you already bought 3 presents and hid them in the closet) can be strong though, so I recommend setting an intentional plan about gifts. Some ideas:
“Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read”
Three gifts per child (following the inspiration of the 3 Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus – if was enough for Him, it’s enough for us 😊)
A well-defined “Santa system” to use year after year:
Santa does stockings and one large toy that is already set up
Christmas Eve is for 3-4 gifts from Mom & Dad (book, movie, Christmas PJs, clothes that are needed) and Christmas morning is 3 gifts/child from Santa
Another idea: at a certain age, you grow out of Santa gifts (example: at 13, you get something related to shaving in the stocking, and after that, you don't get a big toy from Santa anymore. At 21, you get something alcohol-related in your stocking, and that is your last stocking.)
Moving from a place of mountains-of-presents under the tree to less can feel scary, but setting this “new normal” expectation will pave the way for years to come. One practical idea to get you over the hump: declare that birthdays are the new Christmas. Even if you’re not that “religious”, Christmas = Jesus’ day. Birthdays = their day. Celebrate and dote on each child on their own special day through the year.