When Getting Gifts for Kids, Less is More

Black Friday is right around the corner, and the biggest shopping season of the year is upon is. We have been receiving circulars in the mail for weeks, our e-mail has been filled with promotions, the stores are overflowing with goods to be purchased.

Is anyone else completely overwhelmed by this?


Giving Gifts

I love giving gifts, especially at Christmas. I love the whole process: from choosing items, to carefully wrapping them in beautiful paper, to presenting them to the recipient. It is a great source of joy to me.

However, the materialistic, consumeristic nature of the season can definitely put a damper on my spirit.

When it comes to buying gifts for my kids, I get super excited. I strive, though, to remain intentional about what I choose to get them. I don’t want to get them too many things (for their general well-being and our financial well-being).  I also want to be sure to get them the right things.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered about how to give them a few good gifts, along with some gift recommendations.

1. Limit the Amount of Gifts

Kevin and I have always tried to keep gifts to a minimum at Christmas. Firstly, our house is too small to house a bunch of toys. Secondly, we know our kids don’t need a lot. Thirdly, we want to be financially responsible.

Still, we thoroughly enjoy picking out toys and items for our little ones and watch them open them throughout the Christmas season.

This year, we are trying to structure our gift-giving to our kids (and each other) around the popular gift-giving strategy: “something they want, something they need; something to wear, something to read.” I’ve also heard families doing “something to share” and we are doing that, too.

I’d heard of this plan before, and honestly felt restricted by the minimal amount of items. So this year, if I’m honest, it may end up being “some things to read” instead of just something, but we’re using the mantra as our guide.

What I like the most about this gift plan is that it allows for different types of gifts, not just a plethora of toys. Our goal is to use it as a guide to find some quality items for our children.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting
Last year’s Christmas. We spread out our giving over advent season, so the only open a few gifts Christmas day.

2. Give Quality Toys

Especially for younger kids, toys are the revered gifts of the Christmas season. Giving toys is good, but it’s important to be thoughtful about the types of toys you are purchasing, and, of course, how many.

In Kim Jung Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, he spends a good amount of time talking about how to downsize your toys (you can read my article about it here), but also about the types of toys you want for your kids.

The best toys for kids are simple yet dynamic, not ones that are “fixed.” In other words, good toys require imagination and skill to use. A miniature guitar, in other words, is better than a plastic one with pre-programmed songs and sounds. A simple doll made out of quality materials is better than a plastic one that cries, pees, and needs a bottle. A soccer ball is better than a soccer video game. You get the idea.

Jung recommends choosing toys made out of quality materials, ones that will withstand a beating. Choose toys that are developmentally appropriate for your child’s age and are  fun to play with other kids. Choose toys that can be used outdoors.

Avoid toys that are trendy or commercial (which is most of the market these days), violent or corrosive toys, and toys that are bad for the environment or your children.

Higher quality toys can be more pricey up front, but better to have a few well-made, imagination-inspiring toys than many cheap ones.

And, as this article points out excellently, kids are happier with fewer toys anyway.
Melissa and Doug


3. Give Experiences

Give the gift of memories. Think of ways to connect with your kids and bond as a family. Things will break, get lost, and lose their luster, but experiences are likely to be remembered for a long time.

Concert tickets, a coupon book of parent-child “dates”, a membership to a local zoo or aquarium, lessons, a bedroom renovation, a trip…all of these things are great options. Plus, you are giving your child the gift of anticipation. 

4. Spread Out the Giving

One thing we’ve practiced that’s been really good for us is spreading out our Christmas gift giving. Kevin’s family grew up with a tradition of giving small gifts to each other on the four Sundays of Advent leading up to Christmas.

We have adopted and appreciated this tradition since we got married. It makes each week exciting, knowing that I get to open a gift each week leading up to Christmas. It also makes Christmas day a lot less overwhelming.

For our kids, it’s been awesome. They get to enjoy a new book or toy every week, and I can imagine they appreciate each item more than if they received them all on Christmas day.
Pediped Footwear 

This Christmas

So this year, we will be giving out a different gift each Sunday of Advent following the “something…” gift-giving guide. Then, Christmas day, our children will get a gift they can share (I’m so excited to give them the canvas , along with a few small items that are suited just for them. My hope is that they will be able to enjoy each thing we pick for them, and that it will be a blessing, not an indulgence.

May it be the same for you and yours, dear reader.


Gift Ideas

Are you looking for some gift ideas for the little one in your life?

I’ve compiled a list of our favorite items, toys, and books for babies through preschoolers. You can find them on the “A Few of our Favorite Things” section of our blog.

Also, here are some general ideas according to the gift-giving guide we’re using this year.
Happy Gift-Giving! 

Looking for something they need? See our recommendations for baby or toddler and preschooler products.
Looking for something they want? See our recommendations for baby or toddler and preschooler play.
Looking for something to read? See our recommendations for baby or toddler and preschooler books


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