Let’s tackle the notion of presents for toddlers – specifically for the holidays, but the same ideas hold true for birthdays as well.
For a lot of moms, the holidays mean that you have even more to do and less time to do it. There’s pressure to make everything perfect, memorable, and MAGICAL.
And as if parenting a toddler wasn’t challenging enough, this time of year brings extra concerns like buying fun but creative gifts and beautifully wrapping them in pinterest-inspired organic twine.
This begs the question… are presents for babies and toddlers even worth it?? How much is TOO much?
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Rachel says “Of course presents are worth it!”
I like to have a big Christmas and that includes LOTS of presents.
I Start Planning and Shopping Early
I’m a bit crazy for Christmas, so I love getting into the spirit even if it’s out of season.
I like to pick up gifts as I find the perfect thing throughout the year. This way I tend to find stuff I truly think the recipient will love and I avoid that rushed feeling of last minute shopping.
Now a big issue with going big on gifts can be the cost… but you can still buy presents and save your wallet.
We budget for Christmas all year, so I know exactly how much I can spend on the holiday and there isn’t a big bill waiting in January.
Last year I actually didn’t spend a dime on presents! I used the money I earned from using my Ibotta app (read here to see how to save money on groceries with the Ibotta app).
Lots of Presents Doesn’t Equal Toy Excess
Like most kids, my son has lots of toys.
To maintain “toy equilibrium”, we don’t really give him toys the rest of the year. When he sees a Mickey Mouse or drum or whatever at the store and wants it, we say maybe he’ll get it for Christmas.
We don’t like to reinforce that he can have anything he wants or allow a slow but steady toy expansion all year. This also lets us gauge his true interest in a toy before purchasing.
Christmas is a special time where we can indulge his toy desire in a controlled way.
As a side note, I also like to purge outgrown toys before the holidays to make room for new things and donate them as a way to give to others.
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You Don’t Need to Go Overboard on Toys
Not every gift needs to be a toy. Honestly, not every gift really needs to be much more than wrapping paper.
Toddlers love to open presents! They love the shiny paper, crinkly tissue, and sparkly bows.
My toddler wanted to help open everyone’s gifts. Most adults don’t mind at all, but other children can be very possessive.
Having plenty of unwrapping of their own can keep a toddler occupied for a good long time.
Many of my son’s gifts were actually things that he needed, like clothes, and I would have bought them anyway. I just wrapped them because I knew how much he liked to unwrap them.
There is something magical about Christmas morning with a tree surrounded by gifts. I love my childhood Christmas memories and I hope that my son will as well. The gifts, though they are just one part of our celebration, are integral to our whole Christmas experience as well as a practical valve for toy intake.
Jo asks, “Do you worry giving
all these gifts will spoil your children
or distract them from the true meaning
I don’t think that one day of spoiling will completely spoil my child.
Though, I do agree that the meaning of Christmas can get lost in the gifts. We do include other religious aspects of Christmas in our celebration, but I don’t think my toddler understood them yet.
As he grows and his understanding changes, we may have to make changes as well. Going overboard on gifts worked well for our toddler, but we will continually evaluate and could change course when he’s older.
Jo says, “You don’t need tons of presents to celebrate Christmas!”
Before I even begin and everyone starts calling me a grinch, I should mention that my family isn’t a big “presents” family.
Often my mom will just take me shopping for some new work clothes rather than buying me a gift to open on Christmas morning.
Also, lately I’ve been working to become more minimalistic (although you’d never know it if you saw my house). This year, I didn’t get presents for either of my children. It wasn’t because I forgot to buy them gifts, it was a decision I deliberately made.
Let Your Kids Enjoy a Gift and then Explore Other Ways to Have Fun
There is no doubt that children are delighted by opening presents. However, I don’t believe that the excitement doubles with two presents or triples if they receive three.
Chances are someone in the family got my children a gift (usually my brother and sister-in-law) and they will get super animated opening it any playing with the goodies.
But do you know what else makes them happy? Handing out the rest of the gifts, “helping” dada open his presents, and collecting discarded wrapping paper and throwing it in the air.
Don’t stifle their creativity, presents aren’t the only things that can make children happy on Christmas!
Save Money with Less Presents
Less presents, and therefore fewer toys, also has some huge advantages for me as mom.
First, buying them fewer gifts means I save a TON of money that we can use towards other things. All those small purchases of $10-$20 adds up quickly, and before you know it you’re spending hundreds on little items that get played with for less than a year.
We choose to put the money towards fun family winter activities, like sleigh rides and skiing. These precious memories last a lifetime!
Another bonus, less toys means it’s easier to keep your house clean!
Related 10 Tips for Busy Moms Who Want to Have a Spotless House
Related Are Christmas Decorations with a Toddler Worth It?
Finally, I know it might make me sound preachy but I try really hard to emphasize the idea of giving during the holidays.
It’s so easy to fall into the dangerous game of materialism, where kids expect more and more presents every year. In my mind, presents should be a happy surprise and not an expectation.
If I do buy for my children, I give them small things they need for stocking stuffers like PJs, books, crayons, or shoes.
My grandmother (my kid’s great-grandmother) lets the kids pick out animal gifts for impoverished families at Heifer International. Rather than giving the families money, Heifer “helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty” by “providing partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.” Such a great, fun idea that helps you explain to your children how blessed we are and how we can pay it forward.
Buying less Christmas gifts means you save money, have a cleaner house, and instill good morals while STILL having happy kids. In my mind, there’s no downside.
Rachel asks, “Do you think
this may change as they get
older? Will Santa skip your house?”
Oh I’m not that naive, I definitely think this will change as my kids get older.
Especially as they become more social and talk to other kids about all the presents they are planning on receiving. This works so well now only because young children don’t know any better!
In the future, I do still want to remain more on the minimalistic side and concentrate on the spirit of giving. However, they will likely get more presents than they do now. We will likely have one toy that Santa brought, along with the rule of “Four Gifts” from their parents.
1. Something you want
2. Something you need
3. Something to wear
4. Something to read
That way they can have fun, but also realize there are more things we should be grateful for than just our toys.
So to all the stressed-out holiday mamas out there – remember that in the end, presents or not, your children will learn to love the holidays! Celebrate how your family sees fit.
Be sure to check out our other holiday-themed debates on Christmas Decorations and Handling Hectic Holiday Schedules!