How Many Gifts to Give Young Children During the Holidays?

Every December at my center parents ask me how to not spoil their children and how to manage the gift giving frenzy of the holidays.  The follow are the answers to the most popular parent questions during the holiday:

How many gifts should we give our kids?

There is no magic number but if the kids are under five years old it is important to keep the number of gifts to a minimum. More than four gifts is excessive, especially if we take into account the gifts that the extended family will give to the child.  If we think carefully many gifts and traditions proceed from a parental desire or belief system. Kids are going to feel happy simply with the company of their family.  Be mindful that you may be the one giving them the message that more presents are better than less, especially to children under 5.

It is important to think about what it is that we are teaching our kids about holiday traditions and how to feel in harmony and community with our family. The question isn’t, how many gifts, but rather what do I want to teach my kids about the holiday season?

What is the most important thing we should teach them about the holiday season?

Each of us should think about our own family values. It is important to think of what it is we want our kids to understand about the holidays and teach them the value of what it is that we are celebrating. The values that predominate are: being with family, be mutually giving, and being part of community. Remember that during birthday celebrations, for example, most children under six are perfectly entertained ripping up the wrapping paper and opening the boxes.

How can we teach them that it is as important to give as it is to receive?

This is easy.  A majority of children would love to go to the store with us to buy a little present for auntie or grandma, especially if we include them in picking out the gift. Then, allow them to help you pack and wrap the gift and hand the gift to them. In this way you shift the energy from receiving to giving. A majority of children love to give to others and make them happy because they are motivated by the connection between them and their family members.

What are the best gifts that we can give our kids? Should we take into account their age?

When we buy gifts and toys we should very much have their development in mind.

  • For children under twenty months, ideal toys are those that increase their gross motor development. For example, cars or wagons that they can push or pull.
  • For children between 24 months and 3 years, toys and books that increase communication skills are best. For example, books and toys with which they have to interact or that they have to activate. 
  • For those over three, it is the age of imitation of mom and dad, and also of widening their fantasy world. For example, a dollhouse or a toy kitchen, toys that replicate the daily lives of their parents.

Watch this video and get even more tips on helping your young children learn the true meaning of giving and receiving.