I love giving my children gifts.

I love figuring out exactly what they need and what they’re excited about. I love purchasing the items and wrapping them. I love watching my childrens’ expressions as they tear into their presents.

Not much is better than the anticipation of giving a great gift.

Although it should come as no surprise, I’ve recently learned I’m not alone in my excitement. My children are blessed with extended family who also enjoy showering them with gifts. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even cousins look forward to gifting that perfect something.

Although we have structured gift-giving traditions within our family, this doesn’t extend to other relatives. This disconnect can make the holidays awkward. Luckily, each year we learn more (and get better) blending these worlds.

Tips for Gift-giving with Extended Family

Here are our tips for reducing the clutter and having a successful gift exchange with extended family.

Tip #1: Plan a Decluttering Day

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With five young children (in a house with limited storage) we’ve found ourselves becoming increasingly aware of how much we have. Around the holidays, the amount of new items that enter our house can become overwhelming.

Before the holidays arrive, find a chunk of time to organize your kids’ toys. Sort them into three piles: Broken Items, Loved Items, Forgotten Items. Anything broken (and not fixable) gets trashed immediately. Toys that are loved get organized and put away.

The forgotten toys are a bit trickier. Something older children have outgrown but a younger sibling might use is a good item to store. Something that wasn’t too special to begin with and quickly lost it’s charm might need to head directly into a trash or donation bag.

Tip #2: Communicate Early

While it’s always good to be in communication with family, chatting around the holidays really is important. If you have specific requests about the nature of gifts, have a conversation well in advance.

When communicating with extended family, be sure to explain your reasoning. Perhaps you have limited space or aren’t looking for toys that are large (or loud). Or maybe you’re trying to teach children generosity instead of entitlement.

Decide what’s best for your children and have a straightforward conversation. While family members are always able to choose what they want to gift your children with, most will appreciate guidance. After all, they would rather give a gift that has a place in your home than one that leaves too soon.

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Tip #3: Ask for Experiences

Simplify the amount of stuff you receive by asking for experiences.

Memberships to museums and zoos are always a favorite and something that can be enjoyed throughout the whole year. Trips with extended family members can be more relaxed without the time pressure that the holidays sometimes bring.

Consider asking for the full versions of learning apps or ebooks. These don’t take up any physical space and can be tailored exclusively to a specific child’s age and interests.

Tip #4: Offer Ideas that Work

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Preparing a list of gift ideas ahead of the holidays can be extremely helpful for extended family, especially those who don’t see your children often. A gift list is a great way to convey your child’s interests, needs, and wants.

A gift list can also be a great jumping-off point to spark the perfect idea. Reading about your child’s interests in building with legos may mean that he’s finally ready for the toolbox your relatives have been waiting to give.

Making a gift list can also give family members insight into clothing sizes or needed winter gear. Outfitting kids for changing seasons can get pricey and there’s no reason that every gift needs to be the latest toy when a pair of boots or slippers are also needed.

Also, keep your extended family in mind. Some may appreciate gift ideas ahead of time, while others may think being presented with a wish list takes the fun out of the buying. Know your relatives and plan accordingly.

Tip #5: Graciously Accept Gifts

When all is said and done, you have extended family who love your children. Enjoy spending time with them throughout the holidays and don’t let gift-giving specifics rule the day.

Consider teaching your children how to graciously accept gifts, regardless of how wanted or practical they are for your lifestyle. Practice saying thank you and discussing how each gift can be used.

After all, they may just receive something new to explore and cherish.

Explore more with these articles about the holidays:

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Balancing Holiday Traditions with Extended Family



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Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.



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