As the weather turns cooler I find myself eagerly anticipating the holidays. The allure of extra time together and the excitement about traditions with our family leave me ready to plan the perfect foods, gifts, and experiences.

While there are many aspects to the holidays, decisions surrounding gift-giving encompass a large amount of time. Before you rush out to get the everything from your child’s wish list, you may want to ask yourself a few questions.

How many items will I give my child? How do I know when I have enough for my child? What is my price range for gifts? Is this a time for toys or for practical items?

After deciding what works best for our five kids, here’s a few ways we simplify holiday gift giving, while gifting them with special (and needed) items.

Simplifying Gift Giving

From a child’s perspective, the holidays are exciting because of the promise of receiving gifts. While we love giving our kids gifts and showering them with new (and wanted) items, my husband and I are conscious that we don’t want the focus of the holidays to solely rest in receiving.

In addition to giving our children gifts, we’re teaching them about generosity, about spending time together, and about excitement for our family traditions.

Therefore, for the past several years, we’ve decided to simplify gift-giving. We’ve adopted the four gift rule, where each of our children receives one gift from each of the following categories:
1. Something They Want
2. Something They Need
3. Something to Wear
4. Something to Read

By streamlining our gift-giving we’re more intentional about finding the perfect gifts for each child. Our goal isn’t to fill up a room with presents, but to find engaging items that will spark imagination.

We’ve also realized that, while we may spend a bit more on a certain gift, we’re able to keep our finances on track with a specific checklist of items to give. We know we’re done shopping for presents when we’ve gotten something from each category.

Are you wondering what we give our kids? Check out a few of our favorite gifts by age.

Gift-giving Guide - Baby

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Here are some gift ideas for your littlest one:

Want: Big Blocks or Legos, Musical Instruments
Need: Art Supplies, Teethers, Baby Snacks
Wear: Shoes, Fancy Bibs, Accessories (hats, hairbows, bowties)
Read: Classic Board Books

Gift -giving Guide - Preschooler

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Here are some gift ideas just perfect for your preschooler:

Want: Lego Duplos, Puzzles, Train Sets, Dollhouse
Need: Winter Gear, Sled, Alphabet/Number Game
Wear: Backpack, Shoes, Slippers
Read: Alphabet Book, Classic Picture Books, Magazine Subscription

Gift-giving Guide - School-Aged

Here are some engaging gift ideas for older children:

Want: Knex, Legos, Weaving Loom, Tablet
Need: Tool Box, Bed Sheets, Sports Gear
Wear: Coat, Specialty Shoes, Jewelry
Read: Magazine Subscription, Chapter Book Series

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An Extra Present (or Two)

While we stick to the four-gift rule, we’ve modified it by adding Christmas stockings. This is our place for little but needed items, with something special thrown in. These extra little gifts also give us an opportunity to shower them with something inexpensive that doesn’t quite fit into the four-gift categories.

Christmas Stockings

Some of our favorite Christmas stocking ideas are: fun bandaids, toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, underwear, bubble gum, nail polish, chapstick, crayons/markers, mini flashlight, or a water bottle.

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Planning for Success

While each family’s gift-giving traditions will vary slightly, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Young children will likely enjoy the process of unwrapping the presents just as much as finding what’s inside. Unwrapping something they need can be just as exciting as tearing through the paper to find this year’s hottest toy.

If you have older children and are changing your gift-giving traditions, plan to have a conversation with them before the holidays arrive. Talk about how giving gifts might change and consider having them brainstorm ideas in each of your gift-giving categories.

As the holidays approach, rest assured that you’ve planned well and get ready to soak up extra time with your little ones.

What gift-giving traditions will you embrace this year?



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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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