Present-Palooza! Ideas for Controlling Holiday Gift Chaos in Your Home

“What do you want for Christmas this year?” As parents, we hear our children answer this question throughout the month of December. Oftentimes, children use this opportunity to rattle off the first three pages of the Toys-R-Us catalog. Combine the presents they will receive from you with presents given by extended family members (who can be very talented at the skill of spoiling!), and the result is dozens of new toys & gadgets in your child’s lap.

Concerned about clutter? Spoiled children? Having your child rip open their wonderful presents in a matter of minutes, yet still find a way to declare “I’m bored”? I have some suggestions on how to handle it all.

Declutter and Donate With Your Child.
Throughout December, downsize. This is a wonderful time to make room for new gifts by gathering toys and books your child has outgrown. Does your child have a hard time letting go? If so, comments such as “you haven’t played with that in at least two years!” are frequently declared during toy round-up time! This can be exhausting. Try making it a fun and rewarding experience by allowing them to choose many of the items to be donated or sold resale. Then reward these tough efforts.

After decluttering, choose a favorite charity to donate your child’s gently used toys and books. Bring your child along with you so that he/she can see that their things are going to other children in need. Volunteering at the organization is a great way to teach your child about families who have a sick loved-one, or are struggling financially. If your charity does not allow children to volunteer, show your child photos from a pamphlet/website to see visually the impact donations can make.

Think Big. And Organized.
For those who are concerned about clutter and lack of space, think of a great big-ticket gift for your child. Large sporting equipment or a bicycle may be well-received…and would be stored OUT of your house (hooray!). A train table with storage bins, or a new desk with plenty of drawers, may be fun and make your heart skip a beat with new places to hide clutter in a toy room or bedroom.

Think Educational.
When choosing toys or gadgets to purchase or add to extended family member’s idea lists, consider what your child will get out of it. Is it an item that discourages social engagement and encourages “zoning out”? Or is it an item that builds developmental skills? Here are my favorite websites and blog articles to find the latter.

Top parent-reviewed toys and media

For children with special needs

For birth to 3

Toy of the Year Awards (useful categories include construction, creative, and tech toy finalists)

Stagger Present Opening.
Growing up, I had an uncle who had a unique approach on Christmas. In order to prevent his four children from ripping open dozens of shiny gifts in a matter of minutes, he allowed them to open one gift every hour. When we would visit in the afternoon, they still had presents under their tree…and my siblings and I were jealous!

I understand this approach now as a parent. However, restricting present opening to only one per hour is a wee bit challenging! So perhaps think about having your child open gifts as they normally do, but set aside one gift to open after each meal that day. This is a great parenting strategy to teach the skills of appropriate waiting and self-control. It also helps stagger the excitement of the day!

Teach Gratitude.
After all of the get-togethers end, pick a day to be your family’s day of thanksgiving. Put on some nice holiday music, bust out fun art supplies (stickers, stamps, glitter markers), and turn your kitchen table into a thank you card station. Have a young one? Your child can scribble on a note you write, or draw a picture. Before sealing the envelope, read the card aloud to help your child learn what thank you cards are all about. Happy holidays!


Posted in Articles, Behavior, Parenting, Social Skills.