Parenting Guru: Managing Kids' Gifts when You Celebrate Hanukah and Christmas

When you celebrate Hanukah and Christmas, holidays can be completely overwhelming. I feel like every week between Hanukah and the New Year, someone is giving my children a present. I love the whole holiday season, and I love that so many people in our lives want to exchange gifts. But it can easily escalate so that my kids, (especially my three year old) begin to expect something new all the time. It makes me nervous. I know that my family and friends spend lots of time choosing the gifts for my children. And watching them open gift after gift, giving each present a mere thirty seconds before they're off to the next one, makes me cringe. I don't like it. I want them to enjoy and play with each present, making the giver feel like this truly was the perfect present for them.

Maybe these are high expectations. But I don't take gift giving lightly.

So I manage the holidays a little. Here are my secrets!

Hanukah: Some years we do the "gift a night" tradition, but other years we don't. If we do, each gift is a small token, not even necessarily a toy. I've noticed that my son really loves opening presents, and as long as what's inside is for him, whether it's a new book, new slippers or a toy, he really gets equally excited. We do try to open gifts as an extended family sometime during the season, and that's when my children receive the majority of their presents. During the season, my husband and I take the kids with us when we shop, and they help us choose gifts. And then, on the gift exchange day, my son will pass out all the gifts to extended family, (he loves this!) and then, with all of us, take turns opening so everyone can see what everyone else receives. It's fun to see how enjoyable the holiday is for everyone.

And then, when we're all done…

I casually invite them to choose one or two new toys. We open it and they play with it. The rest, I whisk away until later. Honestly, my kids don't even notice. They've had so much fun opening the presents and are having a blast with this new toy, that they don't even pay attention to what I'm doing. Then, when we have a rainy day, a cranky day, or a day where I just need to get some work done, here comes a new toy. It takes a few months to get through everything, (and my kids don't get that many presents!) but we play with them slowly and enjoy them all.

Christmas: By the time Christmas comes, my kids have received lots of new gifts. But Christmas is important to my husband, so we celebrate it. And I just love all the decorations! So, Santa brings one toy for each child. It's usually the thing they've been asking for all season long. My daughter is a little too young for this, but my son has been eyeing a certain toy all season. The toy will be waiting for him, open and ready to play with, as he descends the stairs Christmas morning.

I hope that my traditions help my children enjoy the gifts they receive, and realize that the holiday is about giving too. One of my other traditions is practicing random acts kindness with my children. One of my friends with young children suggested this, and I love it. During the month of December, she encourages her children to participate in fun acts for others. For instance, she pays for the person in back of her at Starbucks, drops off baked goods to fire departments, or has her kids make greeting cards for soldiers oversees.

My strategies (except for random acts of kindness!) may not last when they get older, I'm sure. But for now, it still works, and it helps them have fun, learn about giving, and still get to play with all their new toys.

Sarahlynne loves writing for Shine as a Parenting Guru. She's also the co-creator of merelymothers.com, a website for moms that talks about everything parenthood.