5 Tips for Setting Limits on the Holiday Gift Exchange

Image via Katie Hurley

It can actually be overwhelming to be bombarded with so much stuff.  And the true meaning of the holiday can easily get lost in the piles of toys.

Kids have a lot of wants during the holiday.  They are bombarded with images of the next great toy at every turn.  Often you'll find that grandparents, other family members, and close family friends are happy to indulge little ones during this time of year.  A little bit of indulgence is usually part of the holiday season.  But sometimes there are so many things that kids don’t even know what to do.  It can actually be overwhelming to be bombarded with so much stuff.  And the true meaning of the holiday can easily get lost in the piles of toys.

Sometimes too much is just too much.

From fun outings together to movies and sleepovers and movie nights, parents can offer alternatives to make the gifts more meaningful.

5 Tips for Setting Limits on the Gift Exchange:


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Image via Flickr/parcelbrat

Prepare ahead:

If you want to put a limit on the number of toys that come into your home during the holiday season, you have to give friends and family plenty of warning (some people like to shop early).

Call each person individually and explain that you want to focus on meaningful gifts for the kids this year.  Provide a few examples.  Be sure to convey that you really appreciate the relationship, and that’s what you want your kids to understand.


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Image via Flickr/Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources

The gift of time:

It’s true that kids love gifts, but they also love time spent with family members (especially grandparents).  The gift of time can be a very powerful thing. 

Encourage family members to consider buying tickets for an upcoming museum exhibit that might be of interest to your child, a play, the ballet, the zoo, or even a sleepover with a movie night.  One-on-one time with a grandparent or favorite aunt can be a rarity when multiple kids are involved.  It’s the perfect gift.


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Image via Flickr/Kevin Krejci

Learn something new:

Has your child been begging for gymnastics classes, piano lessons, or horseback riding lessons but time and money have made it difficult to fit into the schedule?  Consider asking for a few lessons for your child as a gift.  Perhaps the giver might even take your child to a few classes to see the excitement firsthand.  That could make for a very special experience for the child and the family member who gave the gift.  

{ MORE: Make a List: Check Out These 5 Non-Toy Gift Ideas }


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Image via Flickr/ironypoisoning


Memberships to places like the zoo, the aquarium, the science museum, or other local venues for families are the gifts that truly last all year.  You can enjoy one of these memberships many times throughout the year and will think of the gift giver each time you go.


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Image via Flickr/bterrycompton

Missing you box:

My kids live across the country from their grandparents and only see them a few times a year.  They miss them.  This seems to be more and more common for many families these days.

It’s essential to find ways to stay connected, and nothing beats pen and paper.  The letters and art projects that go back and forth between my daughter and my mom are heartwarming, to say the least.

Ask your long distance loved one to create a “missing you box” for your child.  It might include things like personalized stationary, fancy pens, a book of stamps, a personalized address label, and stickers.  Encourage your loved one to get creative to inspire frequent letter writing!  

{ MORE: Get Ready for New Gifts with a Pre-Holiday Toy Clean-Out }

Have you had success in setting gifting limits? Share your own tips in the comments! 

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5 Tips for Setting Limits on the Holiday Gift Exchange

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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  1. Profile photo of Ashley Ashley says:

    We have limited out daughter to a spending limit. We set this at $150.00 This is due to that fact that we have holidays all year and we do not want to take what Christmas is really about out of the equation.

  2. Profile photo of Joana Joana says:

    I think they are all good tips for when I have my loving angel here with us…

  3. Profile photo of Timothy Timothy says:

    My wife and I are only exchanging 1 gift each this year… Meeka is to be born next month and we can SPOIL the crap out of her… why you say.. BECAUSE WE CAN….LOL


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