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How I Avoid the Holiday Gift Overload

It’s officially October, and that means only one thing: the holidays are coming.

Did that send chills down anyone else’s spine?

Because along with the joys of the holiday season comes the inevitable Christmas gift overload for my toddlers.

I’d love to say that our house is always overflowing with joy and sparkles and snowflakes and cheer during the holidays, but in reality, we’re overflowing with stress, commitments, pressure, and well, still sparkles (per usual, for us toddler moms).

From the overlapping events and parties to the endless tasks and projects that need to be done, holidays with kids is just… a lot.

Not to mention, planning and buying gifts for the kids, your spouse, parents, and extended family… and teachers… school friends… the mailman… bosses… party hosts… and the list goes on and on.

There IS Such a Thing as Too Many Presents

But somehow, what’s even worse is the insane amount of gifts my kids receive during the holidays.

Too many Christmas presents for toddlers

I know, I know… how bratty and ungrateful do I sound right now?! Just hear me out.

Maybe I’m being an idealist, but I want the holiday season to be more about family than stuff for my toddlers.

When my kids look back on their holiday memories, I want them to think about family traditions, spending time with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, going to fun holiday events together, eating big over-the-top meals at the ~fancy~ table, dancing to Christmas music, and decorating the house together.

I don’t want them to only remember the mound of presents that surrounded the tree, or the pile of wrapping paper that filled a whole trash bag, or the disappointed feeling when they were done opening presents and all that anticipation of what would be inside was over.

Something I’ve been extremely conscious of since becoming a mom is all the stuff. Even before the baby arrives, you’re inundated with all the new things you need, just to survive – nevermind all the cute, fuzzy, impractical-but-adorable things.

We’re extremely lucky to have a lot of extended family, who all love to shower our kids with gifts. I don’t blame them – toys are fun to buy, and kids are fun to give them to!

But what the gift-givers don’t see is the aftermath of the toy-splosions: the overstimulated toddlers throwing tantrums, the ever-infuriated whine of ~boredom~, the bins full of blinking, singing, battery-draining toys played with one time and forgotten.

So at the holidays, when everyone shows up with five gifts for each kid, it gets… overwhelming, to say the least.

The One-Gift Rule for the Holidays

And that’s why last year, I became the family Grinch and instituted the One-Gift Rule.

It’s simple: everyone can get one gift for each kid. That’s it. No excuses (despite the grandmas’ best efforts).

Hand holding one present in front of Christmas tree: the one-gift rule for the holidays limits toddler gift overload!

If someone brings more, then it either gets put away in a closet for a future rainy day or upcoming birthday, or the kids get to choose which new toys they want to donate to a family in need.

Does our extended family love it? Not at all. In fact, they hate it. A good chunk of the holiday season is spent arguing about what everyone can/can’t buy the kids. It’s exhausting for us all.

But I have to believe it will pay off when my kid isn’t a spoiled, entitled monster… right?!

And besides, we’re not just inflicting these restrictions on our family. We’ve limited ourselves, too!

The Four-Gift Rule: Want, Need, Wear, Read

For our gifts to the kids, we follow the four-gift rule:

  • something they want
  • something they need
  • something to wear
  • something to read

For toddlers, this generally translates to:

  • one toy
  • one useful item (a bike helmet, a chalkboard play table, personalized cups, a fun new backpack, etc.)
  • one wearable item (a new outfit, fun slippers, a dress-up costume, sunglasses…)
  • one board book

Totally manageable! Your toddler still gets the joy of ripping open mounds of wrapping paper, but no one gets buried alive by buzzing, flashing, singing, plastic monstrosities.

So yes, I’m a Scrooge. A full-on thief of Christmas joy. But I’m a Scrooge who’s just trying to turn my children into tolerable human beings. If demanding a one-gift rule like a holiday dictator helps that mission even in the slightest, then I’ll take that badge and wear it proudly.

The One-Gift Rule for Toddlers at the Holidays: How to avoid Christmas-present overload, and save your sanity!


Tuesday 8th of October 2019

UH OH - I may have already broken that rule. Oh well -- birthday is first....


Tuesday 8th of October 2019

Of course you have! CLASSIC grandma move!