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Posted on Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.

Children and gift giving: How many presents are too many?

By Tammy Mayrend

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A friend of mine commented today on Facebook, posing the question: “How many gifts do you buy your children?

It occurred to me in reflecting on that simple question, though, that when I first had my son (the first grandchild and only grandchild on one side), gift giving was very different than it is now, seven years later.

In my attempt to stay organized and to keep from being drowned by and ever mounting pile of infant and toddler gifts, the Christmas my son turned 10 months, I requested that family members buy only a single toy and either consider clothing or a contribution to some type of savings plan — be it bonds or college-fund contributions. This lasted all of two months, though, since when his birthday rolled around, he received enough gifts for 14 one-year olds!

The second Christmas (and birthday), I tried to re-emphasize that one toy was sufficient. I also reminded everyone that my son was more interested in the empty boxes and wrapping than many of their gifts. That seemed to help. Some. Except for my brother-in-law who considered “one box” with many toys a single item since "they were so small."

By his third Christmas (and my daughter’s first), our families discarded any suggestions to cut back on toys about as quickly as a Bugatti Veyron. Both children received piles and piles of toys. Then within the next two months, received two more rather substantial piles. (Their birthdays are in January and February) We might as well have lived in Toys R Us!


Young children are often more interested in the wrapping than the gifts and don't know what they received or didn't recieve, so how many "toys" do your children receive?

Tammy Mayrend | Contributor

Now almost seven years later, when asked the question of “How many gifts do you buy your children?” I found myself unable to answer. Luckily for me though, the requests to Santa this year from my children were rather manageable. Typicalyl each child gets a small box that includes several new outfits and jammies, one “large gift” (this year both kids are getting two-wheeled razor scooters) and several other smaller gifts.

In general, I can’t say that I have specific gift-giving philosophies, except that any money they receive has gone into their respective college funds. Friends and family often find it humorous when my children cheerily shout “college money!” when they open a card that includes cash or a check, so I suppose I have done something right!

What gift-giving philosophies do you have? Do you spend a certain amount or buy a certain amount of gifts? I read with interest this one writer's gift-giving philosophy to children and realized that subconsciously I follow many of the ideals that were jotted down. Do you have similar hidden ideals?

What happens when your children receive too many gifts? For the first three or four years, I actually hid 50 percent of what my children received to allow them to open the boxes at a later date. The excitement was still there, and they had a “new toy” to occupy their attentions.

What about gifting your children cash or bonds for their future? Does your family consider being fiscally responsible with their gift giving, or do they consider early estate-planning as “gift giving”?

Tammy Mayrend is a Ann Arbor search marketing professional and mother of two who blogs on low-cost local activities, events, and Ann Arbor area freebies for families at



Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 11:38 a.m.

We used to 'over do it' with our kids... Not terribly as compared to a lot of their little friends. But we really tried to give them the things they wanted. About three years ago - after they had opened their presents - I asked them what they got last year. They sat there and looked at me. There was a complete blank... They could not recall what they had gotten - not even their 'special' present. The special present is usually something that they really wanted that cost more than everything else. Now the kids weren't 4 or 5 where their memories were not very solid - they were 11 and 7 (8 within a month). Even at my old age - I could remember my Easy Bake oven that I got for Christmas when I was 8, the guitar I got when I was 10 and the bike I got when I was 12. I could go back and REMEMBER those Christmas mornings and recall what I had gotten because I wasn't overwhelmed by so much that it all became a blur. At that point I realized I was not doing anything special for my kids. Sure they could go back and look at the pictures and see what their previous Christmas' had been - but they couldn't relive the memories of it. They couldn't imagine back to that day and smile at the thought of opening that 'special' gift and being so excited to see that coveted item and know it was finally theirs! Since then - my kids take a lot longer to tell me what they REALLY want - they know they'll probably get it - but they're still excited on Christmas morning. I get them a few other things that I know they'll like - but not very much. Plus they get the dreaded gift of 'socks and underwear' - LOL - and other stuff that they need - new snow boots, some other clothes - stuff like that. They totally love the new toothbrushes in their stockings... Not so much. The thing is - they don't complain about NOT getting everything they ask for - and the 10 year old asks for EVERYTHING - to the point that I go to the store and open my purse only to find it stuffed with pictures cut out of sales papers decpicting his newest list of wish list items... The 14 year old takes forever to decide what she wants. But there's no disappointment on Christmas morning or after.

Angela Verges

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

I purchase savings bonds every year. It's usually not a huge deal to the kids because I just show it to them, then put it away for safe keeping. I also have the kids create a wish list of things they want and I share this with my brother, mother and other family menbers who want to buy something. No one has to feel obligaed but if they ask, I share the list. Personally, I usually get the kids a few items from their list and throw in clothes that I think they need.

Heidi Hess Saxton

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

@Allyson: What a cool tradition -- kids giving parents and grandparents gifts! (That would certainly simplify our lists considerably.) Because our family lives so far away, we tend to spend more money on traveling and/or hostessing than on gift-giving. This year we also started omitting gifts to/from extended family (grandparents excepted) as a cost-cutting measure. A visit is better than a present any day of the week!


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 2:07 p.m.

Me and my husband are unable to give my daughter a lot of gifts, but she is only 21 months, almost 2 year old, and still doesn't fully understand the Holiday season and the gift giving and receiving, she is happy just unwrapping the gifts. My mom gives mostly clothes, that are needed and truly appreciated, and a few toys, my grandma gives the toys, and we, mom and dad, give four gifts, we each buy two toys, my husbands family is Muslim and lives out of country so she doesn't get gifts from that side, they also have a different view on Holy Days, the children should be giving Grandparents and parents money and gifts. She gets more then she needs and loves all the toys. All money goes towards school, or things that she needs right now, clothes, books, bed sheets, things that you don't think of but come up because she is growing.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 12:10 p.m.

For our own children at Christmas, we live by the creed of "something they want, something they need, something to read." Three gifts each. Stocking are also filled, though, but they tend to be practical or small things - wool socks, toothbrushes, chocolates, etc... For relatives, it depends on the relationships. We don't feel comfortable directing our parents, and have taught our children to be gracious in receiving gifts from them. Gifts are not to be expected nor need they be liked. Too few realize this anymore. Children especially seem to think that they must instantly love everything they open. Some of their favorite toys are things that took them awhile to come around to. We do try to agree with our siblings, however, but even there, one must be gracious because it really is the choice of the gift-giver. My suggestion: after the gifts are opened and if too many sit around, donate what is excessive. Then the gift giver must be gracious in realizing that the gifts have truly become part of your household and are yours to do with what you please.