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How To Keep Gift Giving Under Control

How To Keep Gift Giving Under Control

With the holidays just beginning, my husband and I have been thinking about how to address guidelines we’d like to set around gift-giving for our daughter (mainly, how to we keep gift giving under control). Because she’s the first grandchild on his side, and the first local grandchild on mine, we have a hunch that the holidays are going to be filled to the brim with gifts for her. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful by any means, as I know it’s all done through love and consideration for her, but at the end of the day, she’ll be just nine months old and we are anticipating a lot of, well, STUFF.

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There’s a fine line between letting grandparents be grandparents, to love and spoil their grandchildren to their heart’s content, and letting parents be parents, trying to raise a child aware of the world we live in and who is grateful for what they have. How do you keep gift giving under control? More specifically, how do you find that balance without stepping on toes or offending anyone? And how do you get them to respect your parenting choices?


While we haven’t yet found a solution for our family yet, there are a couple of traditions my husband and I have learned from our friends with older children that we would like to adopt once our daughter is old enough. We hope these will help manage the overflow of “STUFF”, expand her lens of the world around her, and teach her to appreciate what she has, as well as the gift of giving.

For each new toy she receives, we’ll ask her to donate one toy. And by donate, I mean more than just setting it aside for mommy or daddy to drop off for donation. We want her to be involved in the actual donation, by either physically bringing it and putting it into the donation bin, or better yet, visiting the organization to learn more about how her donation will impact others. We hope that this gives her an opportunity to be more involved and learn how she can help others.

I recently spent some time with some of my colleagues volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, a wonderful organization providing the essentials to children in need. We helped sort and pack clothing, winter gear and toys for children in need, and I have to say that being in that warehouse seeing all the donations and learning about the number of children the organization helps each year really brings a different perspective to the act of donating. I hope this is an activity we can do as a family when our daughter is older.

Cycling toys in and out. What was once new becomes old, which means a child will often lose interest. But take it away and hide it for a month or two and it suddenly it becomes a “new” toy when it’s revealed once again. It’ll also help us begin to seed values around appreciating what you already have as opposed to the constant need for the latest and greatest new toy. It definitely works for me when I rediscover old clothes (that fit) in the back of my closet. It’s like I went shopping without having to spend a dime!

Back to the holidays, which, I don’t know about you, quickly snuck up on me this year! I’d really like to set a limit on gifts, be it a number of gifts, types of gifts, or a maximum price tag to help ensure we don’t end up swimming in piles of stuff that our daughter will outgrow before she can really appreciate them. I have been given Amazon Wish Lists in the past for various children’s birthdays and holidays. As the gift giver, I actually found this super helpful, but I always like to add a little something on top of the gifts they’ve chosen to put some thought and personalization into the gift. But I have yet to do this on the receiving end. What do you think, is this practice viewed as tacky?

Have you set any gift-giving guidelines for the grandparents or other family members? I’d love to hear your advice!



LauraI’m a first-time mom, employee of Bright Horizons and a foodie who loves to cook, travel and laugh. In my free time, I like to pretend I know how to use my DSLR like a pro and do basically all things creative (major DIY-er here). I’m excited to share some of the ups-and-downs of parenthood as my husband, two dogs and our newest addition explore life as a family of five!


  1. Lori December 2, 2015 at 10:32 am

    I love Amazon Wish Lists and also find them super helpful. Unless I see something that I think is unique or that one of my sister-in-laws may not have seen yet (like the year I found Plasma Cars at Fat Brain Toys), we just trade wish-lists. This cuts down on frustration and having to return duplicates (oops, another baby piano) or not-quite-right gifts.

  2. Laura December 2, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Great to know that you also use and appreciate Amazon Wish Lists, Lori. I think we’ll have to consider creating one for Kayla soon!

  3. Profile photo of Kate

    Kate December 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Donation is great–we actually do a round before the holidays so there is room before the new toys get there. And toy rotation is a great way to ensure kids actually enjoy their toys. I took note of the amazing way they do it at Liam’s center and tried to do the same thing at home.

    We’ve tried to set rules with grandparents over the years but to keep things simple, we now have one rule–you don’t mess with the Santa list. We talk to Liam about what he wants to ask Santa for and those gifts are off limits for anyone else. We usually create an Amazon wish list that we’ll send on request but not proactively. We also encourage grandparents to purchase gifts that stay at their house so Liam has toys when he comes to visit–this has been great for allowing them to get some larger scale toys without completely taking over our house.

    • Laura December 2, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      I love the idea of grandparents buying gifts that stay at their house for our visits! I’m sure that will make them think twice about getting so much for her.

  4. Organized Mom December 2, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    The donation of used toys is great in theory but hard in practice. I find many organizations don’t want used toys. This leads me to selling old toys online (which also helps me stomach the bills that pour in after Christmas). I sent my kids into the playroom a few weeks ago and they made a pile of toys that could be discarded. I then went through it and pitched some of it, but then took photos and posted the rest for selling. Our toys are kept in relatively good condition – I keep all instructions, game boxes aren’t torn and generally most pieces are easy to find. I do donate a few toys but more clothes than toys. We typically instead “adopt” a couple kids to buy new gifts for around the holidays. My kids love participating in this exercise.

    As for limiting gifts that we receive, it is SO hard! My kids don’t need anything. My parents don’t really do gifts for Christmas so that’s easy. My in-laws however, there are more gifts under their tree than mine! Granted it’s for more people but my kids get more than enough at their house regardless. The first few years I shared the same list I had with them but that made my own shopping impossible! My mother-in-law wants a list before Black Friday. I get it, she wants to take advantage of deals but I haven’t even figured out what I’m getting the kids for Christmas yet so she now just has to wait until I can do that. (Speaking of, I owe her a list!)

    When my kids were younger, like Laura, I swapped them out. I had a bin in the attic and literally swapped out toys every few weeks, it was great! Now, we just continue to clean out the playroom throughout the year. I do think that as my kids are getting older, the gifts are getting pricier (or smaller like earrings for my daughter) so we don’t need as much. At least I think that will be the case this year!

  5. Karin December 4, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    When our kids were little (and at Bright Horizons), we asked one set of grandparents how we could solve this question. They suggested that they would get the kids “something to read, something to wear, and something to play with”. They’ve done that every year since. Now that our guys are teens, “something to play with” is often video games and “something to wear” is often a check so they can buy their own favorite styles, but the concept has worked great for us.

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