How We Help Our Kids Give Gifts

posted by Andrea | 11/30/2017

Believe it or not, I’m finished shopping for our kids this Christmas!!

I honestly didn’t realize how many gift items I had accumulated over the past year; but as I was going through things last weekend, I was reminded of several emails I’ve gotten recently — asking how we help our kids give gifts to others.

  • Do we let them pick whatever they want, even if it’s not an appropriate gift for the recipient?
  • Do we just buy the gifts for them?
  • Do we have a rule of thumb for how many gifts the kids give each other or give us?
  • Do we have a budget for the kids?

Like I say in almost all these types of posts — I’ve “only” had 6 years of experience with kids and gift-giving, so I am most certainly NOT an expert. However, we currently have a fairly simple system that works well for our family (and has worked well for a few years already) so I figure it’s worth sharing!

And as with most aspects of my life, I take a middle-of-the-road approach to this topic.

On one hand, I’m not a fan of letting kids pick out whatever they want (especially young children) because they almost always pick something THEY would like, and I feel there’s really no point in spending money on a gift that won’t be useful or appreciated by the recipient.

However, I also don’t want to make all the decisions for my children. I want them to be able to have some input in the gifts they give to others.

My solution…

I offer several suggestions and ideas and let my kids pick one of the options for each person.

For example:

When it comes to giving gifts to their cousins, I might suggest a handful of options for each cousin (often I even have the items purchased ahead of time so they can see and touch them). Then each of my kids can pick one gift for each cousin. They are all very frugal items, but still age and gender appropriate for each cousin. My kids love feeling like they gave the “perfect” gift!

For Grandparents, I take a similar approach, but also offer the opportunity for my kids to make a craft, ornament, photo card, or some other homemade item for each Grandparent. Sometimes we’ll put gift cards in a box and then let the kids paint the box, we almost always do a picture calendar for each set of Grandparents, and (as much as possible) we try to find useful gifts that are also fun for our kids to give.

Nora is now old enough to do the Love Bazaar at school — she picks out small gifts for Dave, me, and her siblings. This means Simon and James want to give HER a gift — so I basically use the same approach and let the boys pick a small gift for Nora from a selection of things I have in the house (chapstick, favorite candy, hair accessories, nailΒ  polish, a craft item, etc.)

How we handle kids giving US gifts:

Before we had kids, Dave and I never really exchanged gifts. Neither one of us are big gift givers so we honestly never did anything for birthdays, Christmas, Valentines, or even our anniversary.

However, now that our kids are old enough to understand gift giving, they want to give both of us gifts — so sweet πŸ™‚

Since I do 99.9% of all the shopping in our family, I will often take the kids shopping to buy a few things for Dave — some useful and some just for fun. We’ll buy his favorite candy, some funny socks, a new shirt or sweater, a yard tool, etc. etc.

I usually just order or buy myself a few things I want and let Dave wrap them with the kids. They usually also pick out some candy or a few other small things for me and that’s it.

The kids LOOOOOOOOVE watching us open our gifts, and you better believe we act really surprised!

I use this same approach any time my kids need or want to give a gift throughout the entire year — like birthday gifts for friends and family, teacher gifts, etc. etc.

I give them a handful of options to choose from and let them pick, wrap, and present the gift.

This way, I know the gift is appropriate and useful for the recipient, but my kids still have the fun of “choosing” the perfect gift for their favorite person.

I’m certain I will change my approach as my children get older (Nora is already starting to do a really great job coming up with gift ideas) but for now, this method works well for our family!

How do you young handle kids giving gifts?


Filed under: FamilyParentingHolidays

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  1. Hannah Beth Reid


    I was very interested to read your ideas and it turns out we are doing something very similar this year.
    The last month or so, we have been searching facebook marketplace for gifts for our children that are in good condition and things they would enjoy. Sometimes, people are selling several items together, so we had extra toys. If it was something we already have or I don’t really want (a singing and dancing doll…), I have resold them to help pay for Christmas gifts. If it was something I wasn’t exactly wanting, but have no objection to my children having, I started setting them aside to do a Sibling Store where they can choose from a selection of toys for each sibling.
    The thought of taking three children to the store, separately, where they need to pick a gift for their siblings, and we’d need to pay for them is overwhelming, so I am hoping this system works well for us this year.


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, that’s essentially what I’ve been doing too. I have a little are in one of our extra closets set aside for gifts I find throughout the year. I’ll let the kids pick what they want to give their siblings in a couple weeks. They get so excited once they pick something and wrap it that they want to give it RIGHT AWAY — so we usually wait until only a few days before Christmas to choose our gifts πŸ™‚


  2. Jana


    My husband and I are like you regarding gift giving – never a big priority for us. Therefore, our boys, now college age, are also not big gift guys. Yikes! Are we ever in trouble in they marry someone whose love language is giving gifts. They will need to learn that language in a hurry! πŸ™‚ I am guessing your middle of the road approach will last you a long time!


  3. Angela


    Our four kids draw names amongst themselves. They have fun thinking of and shopping for something their sibling would like, and I like the focus it puts on giving rather than receiving. This year, we’re going to add a “secret Santa” aspect to this, with them surprising each other with little treats throughout December, to add to the fun and spread the thoughtfulness and giving throughout the month. These little gifts will most likely be favorite candy or gum…consumables rather than clutter.


    Andrea Reply:

    I think we might do something like this once the kids are a bit older — I like the idea of drawing names versus EVERYONE buying EVERYONE a gift — that’s too much in my opinion!


    Michelle Bonk Reply:

    We have done this in the past too … but they all love to buy for EVERYONE.


  4. Leanne


    We’ve always had them earn a little money from chores and then would take them to Dollar Tree and have them buy 3 gifts– one for each wiseman! then they opened those Christmas Eve after church.. Last year, I got really clever and took them to Goodwill and they bought the 3 gifts because they had a little money to spend!! they loved it!!
    I’m always impressed how well my boys seem to know what the others will like!!


    Andrea Reply:

    so the 3 gifts that they each buy — are they for themselves or siblings? Do you take all the kids at the same time or one at a time so they don’t see what the others are buying?
    and yes, I’ve often noticed that boys can be very good gift givers — Simon is already pretty good at coming up with ideas for siblings and cousins!


    LEANNE Reply:

    Each boy buys 3 very small presents for his brothers (so, each boy is buying 6 presents)… ideally, we try to make a “date” with each boy to do that (example- I might take my oldest son to get his gifts, run an errand or two that I need to do, and then we might get a treat while I catch up on all aspects of middle school life!!)…if time is tight, we combine boys…but, we never take all 3 at the same time, because that’s just INSANITY πŸ˜‰


  5. Michelle Bonk


    Sounds like a great approach!

    And I will say, having your children involved in choosing the gifts they give (and perhaps gently explaining why some gifts are more appropriate than others) helps raise some amazing children.

    I was blown away the first time my oldest (now 16) bought me a Mothers’ Day card (store bought, not home made!) and gift (and had all her siblings sign the card!)

    Now at 16, 14, 12 and 8, all four children buy gifts for each other, mom and dad and grandparents out of their own saved up allowance. It’s beautiful.


    Andrea Reply:

    this is great – thanks for sharing Michelle!