Here is the habit that helped us simplify gift giving for our children. Three gifts for Christmas.
The calendar flipped to November. Today, the days to Christmas widget on my desktop says 46 days. Time to panic?
Five children x how many presents????
Since early in our parenting, we have given three gifts to each of our children, just as the wise men brought three gifts to Jesus. Still, I could get overwhelmed with all the gift lists, the “I wants”. That is until I read about two simple solutions. Guidelines we adopted to keep the focus on Christ and the bank account from going bust.
Three Gifts for Christmas – How to Simplify Gift Giving for Children
A couple of readers sent in these ideas to a Wondertime magazine several years ago:
*“Every Christmas our five children receive three gifts for Christmas: one “gold” gift, the big item they are longing for; one “myrrh” gift, which is for their body, such as clothing; and one “frankincense” gift, for their spiritual growth.
It keeps spending down but also focuses on our celebration of Christmas and the gifts given to the Christ child. We send a portion of the money we’ve saved to charity.”
*“We do a few gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”
The specifics these readers shared put additional meaning behind each gift. Also, there was less figuring out and thinking involved for us parents! For example, last year for their frankincense gift, the children each received a new Sing the Word CD from His Own Hand Music. We had been wanting to get the remaining CDs and Sing the Word just happened to be running a bundle package special. Four CDs plus a free download – equaling five gifts!!
Just think how often this reasoning will come up for discussion with your children. And how you will get to share the Christmas story. Tell of the wise men searching for the new born king. How they followed the star, found him and gave him those three gifts.
You’ll be giving more and spending less with just three gifts for Christmas. Then you can enjoy January too.
Hodgepodge Christmas Habits
- You might also like our 10 Practical Christmas habits – frugal and meaningful.
- And our Hodgepodge of Holiday Habits – recipes, gift ideas and more.
~Originally published October 2010, Habits for a Happy Home.
We give our children three gifts, as well. I think it is a great idea…and helps us stay focused on the true reason for the season.
I’ve always wanted to give three gifts but couldn’t figure how to decide the three gifts! This is a GREAT idea.
Love it! We adopted this idea last year, before that I always broke down and broke the 3 gift rule =(
Kim A. says
We always did a toy, pajamas, a book, and an ornament when they were little (I guess that is 4 things!). The enjoyed knowing what the category would be but not the exact thing.
We usually have the kids participate in sacrificial giving with money they earn doing jobs around the house. We’ve done Toys for Tots and Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes, to name a couple.
I like these ideas, we are planning to do something similar this year.
My kids are all grown and married now, but when they were home, we did four gifts: one “special” gift (set out on the hearth near the stockings) and three “under-the-tree” gifts (1 outfit, 1 book/set, 1 toy/game/fun gift). Sometimes the special gift was a family gift, sometimes individual. Instead of a free-for-all, we took turns as each person opened his or her gift. Even with only three children, Christmas morning lasted for hours!
The stockings were a fifth gift, I suppose, but a great place for small, inexpensive items and treats.
Our kids now do the same with their own children.
Cheryl T. says
I like this idea alot, but my only problem is that my kids are 9, 6, & 4 and have always gotten tons of stuff from us and Santa. How do we start this tradition and explain it to the kids when they are used to something else? I think I can do the gifts from us okay, but what about the “Santa” gifts. Thanks!
I think this is something each family has to work out for themselves. However, here is how we do it. We also do Santa (http://habitsforahappyhome.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/i-am-santa-claus/). But our main emphasis is on the Three Gifts – explaining the meaning of the three gifts. We always make sure the best gifts are from us parents 🙂 Then we keep the Santa gifts to the stockings and a couple more things. One year we even had Santa bring their favorite sugary cereal – those things that we normally don’t get in the cereal aisle 🙂 Another year Santa brought a bigger gift for the boys together and a bigger gift for the girls together – less stuff but ‘more’. Just a few ideas and suggestions. Hope those help!
Cheryl ~ Our family is much like yours (10, 9, 5 & 1). For most of the early years we really went overboard with the gifts. When our 3rd child was born we were giving out one gift per person from each person plus a Santa gift for each person. That’s a lot of gifts! We scaled down by letting the kids draw names instead of them each getting something for all the siblings. They like the fun of drawing names so much, that I don’t think they even realized they would be getting fewer presents. Now they each get a gift from Mom, one from Dad, & one from a sibling. They learned the truth about Santa last year (& we’re not starting it with the younger ones). We also have one big family gift & let each child add one family gift to the box (like a movie, game, etc.. ).
I guess I haven’t really answered your question. I would suggest that you do it slowly. Don’t just pull the rug out from under them all at once. Scale back a bit this year, but add something fun (like a family gift or name exchange) that might take some of the focus off of the number of gifts. Then each year cut back more until you get to the three gifts.
I love Kendra’s suggestion of doing it slowly… and the sibling drawing. (Brothers and sisters have such fun deciding what to give each other!) When we started doing the three gifts for each of our children – they didn’t notice any difference – 3 gifts times 3, 4 or 5 children is still a lot of gifts – plus stockings and things from grandparents and other family members!
The other suggestion from that magazine (above) was four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.
And the Santa part of ours is just a fun addition – our older three know all about it. The younger two think Daddy is silly!
We used to buy our 4 tons of gifts. They were 10,7, 4, and 3 when we decided to do 4 gifts per child. They actually enjoy Christmas more now and are not overwhelmed by so many gifts. They actually use/play with the gifts they do get instead of several of them just sitting around a month later. It also helps me to stay more organized with my Christmas shopping. As for Santa, he just does stockings. Why should he get all the credit? 😉 The kids do get spoiled by grandparents, but I can’t control that…I’ve tried. We have just really tried to focus more on the real reason for Christmas and the kids have been more than fine with it.
Exactly! It sure eases the stress to have a guideline such as this. And yes, now that the children are all older, Santa is just stockings 🙂 I agree that honing the focus makes Christmas that much more appreciated and special.
Judy Brittenum says
So how do you give to grandchildren when the parents want to limit Christmas? How do you handle smallish families with two kids and five grandchildren. Trading names is one idea, but the issue is that you might give your own mother a present one year and the other child will not be able to. My kids don’t like that idea. Help?
Judy – this 3 gifts for Christmas idea we apply just to our children. We don’t place limits on grandparents 🙂 Our children also draw names – and each child gets a small gift for a sibling. Hope those ideas help!
Kim @ In Our Write Minds says
Our grandkids don’t need another toy, so we always give them a gift of a special outing. Depending on the grandparents’ budgets, it could be anything from a tea party or slumber party at Grandma’s house to a day at the zoo or a trip to an amusement park. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Our grandkids just love the time we get to spend with them. Usually, we take 2-3 grandkids at a time. Sometimes it’s siblings together, sometimes it’s girl cousins for one activity and boy cousins for another.
We have 3 kiddos (this Christmas they will be 6, 3.5 and not quite 7 months). We have a tight budget so I can stay home so her main gift to the boys is a class. She pays for my older son’s taekwondo and my middle son is going to do gymnastics here soon. Baby is a bit to young for classes now. She then picks up a wanted toy that we have okayed that’s a bit high budget for us and usually a couple books from our wishlist.
My mother-in-law mostly sticks to books, sometimes asking what we need sometimes just picking (but she has excellent book taste).
Both also do some clothes which is a help with my 2 older rough and tumble boys.
I love this idea. As a child of a single mom I learned less is more a long time ago. Even with my own children I have tried to instill these lessons. I love the way this incorporates the story of Jesus along with the gifts. Great post. Great site!
Love those ideas Kim! This year we’ve been enjoying ‘destination birthdays’ as a family. Each child has picked a local spot and we’ve all gone to enjoy the day together. We’ve been to the Coca-cola museum, the aquarium and to ride the train at Stone Mountain park. All things we’ve been meaning to do for a while. And, you are right, they really don’t need another toy. We haven’t spent more than we would have to host friends for a party and buy presents and we’ve built lots of great memories! A couple of those local trips complimented our homeschool studies too.
Wendy- I agree. Incorporating the story of Jesus is exactly the goal. And thank you!
We have always done the 3 gifts rule and explained that they are just like the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus. Then we do 1 santa gift and have explained to them that the santa gift is like baby Jesus and how he is God’s gift to us.
Annie Kate says
I love the symbolism behind the three gifts. I also like having categories: it makes choosing so much easier!
I agree Annie Kate! Keeping the focus on Him 🙂
We are starting the three gifts this year as well. #1. Ornament #2. Stocking #3. Book….some families like ours open a gift on Christmas eve. We do new pajamas on this days. We have 4 kids ages 2, 3, 4, and 6. After reading this article I really love the idea of doing a spiritual gift. Something to add to their walks with Christ. I also noticed different comments that I would like to answer from my families perspective.
First, we have never taught our children that Santa is real. I had a conviction a couple years ago that telling my kids a LIE and having them IDOL a fictional character was the opposite of what I was trying to convey to them the entire reason for Christmas. Families are trying to get back to the true meaning of Christmas. Parents are trying to get away so much from present and focus on Christ. Wouldn’t the easiest way to accomplish this is to not introduce children to Santa at all? Of course I have no issues with people who do the “Santa” thing. I just think if you do, it would be expressed as a game or a tradition of the true St. Nick rather than telling them think that there is a man who magically make it all over the world in one night. I have even told my kids to not spoil it for other peoples kids. They are not to go around crushing kids hearts.
Also we do not limit our family on what to get our kids. This is one of the reasons why when we first started 3 gifts our children didn’t even notice. We simply stated to our family that if they can remind them that Christmas is about Christ and not what they get that would be awesome. Not all families support a Christ view, we have family who are unbelievers, but we are the parents so we encourage our faith every step of the way.
Last bit. The easiest way to ease kids into less presents is to express that for all the money saved during Christmas we, as parents, can have more to spoil them on their birthdays. A birthday is the day to make it all about them. We have saved so much that we now set money aside at the beginning of the year in individual envelopes to go towards their birthdays. Now on their birthdays we tell them (of course they don’t technically understand completely right now) that they have $150 for their birthday. They can do whatever they want: have a party, go to dinner, buy a present, have a pampered day, put it in their piggy bank. But they only have $150.