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How much is too much? 21 parents share what they buy their kids for Christmas.

Christmas. It's such a joyful, wonderful, love-filled time with family, friends, yummy foods, gifts and holidays.

But simultaneously, it's such a stressful, exhausting, overwhelming time filled with anxiety about making sure everything comes together for the big day...

Something that I’ve noticed myself getting stressed about over the last couple of years is what to give my children for Christmas. I have a seven-year-old and a two-year-old and my worries oscillate between two extremes. 

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First, I worry that my kids are spoilt and are getting far too many gifts; then I worry that I’ve not got them 'enough' or the 'right' things when I compare myself to what friends are getting their children.

This year, I think we’ve found a good balance.

Our boys are getting one big gift – a trampoline – and then we’ve followed the 'something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read' mantra and got them a small present from each of those categories. 

On top of this, they get a stocking from Santa filled with smaller treats.

Oh gosh, now that I’ve written that down maybe it is too much and we’re spoiling them!

In order to ease my anxiety and also just because I’m incredibly curious about how other parents manage this gifting conundrum I asked 21 parents to tell me what they are giving their children this year. 

Their responses were super interesting and so varied, and they made me feel better. 

1. "My children each get one toy/bigger thing from Santa, and then a box set of books from us. We instigated this a couple of years ago because they receive so many gifts from the extended family, so we wanted to contain things and reduce the amount of stuff we give them. I’m excited this year because my seven-year-old can now read by herself, so we’re getting her the Ella and Olivia series."

2. "It is so hard to buy gifts for children when they get older. We are doing Secret Santa amongst the six of us with a $50 limit. Then we’ve elected to all do Ancestry DNA tests to be revealed on Christmas Day. It’ll be so interesting to see where our DNA comes from, and what combination of us our kids are. We opt for experiences over stuff as they get older."

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3. "We’re giving my son (and the whole family) a new puppy this Christmas – he knows (he got to choose her) and is so excited. Then Santa is giving him a Pokémon ball set and we’ve got him lots of smaller treats – pyjamas, Roald Dahl books, an origami set, and totem tennis. Plus, then he’ll get a million things from his grandparents!"

4. "Our family present is a week away with lots of trips to galleries and shows. On Christmas Day, each family member buys one gift for only $10 to give another person. That’s it. We try hard not to get caught up in mega gifting."

5. "For our gorgeous new five-month-old, I have been hunting for second hand gifts – so many baby clothes, toys and books are in perfect condition second hand as they grow out of them so quickly. We’re also giving her a handmade Christmas decoration to put on the tree."

6. "This Christmas we’re giving my daughter gymnastics mats and art and craft things, and my son is getting a pogo stick and a build it yourself clock. Santa gives the kids a stocking of small gifts – lip balm, undies, a favourite chocolate. Santa is the spirit of giving rather than a real entity in our house, so they understand that all the gifts are from Mum and Dad."

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7. "We had to close our business this year due to COVID, so things are a bit tight in our house. Over the last couple of months I’ve been collecting little bits and pieces from the op shop. Our kids are little, four and two years old, so they really don’t notice whether something is brand new or used. I’ve picked up great books for 50c to a $1 and lovely toys like shape sorters and blocks for a couple of dollars. I think I’ve got them enough gifts now and I’ve probably spent $30 or $40 total! My husband just got a new job last week so we can plan a bit more of a Christmas dinner now, which is great."

8. "Santa is bringing them a large LEGO set each and some stocking stuffers and then we are giving them tickets to Frozen and a few things we think they’d like. We don’t have a formula for our gifting, but the big stuff is always from us and Santa brings the smaller gifts."

9. "Mine are teens so they want quite expensive gifts now – PlayStation, handbag, etc. I keep notes in my phone when they mention something they’d like and save these to buy them for Christmas (or their birthday). I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of what I’ve bought to make sure everyone gets the same number of gifts and the value is the same."

10. "Santa just does one little toy for each of my kids – someone said to me a couple of years ago that Santa shouldn’t give big gifts because then he gives big gifts to kids in wealthier families and small gifts to kids in less-wealthy families which could be confusing and upsetting. This made sense, so now he brings a little LEGO kit, or a beading set, or something. Their big gift from us this year is boogie boards and new swimmers for our beach holiday.

11. "I have two active teens, 16 and 15. In the middle of our lockdowns mid year they got together and found a home gym on sale at Rebel. They pitched it to us as a joint Christmas gift, so we are done! We’ll give them some stocking fillers for the day of course – lollies, clothes, books, but it’s going to be a very easy Christmas this year."

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12. "We do something you want, need, wear, read from us parents, and then some cheap stocking stuffers to keep up the idea of Santa."

13. "I am taking my daughter to see Frozen, I also got her one toy she wanted, some clothes, and a book. She is at her Dad’s house on Christmas morning so she will get her Santa gift there."

14. "I have tried to 'fill a gap' in the toy collection this year – things that I’ve identified my kids will actually play with but don’t currently have and that we have space for. For my son, its train tracks and a mat for driving his cars on. For my four-month-old, it’s a 'hammer and nail' toy and a wooden stacking toy. I’ve tried the want, read, wear, need idea but they already have so many clothes and books – plus they really want and need my time and attention not more stuff!"

15. "Some years ago I decided that no jolly fat man was getting the credit for the bloody expensive 'big' present. That comes from Mum and Dad because we work hard all year to afford it and I want my children to know this. Santa brings the stocking stuffers."

16. "I am avoiding plastic this year for our boys – plastic packaging and plastic toys, so much trash! I’ve gotten them each books and clothes from Santa and then we’re going to have a trip to Sea World as our big present. They’ve also been getting into gardening this year (I encouraged this during lockdowns) so I’m getting them each a gardening set to play with too."

17. "My nature-loving six-year-old son is getting a butterfly chrysalis to watch it hatch then release. He's also getting a cycling lycra top to match Dad when they ride together. Then a mix of other smaller things – a book, a board game, pool toys. My three-year-old daughter is getting a gardening kit where you paint the pot, plant it and watch it grow, plus a hand painted bike bell. Plus small things like her brother. Santa does small stuff here, the best gifts are from us. I am Christmas obsessed but more in the lead up. We get matching Christmas PJs as a family, we go to a Christmas show, and we go see the Christmas lights. I map out December as a special month, but lots of the treats are free. I think the kids prefer this over presents."

18. "I’m desperately trying to avoid 'one and done' toys and focus on imagination or outdoor toys, activities and experiences, or things related to this, like walkie talkies or marshmallow forks for camping trips."

19. "My three are getting bikes. Done!"

20. "My kids are grown up so they all want money for things they need – new bed, gym membership, make up. I could go and spend hundreds of dollars on other stuff, but they don’t need it. Money isn’t that fun to give, but I see what it does and I’m thrilled for them!"

21. "We have bought our boys a Nintendo Switch console and two games to share. We’ve then asked for vouchers and specific games from other family members and Santa to extend on our gift."

Feature Image: Getty.

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