A Strategy for Presents

A Strategy for Presents December 21, 2011

Red let her son open my Christmas gift as soon as the package came, which meant that, to my good fortune, my gift got to stand alone instead of being part of a pile on Christmas morning.  He was really excited about it, and even called to thank me.  I think that it would be great if each gift got that sort of pride of place, but it is difficult in the rush of Christmas for a child to really stop, think, and appreciate each present.  Enter the Wednesday pile.

After the gifts are opened on Christmas morning and one or two are selected for immediate play, most things will go to a shelf in the basement called the Wednesday pile.  Wednesday is our day without outside activities, and while we all need the break mid week, by February, Wednesday can seem like a very long and lonely day.  Thus, Wednesday becomes the day to take out a new Lego set, board game, book or toy from the pile and then that present gets the child’s full attention for several days.  On this day, I am more free to help and participate if it is a new toy or game which requires set up or supervision.

With this strategy in place, our Christmas fun lasts through most of the long gray days of winter, keeping the children occupied and helping us all to avoid cabin fever.  We are able to find a proper home for a new gift rather than feeling like we are drowning in toys, and I can gradually cull old things that are out grown.

As you all know, I have some issues with clutter, and December 26th used to be a sad, sad day in our house, I would just sit overwhelmed looking at the gifts, even my own, and wondering where it would all go.  Eventually, I began to stress about this feeling througout December, and it really turned me into a grinch.  Before you judge me for this, just think about the multiplier effect.  If each of my children receive just four presents, that is 24 presents, and because they are close in age, it is likely to be 24 toys.

Now that I have a working plan in place, I watch with joy as my children open the gifts that thoughtful relatives have selected for them, because I know that this gift will not just become lost in a pile by New Years, but will instead provide us with fun, anticipation and things to do together for many months to come.  This year, my children already know that it is coming, and they must have liked it because they have asked about it and are looking forward to it.  A “plan” really frees a parent from being the bad guy — when the children know and expect the plan, it is not you taking away the gifts, it is just the plan.  It helps a lot that the plan comes with my promise to play with them each Wednesday and help them enjoy their new gift, and it is good for me to have a time when I really plan to lay on the floor and build Legos, otherwise I am always saying “not right now,” so the plan helps all of us.

I have found that it is really helpful to look at what your holiday stressors are and see what might be done to make this time of year more joyful — one lesson that I have finally learned is that I cannot change or control other people, and I should not try, so instead of, for example, continuing to ask them to give us fewer gifts or experiences instead of gifts (honestly, I don’t even want that many experiences on our schedule at this point!), I just needed to find a way to manage the gifts which suited my needs and goals.  It is just another example of what Kat called setting yourself up for success.  Oh, and I fully acknowledge that this is completely a first world problem and that complaining about too many gifts is irrational, which is why I am glad that you won’t find me doing it anymore!

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  • Becky Elmuccio

    We loved this idea when you posted it last year and used it for R’s first birthday toy haul. After introducing one toy per week, she has definitely kept playing with them over the course of the fall and this week (3 months post birthday) will be the last week of a new toy. So, it lasted a long time for us and definitely helped us out in terms of clutter and having her take time and interest with one toy at a time. Thanks for the great tip!!!

  • Mary Alice

    Well that is pretty great timing, running out of presents just this week!u00a0 I am so glad it worked for you!u00a0 Merry Christmas to your family!

  • Kat

    What a neat idea! We don’t have a basement, but we do have some room in closets – I might give this strategy a try.u00a0nQuestion: At what age do you have your children begin to write their own thank you notes? Do you have them draw a picture if they are too young to write?u00a0

  • Anonymous

    Our kids write thank you notes starting at 2-3. Our little one has to make a picture (hence the Christmas tree in your package), our 4 year old has to write Thank You and sign his name and our 6 year old has to write a complete sentence. I think it helps, in addition to cultivating gratitude, to build a relationship between the giver and the child, esp. if the giver is far away.nnWe do it ASAP, usually the day after the gift comes. I write a check list and leave it at their desk. If we wait, it becomes much harder to do!nnAlso, it is a good habit and good manners. My dad was always shocked at how few people wrote real thank you notes for interviews, etc. and those things matter!

  • MaryAlice

    My generally accepted rule of etiquette is that yo u do not have to write a note for a gift which was opened in front of the giver, with the exception of birthday parties, the school aged children around here do write notes whether they open the gifts as part of the party or not. So, my kids will thank grandparents, etc, in person, and that will be all. For gifts in the mail, we often do a phone call, because the relatives get a big kick out of hearing the joy in your little ones voice. If I were to write a note, I might include a snapshot of the child playing with the item or wearing it. It made my day when my godson called the other night to thank me for his gift. Our first big Thank You Note project is usually first communion, and it is like pulling teeth, but begins to instill the habit. By age 10 my P is now doing them independently and without too much complaint.

  • Helen

    I love the idea of a Wednesday pile. I too find the influx of new toys overwhelming!

  • Right Said Red

    I’m sorry I didn’t comment on this yesterday, but I think this is a great plan!

  • MaryAlice

    Seriously, it is the only thing keeping my blood pressure in check right now — my living room looks like the mall exploded, but tomorrow morning these wonderful gifts will be put away to be enjoyed throughout the year, and one rainy Wednesday we will be so glad to dive into that new craft set, board game or story book!