toys, toys, toys – how much is too much?

Christmas is fast approaching and if you’re like me you’ve been “makin’ a list and checking it twice”, especially when it comes to presents!


my favorite gift this year...

I love gift giving. It’s one of the things I most look forward to at Christmas.

I tend to do my shopping all throughout the year as I see gifts or things go on sale so as not to blow the budget in December and also to avoid the manic Christmas shoppers rush. But it never fails that come December there are still so many expenses that creep up! Ingredients for baking, “special” food to cook for a Christmas meal, postage for cards and packages, Christmas lights because the old ones burned out, “secret santa” gifts, etc. etc. etc. And… there’s always that temptation to buy one. more. gift. that so-and-so just neeeeeeeeds.

But it’s not only the finances involved in gift giving that can get me agitated… it’s also the culminating mountain of “stuff”.

We don’t even have a two-year-old yet and already I feel like our house is filled with toys! I can only imagine this compounding over the years as multiple children and birthdays and Christmases draw in the stockpiles of toys, toys, toys! I get a little worked-up just thinking about mountains of wood and plastic and stuffed things taking over our house.

So how much is too much when it comes to toys and gift giving at Christmas?

I want my children to grow up having wonderful things to play with and enjoy and help them learn, but I also don’t want them to grow up feeling a sense of entitlement as gift-giving holidays approach. Like all intentional parents, I want them to learn generosity, not selfishness.

I’ve heard a few ideas for gift giving at Christmas:

  • Four gifts for each child: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.
  • Three gifts for each child inspired by the three wise men: Gold – the big gift they’ve been wanting; Frankincense – something for their body; and Myrrh – something for their spiritual or personal development. (This one I heard from Jessica.)
  • A present from mom and dad and draw names for the kids to give/receive one gift each.
  • One present from each person in the family.
  • One big gift and lots of little gifts in the stocking.

This year we’re giving the boys each new pajamas (on Christmas Eve), a present from us and a present from each other on Christmas morning, as well as some fun stocking stuffers. (We figure that will be plenty since they will also get gifts from grandparents and aunties and uncles.) We may reconsider our approach next year, but for this year it feels right.

Oh, and speaking of gifts… look for a fun and meaningful giveaway coming next week!

Dear friends, what do you do for Christmas gift giving in your homes?

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Nessa
    16 December 2011 at 2:12 pm

    That is a great gift in that photo!

    Since Eva’s birthday is in January… we only buy her one or two toys at Christmas. Something that teaches and is small. This year it is a wooden puzzle. We also got her a few books and signed her up for a dance class. We like “experience” type gifts… day trips, classes, lessons. My husband and I give these type of gifts to each other and have kinda carried it over to our daughter.

    It is easy to do this now since she is small – but I hope we can make this work even as she is old enough to understand and notice.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      16 December 2011 at 11:01 pm

      Yes, we have our January birthday too – same challenge! I really like the “experience” gifts, but we haven’t done much of that this year (though I am with my hub’s present!).

  • Katherine
    16 December 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I am in the process of clearing some space in our toy basket. I’m getting rid of the things that aren’t loved and played with. The difficulty I find is not in my own temptation to buy presents, but in the onslaught that comes from our extremely generous extended family. We have had conversations about preferring “experiences” (a museum pass, ballet lessons, etc) over toys, but now we just get experiences plus toys. And more toys. It feels like too much. We have a rotating toy system so they aren’t all out at once and I pare down and give away a lot on a regular basis. but yeah… it feels like it is over the top, in spite of how we try to keep it simple and meaningful.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      16 December 2011 at 10:59 pm

      I rotate toys too – every few months. I haven’t really given away many toys yet, but I can see how we’ll have to start doing that regularly – maybe just before Christmas and birthdays clear some out to make room for the new?? I’m excited to give more “experience” gifts in the future too. Everyone wins with those!

  • Alicia
    16 December 2011 at 2:27 pm

    This year is all about the home-made gifts for us. I was knitting a pair of slippers for Simon and one of my sisters boys asked if I’d make him a pair in his school colors. So, that set the theme for our Christmas. One of my other favorite gifts to give is photos. Earlier this year, my husband and I had the rare privilege of being alone with all 6 of my nephews and Simon. So we got out the camera and got some great group photos that we printed and are framing for my parents and siblings.

    I feel the same as you about all the “stuff” that is already cluttering up our home. After Simon’s birthday, we brought some of his “older” toys over to grandma’s house. Even though we aren’t buying him a lot of toys for Christmas, I have a feeling our families will be spoiling him a bit and there will be another re-distribution of toys after the holidays. Either that or we will pack some away for a while and rotate them out after a period of time.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      16 December 2011 at 11:04 pm

      yes, the toy rotation works great! we do that too. i also give “photo” type gifts to our parents – they are hard to buy for anyway since they don’t “need” anything so photos are always a big win!!

      can’t believe you’re doing hand-made. LOVE the idea of that… but where’s the TIME?? 🙁

      • Stephanie
        16 December 2011 at 11:09 pm

        We give photobooks to the grandparents and they go over SO well!! So far I have always managed to get them basically free through Pampers points or deal sites or giveaways. But with both kids out of diapers now we will probably have to actually buy them next year 🙂

        • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
          16 December 2011 at 11:14 pm

          yeah, love the photo books! we’ve also done mugs, calendars, etc. they love it all. photos of the grandbabies never get old apparently!!! 😀

  • Rachel
    16 December 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I’m so excited about this! I know this is technically our second Christmas with a baby but Xave was so small last time and we were so broke that this really feels like the “first” Christmas all over again.
    I spent a good amount of this whole year fretting about gift-giving traditions though. I know I still have leway to change things up if we need too but my family STILL cannot get it together on Christmas and every year, no one knows how the gift giving will turn out…I don’t really want to continue that tadition.
    I read about the Something to wear, Something to Read, Something I want, Something I need idea on Design Mom’s blog and it sits well with me. I don’t want to cultivate the ‘I need another present to unwrap NOW’ attitude that I’ve witnessed plenty of times before. I hope it works!
    I’m also not opposed to buying things second hand…not sure how well that will go down in the future but now it works a treat!
    Once we have other kids to add to the bunch, I intend to start a tradtion (when they are old enough) where we will help each child make gifts for their siblings (also something I read on Design Mom). I know it’s going to be hard work and time consuming but I want to count it as quality time with each child and it will help if I give myself a month or so in advance. It might be idealistic, but I think I can make it work. And if it’s not working…I’m all about changing things to make the holidays fun and not stressful!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      16 December 2011 at 11:08 pm

      yes, i agree. we still have lots of leeway! 🙂 i really like for the kids to be able to give a gift to one another. doing something hand-made is a great idea. not only does it give you quality time with each child, but also i think they would feel much more “invested” in the gift than just a “you pick it out and mom pays for it” scenario. hmmmmm, i like it. then again, we’ll see how organized i’ll be the next time around. *sigh* that one would definitely take some forethought and planning. (not a bad thing, but…… no promises just yet!) 😉

      • Rachel
        18 December 2011 at 9:55 pm

        Yeah…maybe that handmade sibling gift thought will come back and either haunt me or bite me in the butt!

  • Stephanie
    16 December 2011 at 11:07 pm

    I struggle with this every year. Mostly because my husband and his family do not seem to understand the concept of too much! The kids have so many toys it isn’t even funny and it frustrates me. And then my husband complains all year long about how many toys they have!!! I have read of the four gifts tradition and I like it. Am going to try to get my husband on board for next year. The one question I have about this one is, what do you put in the stockings?

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      16 December 2011 at 11:13 pm

      Yeah, we really love doing stockings! I think for us the important thing is not deciding what exactly goes in them, but deciding on a spending limit. Those little things add up SO FAST! I think it can be a mix of practical and fun things too. ie I always put a new toothbrush in the stocking, and usually a new bath sponge. 😉

      About the too-many-toys… Maybe you can have a December family tradition that the kids “make room” for new toys by choosing several to donate to the Salvation Army thrift store or something like that?? That’s practical but also might be another way to help them learn generosity and giving beyond the family?? Just a thought!

  • Betsy
    17 December 2011 at 1:19 am

    We do stocking stuffers and one big gift. This year the big gift is a train table, so we’re telling anyone buying him gifts to get him a train for it. That way we aren’t overwhelmed with stuff, but he gets plenty of presents. I think we may go “theme” again next year.

  • Trudie
    22 December 2011 at 7:17 am

    I give my youngsters 3 gifts each over Christmas. This year it’s 1 practical gift (I’m giving them their first little Tracfone phone ($9.99), a book for the mind and a set of Lego plastic building blocks for being creative and constructive. I don’t want my kids to be spoilt and I want them to start learning to do good deeds for others less privileged over Christmas time.


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