Gift Giving Expectations


When it comes to what I prefer our extended family to gift our children, I waiver between the gift of experiences and practical gifts over toys for the holidays.

Here is the thing: gifts of experiences are amazing!!! Gifting the family a season pass to a zoo, aquarium, theme park, movie theater or other fun trips they can use over and over through the year is so valuable. I can remember back when my kids were both toddlers, having a pass to the aquarium was an amazing way to entertain them during the weekdays or weekends when their dad was working and I was on my own – without having to spend a bunch of money. This kind of gift from extended family could be a lifeline to a momma during the hard days all year round. That said, I can also understand that gifts like these tend to come with a pretty high price tag, and that can be difficult for someone to ask for.

On the flip side…..

There are years when our family’s budget gets tight, and the holidays stress me out. We have been living on one income for 4 years now, and it has only become HARDER in the last few years. These budget constraints often mean that while we normally try to get the kids one or two of the fun toys or things that have been asked for, we end up limiting that to one toy each. To be fair, this is mostly because we know they have three sets of grandparents and two sets of great-grandparents that are going to be gifting them something for Christmas which can mean we end up with an excess of toys once all of the gifts have been unwrapped! It is kind of funny knowing that the kids will laugh at the fact that Santa brought them underwear while they play with the toys grandparents gave them, but honestly, it takes some of the pressure off of mom and dad (and Santa).

So here in lies my struggle: Do I ask for the things that could enrich the kids and give us budget-friendly activities throughout the year but come with a hefty price tag for the gift giver, or do I ask for the toys that end up cluttered in the rooms and thrown into a toy chest?

Do you see my dilemma? They both have upsides and downsides. I see so many posts lately that rate the gift of experience as a better choice over material gifts, but I think it really depends on the family, the kid, and the person giving the gift. The ages of the child is also really an important factor. My kids, while not babies or toddlers, are still elementary-aged. That means their little brains don’t quite grasp things presented to them that are too far out and not tangible. This is not to say they are incapable of being grateful for a gift of experience and would react negatively, but it would definitely mean they would have to be sold on why it is a better gift than the Magic Mixies Crystal Ball they asked for. If you are gifting a baby, obviously they will not have a clue what is going on either way.

I write this not because I am against one or the other of these options, but mostly because I am really in favor of all options. And I often feel a lot of pressure to jump on one bandwagon or the other in regard to gifts given to our family. When you are seeing these buzzword memes shared around the holidays it can make you start to feel bad or question your parenting methods. Am I too indulgent? Are my kids spoiled? Am I not doing enough? Am I doing too much?

AHHHHHH It’s enough to make your head explode!

For me, I try to go somewhere in the middle, and I give our extended family a few options when they start asking what the kids want for Christmas or their birthdays. I will give them a few options, like a pass to the zoo or a gift certificate to our local movie theater, and then I also send them links to a couple of the toys they have asked for. This works for us because then we can plan for an abundance of toys but still get pleasantly surprised by some movie passes!

Here is my one request: if you are reading this and someone in your family has explicitly asked that you NOT buy toys for their kids, this post is not your “Get out of Jail” pass to ignore their wishes. Every family is different and if they have asked that toys not be in the equation I would STRONGLY urge you to respect those wishes. If you feel that the things that they have asked for are not in your budget then please have a conversation with that person. Let them know what your budget is, or what you think might be a good compromise, and work out a solution together. I have seen so many family relationships break down because one party refuses to respect boundaries set by the other. And if you are a momma and you are drowning in clutter and toys, IT IS OKAY to speak up and set gift-giving boundaries with your families.

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Jennifer is a Coastal Bend Native, born and raised in Ingleside. She began contributing to the Corpus Christi Moms Blog in 2018 and stepped up as the Community Engagement Coordinator in 2019. She is happiest when she is crafting, writing, or doing anything artistic. She loves music, especially ANYTHING from the 90's, and is often seen dancing around the kitchen to Nsync while cooking dinner. She is married to Derik and has two kids, Connor and Keeley (pronounced Key-Lee). Jennifer still feels like a novice when it comes to parenting and enjoys letting other moms know they are not doing life alone. She also admits she watches copious amounts of Netflix, but balances that out by reading to and with her kiddos as much as possible each day.