Holiday Gifts For Children

Many families are starting to think about holiday gifts (and perhaps panicking a bit as the holidays seem a bit closer than one realizes!)

I wanted to reiterate my plea for having a very healthy, fun, beautiful and peaceful holiday with a limited focus on the external trappings of gifts, consumerism and commercialism.  I don’t know if any of you remember the lovely guest that Christine Natale did last year for The Parenting Passageway and talked about some of her traditions that were not centered on the materialistic things, but on joyous fun and generosity spread out throughout a season:

My number one suggestion would be to see if you can extend a generous attitude of giving to both your children and those outside your family for the whole season.  In my family, we have giving of small things to each other and outside our home starting with Thanksgiving ( we give to a local food bank), St. Nicholas Day (making bread or cookies for our neighbors), Santa Lucia Day (buns), Christmas Eve (pajamas for the children), Christmas Day (three gifts each), small things scattered randomly through the Twelve Days of Christmas, and Epiphany (usually a game for the family).  The gifts can be very small, and handmade (in fact, I encourage you to do that!) .  There are many families who do things much, much simpler than I do, and I also encourage you to take that route and to really find what works for your family.

My number two suggestion is to prepare your home for this by going through your “toy space” or your children’s rooms and really give them a good decluttering. Perhaps you can bless a family who has very little through your generosity.

I love this passage from the chapter on “Environment” in the book “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne:  “Imagine all of your children’s toys in a mountain at the center of their room.  You’ve rounded up all of the outpost piles wherever they gather and grow through the house.  The large bin of bathtub toys, the pile near your phone (which sometimes allows you to talk a moment longer), the ones stuffed into bins and drawers, the revolving bunch that always end up on the kitchen table…add all of these to the heap.

The pile needs to be halved, and halved again, and perhaps halved again.”


This is such an interesting thought for this time of year.

My number three suggestion is to look carefully at what your children really need.  What do they really need for clothes, for shoes, for outerwear, for toys, for art supplies?  Creativity is often born of the simplest “un-toys”, where children can put their own heart and soul into these toys.  I wrote more about that here:  and here: , which contains a listing of toys by age.

I would love to hear about your simple holiday plans!

Many blessings,


36 thoughts on “Holiday Gifts For Children

  1. Hi Carrie,

    Three gifts each sounds great. I am wondering is that 3 from mom/dad + one Santa gift, or are all 3 Santa gifts and no mom/dad? We are still working out our own little formula for gifts to make it simple. I really like what you have set up, and the family game on Epiphany I may have to steal! 🙂


    • Christina,
      The three gifts are combination us/Saint Nicholas…usually the smallest gift is from Santa…
      And I love a good board game at Epiphany (or now that mine are older, I love puzzles so maybe a puzzle!) because we have that heading into the dark days of January…


  2. I love your blog! I have been reading for over a year now and I find it such a breath of fresh air. This topic really hits home for me. I have learned that less really is more. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment of consumption and consumerism, especially during the holiday season and that is not what I wish to model for my children. I am so grateful for your reminder to step back and meditate on what really is important. Thank you Carrie!

  3. Hi Carrie, I’m interested in how everyone works with Father Christmas presents. I decided early on that I wanted these to be fairly small presents, rather than say… a new bike. The reasoning was that when they no longer believe in Father Christmas, I don’t want them to feel like the bottom has fallen out of Christmas. Then I started making the Father Christmas presents shop presents because I didnt want the children to recognise that they were made by me. Now I’m thinking that wasn’t such a good idea because they ‘put in an order’ and its very specific…I want a “littlest pet shop pet”. Which doesnt seem very magical to me. Also it just gets very materialistic and commercial. Soooo where does that leave me…I’m thinking the best thing would be handmade little toys, perhaps bought off Etsy or someones craft website, or the Steiner school shop. And no commercial gifts. I wish I’d done that from the beginning.

    • Carla,
      My ten year old said last night she thought Santa Claus could bring her a pupply or a pony. Ha! But, we have had the discussion over the years that Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus, Father Christmas), will, of course, only bring things that will bring joy to the whole family, including the Mommy and Daddy of the family…and since they know at this older age we don’t really do plastic, now they don’t even ask for that…

      Hope that helps?

  4. Oh also…I wish I’d never got into making a wish to Father Christmas for what you want, or even the suggestion that Father Christmas will bring you something you’ve ‘wished’ for. My kids kind of KNOW that I’m not going to buy them a “littlest pet shop pet”… and yet they set their heart on it with the hope that Father Christmas will bring it for them.

  5. You know, for a while under the fog of baby, I thought my husband’s plans for the holidays non-inclusive of us. Really, with everything we receive from family from afar (family who think it is fun to gift fun, plastic toys anyway when we’re gently telling them ‘wood or natural toys, clothes’, having next-to-nothing (or two years nothing) has made little addition to our debt, and no addition to our piles of toys. I have this year (my oldest is four) found some lovely beeswax modeling sticks. I’m hoping they are as good as everyone else has recommended. We get our Charlie Brown tree right after Thanksgiving (except one tight year it was Christmas Eve! Which really makes me think of WHEN a tree is traditionally, anciently, picked out for the holiday…) and decorate it when we can find the space in the livingroom. I might just leave our out-of-place table UP this year so the tree can go on top with the gifts, as our new walker tends to be like his brother. Yup. It’s like walking velcro. Not a pretty description, (but how else to describe a baby’s ability to totally stop you dead in your tracks when you’re searching through the store’s frozen section and suddenly the door comes with you when you step back? : )
    I am looking to include more saint’s days in our celebrations, I’m looking to celebrate more. I’m looking to organize more. And stick to our ideals of no sugar, very little grain, no TV and minimal TV-oriented gifts. My Mom, new to quilting, has gifted us with several CARS themed gifts.

    and the baby rings…

  6. We tend to do edibles as gifts a lot- it’s a treat to get something you don’t have often (a small chocolate, a pomegranate, a perfect clementine), it’s consumable and therefore doesn’t add to what we already have in our home, and it appeals to all the senses! We also keep the Advent celebrating very, very simple, just a lit candle every night one step closer in the spiral, that is plenty exciting enough! We have a few special things we do every year, like look at Christmas lights, make gingerbread men, go get a fresh Christmas tree, but other than that, we just try to make it to as many Church services as we can, sing plenty of Christmas songs, and enjoy one anothers’ company. I try to keep our Christmas gifts to a few handmade things, but I do less and less every year, and they seem to enjoy it more and more. This year they have specifically asked for me to make them nightgowns, so sweet. I also know that well-meaning grandparents will be giving lots of things, ha! The girls usually make each other Christmas cards, but this year I they are getting excited to actually MAKE each other Christmas gifts, which I love. This time of year is so special, and I really try to protect the magic and reverence by keeping things as simple as I can.

    • Kyrie,
      I was hoping you would chime in here, thank you so much! I too, love edibles as homemade gifts!
      Many blessings and love,

    • I agree with this Kyrie and would also add – socks/woolens/hats etc. Things they need but make great warm and comfy gifts. We do PJ’s on Christmas Eve and St. Nicholas brings either wool socks or slipper as well as fruit.

      For my older boys (12 and 16) – a watch (waterproof), a new down vest, and a book. Nothing electronic that I will regret later 🙂

      Oh – and a razor for my oldest – so he will stop using mine! :))

      (I love the nightgown idea – so cozy!)



      Oh – and relatives? How do we get them to stop attempting to buy media gifts? Especially as the boys get older they really want them to have the latest gadgets (which my boys don’t really care about).

      We have them buy those expensive but loved museum passes. Such a treat for our family not to have to pay the entrance fees!

    • We do the wooly type gifts on St. Martin’s feast day; this year it was mittens and wool socks, as their woolen pajamas from last year still fit. Sometimes I knit them a hat as well, but it didn’t happen this year! That way they have them when they really start needing them, as it’s definitely cool enough to start pulling out woolens in November.

      We have wish lists of things for grandparents to get, and they usually do get the girls something from the lists, but *also* add in something that they want to get them. We are very thankful and then usually move them along within a few days. It is what it is, and I know they mean well!

  7. Great suggestions Carrie. I can’t wait to read all the posts you referenced. We have the double whammy of my older son’s birthday also in December. I do declutter throughout the year, but come December, I can be pretty ruthless. The way I have cut down on gifts is I let my boys buy each other one gift (which is always a lego), and I buy practical but fun school stuff: colored pencils, drawing papers, etc. Their “big” gift this year is a sheepskin for their beds. I find if I don’t buy a lot of stuff, they what they get from relatives is manageable. I also ask for magazine subscriptions from my in laws – this is great to get throughout the year and isn’t really a “thing”.

    • I like to have a “mama market” for my little one to buy for his big brothers. Then we don’t have more stuff coming in and the little one gets to pick something nice for his brother’s gifts (for pennies 🙂

    • Kimberly,
      How do you do the ‘mama market’? Can you describe a bit more in detail? I don’t know why but I am having trouble envisioning this. My little one is one, so he isn’t really in on Christmas yet. He’ll love the paper and all but will likely want boxes! But something for next year might touch everyone.

    • Hi Michele,

      Basically I put out gifts I have already bought the two older boys (in my bedroom on my bureau) and my youngest comes and “shops” with pennies. He gets to pick out some wonderful gifts, I don’t have to go to the store, and we don’t end up with more stuff.

      He loves it and find it very magical to visit the “Mama shop”.



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  9. Thank you for adding links to your back posts, I look forward to reading them. My family has been working towards simplifying our lives and material things. This year each child is getting one gift along with a stocking and then a gift to share. I have made my older son a car mat with roads and my younger son some felt food, they are receiving a train set (actually it is the set they play with at my mom’s). We are focusing more on family, activities, giving, and playing together.

  10. Love this topic. . .love this blog. . .love these posts! As for us we have done some decluttering over the past several months and I am looking forward to adding some Waldorf-friendly toys to our Sunshine’s toy collection. We have been inspired by Waldorf kinda late in the game (we started when she was 4, now 5 years old) with her so we had to do some major rewind and relearning on how to play. For our Sunshine this year, she has asked for craft supplies. I finally found a doll that is Waldorf-friendly for not a lot of money, and I just cannot resist the Squirrel game from Blueberrry Forest Toys. Throw in lots of baking to give to our family and friends. We have also decided to support local artists, crafters, etc. for gifts to other members of the family. My biggest mission now is to let all of the grandparents/great-greatparents (she is blessed to have 14 in all!) know no electronic toys/gifts this year. I call it the “electronic free Christmas.” I hope it will catch on. 🙂 Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone. Ashley

  11. Hi Carrie! It’s been a long time, I’m still here reading, just very very busy…… My litle boy is almost four and we have organized gift giving on the 12 days such that day 1: one gift from Santa, day 2: one gift from parents, day 3: one gift from grandpapa, and then day 12: three little little magical somethings from the 3 kings. Only thing is that this was wonderful at 3 and now at (almost) 4, and my boy loves the idea that Santa is making one special thing just for him. But we’ll be going over to a relative’s house and he will see that those children receive tons and tons of stuff from Santa. I fear he’ll feel cheated, especially now that he expresses awareness of what others have and he doesn’t. I’ve been thinking of a response in case this comes up and the best I can think of is: “Santa knows that we already have many beautiful things” or “Santa knows that we are happy with just a few beautiful things.” Gift-giving is yet another way in which we teach our child our values and I hope is that this kind of minimalism or simplicity frees my son from materialism rather than breaks his heart.

  12. Hi Carrie,
    It has been a while since I posted here, ….homeschooling keeps me busier than I thought, but I am happy that it does!
    Very nice article. Our gift giving within the family happens only at Christmas time, besides a few sweets for St. Nicholas day, enough to fill a child’s boot, including an orange, some nuts, a chocolate St. Nicholas and some chocolate coins.
    On Christmas Eve the children get to unpack one gift each, it will be a set of matching Christmas/winter pajamas (similar to last year). Than on Christmas Day the older one will receive a board game and a winter book plus some balloons and sweets as stocking stuffer. Grandma is giving him a couple of CD’s with German children’s songs (part of my homeschooling plan, haha). The little one will receive a cuddle baby doll that I will be making. That is it for this year, oh I almost forgot (shame on me), my son is weaving a small rug for his sister as well. So cute! He is also knitting a purse for change for his father.
    During Advent we normally make gifts for our neighbors that we take over on each day of the 12 Days of Christmas festival. We really like this part of Advent, besides baking lots of cookies and cakes naturally and listening to Christmas music and singing songs.

    Hope everybody is looking forward to this season as much as we do!

    P.S. One thing which has also become a tradition, albeit mine in particular, is to stay away from stores and malls during this time of the year. I do not like stuffed stores and places, especially when they are bombarding all the senses, not jut the children’s, but also mine! This makes our Holidays always so much more relaxed, as we do not have to worry about running around and I do not have to worry about what my children get exposed to.

  13. we are giving 4 gifts each one on each advent Sunday and the last one on Christmas day. The list (taken from another blogger) is something to read, something to wear, something they need and something they want- which i think goes a long way to just giving toys. IT is actually new to us and I find its a lot of presents as normally we did 1 present and not more. However, since they’d still need things to wear etc we thought to do these things as gifts.

  14. your post on presents has been very much in my mind the last couple of days……this morning i wrote an email to my sister in law (who we will spend christmas eve with) and found myself telling her that i wanted to make christmas a much more simple and reverent festival this year with only a small present each to give and receive, then i stopped and thought why am i telling her? is it because i want her to agree to do the same so that i don’t feel bad or indebted when their presents to us come piling out from under the christmas tree? yes it was…….i quickly erased what i had written and left the email to logistics of timings and the special meal we will share. in deciding to bring a simpler christmas to my daughter and myself, the overcoming of peer pressure and family expectations is as much an inward challenge as the decision to bring change to our lives, if not more so. i realised that i need to stand strong in my own decision to change the way we ( my daughter and i) celebrate this special festival. but then what of my daughter? so i announce to her that christmas is different this year, in mums house its one present each only………or do we ponder together over the immigrant worker who lives in the half built house next to us that we see everyday living in a shack, and that this year we could give some presents or money to the poor and needy people like him instead of spending the money on lots of presents that we don’t really need…….she is 9? i think she will be open to the latter.
    we will go to england from where we live in the middle east for christmas this year to be with my family… is a surprise for my mum , she thinks she won’t be seeing her beautiful grand daughter this year……when i add that in to all of my ponderings i know that i could step off the plane with not a present in sight, as our very presence there, in body and spirit, with her and my father on christmas day will be the most priceless present i could ever give them. when i think of that i know deep down that making a more meaningful and simple christmas is the most natural and right thing to do…….. thank you carrie for inspiring these ponderings and changes…….

    • Melodie,
      Your comment brought tears to my eyes. I hope you have a wonderful celebration of joy and love with your family!
      Many blessings,

    • Melodie,
      Thanks for putting into words what I felt was weird about telling my friends about this. Thankfully I’ve only told my Mom about our wishes for fewer and more natural gifts (my Dad HAS to have a lot to give on Christmas – there isn’t any changing that.) So I put ‘school’ items we can’t yet order d/t funding on the list and she likes the idea that she is helping him for school. (haven’t really sprung the homeschooling idea on them yet…)

  15. As you do, we clear our space as much as possible this time of year, donating what we can and honing down to what matters. This year in particular we’ve been able to let go of lots of books (which isn’t easy), giving them to our community’s Project Learn. And you can find lots of suggestions for making gifts about meaning rather than money here:

  16. another idea to share….we have a large, very close, group of friends, some of whom are the families of the children that I homeschool. last year we decided to draw names out of the hat, so that one adult in the group made, bought or gave a present to one other adult in the group and one child in the group made, bought or gave a present to one other child in the group…… we then got together on boxing day and shared all our presents. some people bought special gifts others made tiny pieces of treasure, but everything was as important and as meaningful as the rest due to the intention that had gone into just that one gift……it was a very special and mindful way of sharing presents at christmas with our closest friends without each family having to buy or make presents for all the members of each of the 5 families : 21 people in all! we have just drawn for this year and everyone is so excited about what they are going to make and give or buy ……..

  17. we do 3 gifts each ourselves, but then our kids get gifts from grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts/uncles, even a great aunt and uncle… so there is still so much stuff. i have a wish list for the kids, but some relatives prefer to buy them other things not on the list. how do you lessen this? last year a neighbor gave them polly pockets, and they love those things (i do not!), so i can’t easily get rid of them. i also want to teach them to be grateful for the generosity of others while not being spoiled or becoming materialistic… there seems to be a fine line here.

    • Erin,
      That is challenging! We have our fair share of Polly pockets as well, they are in a box for a totally rainy day when the fort building is exhausted with absolutely nothing else to do, LOL…I keep whittling them down….:) I guess my first thought when I read your post was how wonderful that they have so many people who really and truly love them! Then my second thought was wow, that probably is a lot of stuff coming in! All of it is obviously given with love, so perhaps letting the play run its course and then tucking some of it away to bring down only on a very rainy day and really being ruthless with going through toys can help, which I am sure you already do. Sometimes I have had luck being really frank with people and just saying that this year we dont want things migrating into the house, but my child would love to …spend time with you and go ice skating or we would love a membership to the science museum if you would like to put the money you would have spent on a gift toward that we would love to make that happen…

      It is hard, i just try to remember that these adults love my children. I also make the children draw thank yous and we participate in doing things for families who need help through church to keep reminding them of how blessed they are. I also am at the point now that mine are a bit older that they get much simpler gifts and this year we are doing many homemade gifts to really keep things low key..

      Wish I had better suggestions for you, just know you are not alone! Can’t wait to hear how your holidays go!

      Miss seeing you!

  18. Hello! thank you for your wonderful blog.

    our boys are 2, almost 4 and almost 6.
    We always do 1 gift from Santa for the entire family, for example a tent, a basketball hoop, or a wooden play garage this year ( i couldn’t think of anything else we needed). Then Santa also fills our stockings with one book for each kid, one tree ornament for each kid, some cars (a must), a movie ( we don’t do TV, but we do movies on special nights) and some craft supplies. they don’t receive gifts from us, but they do receive gifts from relatives. this is the first year we are going to celebrate St. Nicholas day in the Western tradition – with the little gifts. usually we celebrate it with a fish feast for my son’s name saint – Nicholas. we are still doing that – eating fish, baking a special St. Nicholas bread, but we will be adding some elements of the German tradition – the shoe polishing and the little gifts the morning after. fruit, nuts and little wooden toys. this year my brother’s gift to them was the x-mass tree that they decorated together – they all loved spending the time with him, dancing and singing x-mass music and i took lots of pictures to remember it. also we rented a live x-mass tree.

    I sometimes feel it is a letdown for the kids not to receive all that they’ve wished for form Santa ( a real sword, 1000 dragons and etc.) , but i tell them that Santa brings one gift for the family and he knows we have many beautiful things and he brings something for all of us to enjoy as a family. i spread out the rest of the items from their “wish” list between grandparents / friends.

    this year also i am planning on spreading the gift giving throughout the month of December.
    that makes the whole month special. also we will make gift/making giving a priority.

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