Sign In
Get Started
Parenting Hacks

How Many Holiday Presents Should You Give a Child?

By Mariko ZapfDec 21, 2017

I have a smattering of childhood memories involving a beautifully lit Christmas tree straining to contain an ocean of gifts beneath it.

Our parents made us wait behind an invisible line before releasing us to open the presents. Thirteen minutes later, the room was littered with paper and a hint of disappointment when all they were trying to do was bring us joy.

Now that I can create my own traditions with my kids, I am eager to reshape that scenario. My husband and I try to shun materialism, but we are secretly terrified of disappointing our children with too few presents. Our best intentions and budgets end up being blown year-after-year.


In the moment, overloading a child with too many gifts makes it impossible to actually savor them. It also encourages demand and expectation—which often leads to tears and frustration on days that are supposed to be otherwise joyous. After more failed attempts and dollars spent than I care to admit, we are more determined than ever to shift the highlight of the holidays away from gifts.

After more failed attempts and dollars spent than I care to admit, we are more determined than ever to shift the highlight of the holidays away from gifts.

Sharon Peters, Brooklyn-based family coach and founder of Parents Helping Parents, says that there is no magic number of gifts that parents should give. How many presents to bestow a child is a personal decision that each family needs to make based on their values and budget.

Peters stresses that what children desire more than material possessions is attention from their parents. She encourages adults to start setting gift expectations early, while soliciting participation from the whole family on what the holiday experience will look like beyond wish lists and presents.

“There is so much societal pressure on parents to shower their children with gifts over the holidays. Sure, gifts are fun and we all love them. But it isn’t likely that children will treasure for a lifetime the presents they received as much as they will their family rituals,” said Peters.

“As a first step, well in advance of whatever holiday a family celebrates, parents can sit down with their children and help them prioritize their wish lists and remind them then that the holiday is not about getting every item.” There will likely be a desire or two that your child has previously mentioned or an idea you’ve had in mind and if a family can afford them, these are the selections to focus on.

"Parents need to trust that their undivided attention is more valuable to their children than gifts"

Ms. Peters also encourages families to institute rituals that don’t have to cost much, if anything. For instance, the entire family can participate in creating a calendar for the month with special dates set aside to play games together, bake and cook, or go to the movies.

“Parents need to trust that their undivided attention is more valuable to their children than gifts,” added Peters. “If children perseverate over not getting the right gifts or enough of them, there is something else going on—perhaps at school or with friends—and it suggests that they are not feeling connected.”

These negative reactions are indicators that children need their parents’ time, not necessarily the latest gadget.


Similar to setting expectations for children well in advance of the holidays, Ms. Peters recommends doing the same for eager grandparents. “While many grandparents feel they have earned the right to indulge their beloved grandchildren with many packages, it shouldn’t mean that the gifts wreak havoc on the family. Ideally, adult children can meet with their parents face-to-face and gently request that their gifts not exceed a certain dollar amount and are age appropriate.”

If, however, a parent-grandparent relationship is strained, it is a judgement call that only the parent can make. Peters added that sometimes it might be best to say nothing and to tuck inappropriate gifts away for another time.

Inspired by Sharon’s advice, I sat down with my family to plan our twelfth Christmas together and we prioritized a handful of activities intended to prolong the holiday spirit beyond thirteen minutes of gift opening. We instituted holiday movie night every Friday in December, we scheduled a pizza tree-trimming party with each child’s best friend, and we are going to have an appetizers-only dinner on Christmas Eve. Each activity is on the calendar with pertinent details and none of them costs more than a few bucks.

With a little planning, gift overloading can retreat from the holiday limelight and be replaced with ritualized time together as a family. A win-win situation for kids and our ability to achieve our real financial priorities.


Write a will online for free with Fabric in minutes. We'll show you how to make it legally binding.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on the go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.


Subscribe to our newsletter


Written by

Mariko Zapf

Related Posts

Parenting Hacks

The Best-Paying Cities for Millennials

Fabric analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau to figure out the best-paying cities for millennials and their families.

By Allison Kade
Parenting Hacks

How This Top Influencer Monitors Her Kids on Social Media

Nicole Feliciano has built an entire business based on her online presence, but she imposes boundaries on her kids and tech. Here’s why.

By Allison Kade
Parenting Hacks

6 Tips for Being a Smart Online Shopper (From Top Retail Experts)

Online shopping is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean we’re all pro shoppers. We asked shopping experts for their favorite tricks.

By Trae Bodge

Fabric Picks

Finance for Parents

Life Insurance Underwriting: How It Works & What You Need to Know

A life insurance underwriter is the person responsible for determining whether you get insured and how much it’ll cost you. Here’s how that works.

By Bethy Hardeman
Finance for Parents

7 Reasons You Might Need Life Insurance

Life insurance may sound like the most “adulting” thing ever, but there’s a good chance your loved ones would be better off if you got a policy.

By Fabric
Finance for Parents

Probate 101: What You Should Know About Probate (or Avoiding Probate)

When you’re grieving, a complicated legal and financial process is the last thing you want to deal with. Your guide to probate: made simple.

By Jessica Sillers

About Fabric

Subscribe to our newsletter

© 2019 Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC

Fabric Instant is an Accidental Death Insurance Policy (Form VL-ADH1 with state variations where applicable) and Fabric Premium is a Term Life Insurance Policy (Form ICC16-VLT and CMP 0501 with state variations where applicable). Policies are issued by Vantis Life Insurance Company. (Vantis Life), Windsor, CT (all states except NY), and by Vantis Life Insurance Company of New York, Brewster, NY (NY only). Coverage may not be available in all states. Issuance of coverage for Fabric Premium is subject to underwriting review and approval. Please see a copy of the policy for the full terms, conditions and exclusions. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of Vantis Life.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC (FIA) is an insurance agency licensed to sell life, accident, and health insurance products. FIA will receive compensation from Vantis Life for such sales. The NAIC Company Code for Vantis Life is 68632. See the Terms of Use for additional information regarding FIA.‬‬

Plan like a parent. is a trademark of Fabric Technologies, Inc.