Spooked by the Upcoming Holiday Gift Overload? Plan Ahead!

Y’all, it’s not even Halloween yet and there are still only nine Saturdays until Christmas. NINE. If you are anything like me and you celebrate Christmas too, you are already thinking about holiday gifts for your kids and extended family. You are probably also already thinking about holiday decorating, baking, family events, travel, coordinating holiday jammies, holiday greeting cards, and….AUGH.

Okay, let’s stop. I’m stressing myself out.

Let’s focus in on one thing today: managing the gift-giving your children will experience this holiday season.

Holiday Gift-Giving

We are blessed to have a large extended family who purchase gifts for our children for birthdays and holidays. Get this, both of our children were born in December. This means we celebrate two birthdays just a few weeks before Christmas. Additionally, I am from a divorced home, which means double the grandparents. To top it off, my kids are also lucky to have multiple sets of living great-grandparents. Also, let us not forget my husband’s side of the family.

There is no way around it. Every December is gift overload.

I remember the year our daughter was two. Mid-way through Christmas morning her little brain couldn’t take it anymore, and we had to stop everything and give her a break. Between excitement from her birthday toys a week earlier and everything on Christmas morning, she was overwhelmed.

That was the year we knew we needed to be more strategic.

Don’t misunderstand me, we are grateful for the love poured over our children each December. However, we want to be mindful of the fact that our kids will have a better experience if we are intentional. Today I want to share my strategies with you on how we approach gift-giving with our family in order to give our kids the best holiday experience possible.  


1. Amazon Wish Lists

Make an Amazon wish list for your kid(s). Both of our kids have had an Amazon wish list since they were newborns. In the early years, we added items to the list, but these days my kids work with us to add their own desired items. If multiple family members use the list and shop directly from it, those items will be removed when they are purchased. This helps eliminate the possibility of gift duplicates.

Additionally, you can add items from other websites to the Amazon wish list and link it to your wish list. If there is something from another website that your child might like, your family can still find it on the wish list.

Finally, you can create items on the wish list without a specific link. For example, last year we added a note that alerted our family to the fact that our daughter would enjoy tickets to women’s gymnastics meets at the University of Iowa or a gift card to her favorite restaurant for a special dinner out.


2. Make your personal shopping plan early.

Decide what YOU want to buy your kids early, and don’t tell anyone one else those ideas! We have already discussed what we want to get our kids this year for their birthday and Christmas. Those things are not public knowledge and they are not on the Amazon wish list.

We do this on purpose. One year we put all of our ideas on our kid’s wish lists and another family member was shopping before us and bought half of the things we planned to buy! We learned our lesson that year, and now we pick our gifts first.


3. Experiences can make great gifts.

Think about experiences your kids can receive as gifts. Suggest tickets to local kids events, an annual membership to the children’s museum or a zoo, gift cards to the movies, or even a certificate to take a class at the local art studio. These are memories your kids will remember, and it won’t add another item in your child’s toy box.


4. Get real about clothing.

Be direct about the clothing needs of your children. My family LOVES to buy our kids cute outfits. We love receiving them. However, a few years in a row we received so many outfits between their birthday and Christmas that we had outgrown clothing with tags still on them that had never been worn. I realized I needed to be clearer with our family about clothing that would be helpful to us.

My kids go through shoes so quickly, so why not suggest to someone that they buy each child a pair of shoes? If your kids could use a new coat, why not have Grandma and Grandpa purchase a winter coat as part of their gift? Maybe new winter boots? The number of “non-outfit” clothing options for your kids is endless. Be strategic and intentional and there won’t be brand new unworn outfits going to the consignment store.


5. Be strategic and creative in your gift ideas.

Think of gifts that your kids would be thrilled to receive but would also make YOUR life easier as a parent. Last year we added nice padded headphones to our kids’ Amazon wish lists with the intention that our kids could use them during long road trips when they were given electronic time. This would be fun for them to have their own set up headphones, and fun for mom and dad to not have to listen to another episode of their favorite show.

Ask for a piece of luggage for your child. This is a useful item, and gives your child something special to use for trips. Our daughter was thrilled when she received her very own pink paisley suitcase. It wasn’t another toy in her closet with 27 pieces, and it serves a needed purpose.

These tips and tricks will get you on the right track for an intentional and memorable holiday season when your little ones receive gifts. Now, back to thinking about ALL those other holiday to-do items that are quickly approaching.

I don’t know about you, but I need some coffee. Good luck. 



Linda is a Michigan native who moved to Iowa City in 2011 and hasn’t left yet. She and her husband of twelve years, Jacob, have two spunky kids – a kindergartner and a third grader. Linda works full time at the University of Iowa as the Administrative Director for the Medical Scientist Training Program. Together, Linda and her family enjoy cheering for the Nebraska Cornhuskers (shhhh!), going on adventures both big and small, and playing board games (they have over 100 and will play with anyone they can talk into it). Linda is often told she has two volumes: on and off, and she will enthusiastically respond to any news you tell her. No matter the volume she uses, Linda is an “old soul” with a love for baking, embroidery, and old movies.


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