parents of toddlers/babies: are you buying them a gift?

Crazy question, right? What kind of parents don't buy their kids a gift, especially at Christmas or for their birthday? That's exactly what I would have asked a short two years ago, before I became a mom. But now? Seriously. I'm thinking differently. Here's why.

Firstly, we have been clear about a few things we're doing this Christmas that may seem a bit different. Brad and I are not doing Santa and we're giving immaterial gifts (think fancy dinner date) for each other. We've still bought gifts for family members, but just immediate family. The aim is less materialism, less stuff, less pressure, less clutter. Less. Ah. I love that word. But I also love the word 'MORE' and my heart is an idol factory, so this will hopefully help.

Mom - "Lily, look at your Christmas gift from us!"
Lily - "I don't care, I want to nap"

But on the note of gift giving and doing things a bit differently, I thought I'd ask: Are you buying your baby/toddler a gift or gifts over the holidays? I don't think we are!

Not because we don't love our kids or want to bless them. But for a couple simple reasons:
  1. They won't remember these Christmases or these gifts
  2. We give them new toys and clothing frequently since we shop second hand and they grow oh so fast
  3. Anything they've needed, we've bought as the need arose, not waiting until a gift-giving holiday to give
  4. They have grandparents and aunts and uncles who give SO generously on gift-giving holidays
My first point stands for a couple other justifications too. It's also the reason I haven't thrown a 1 year-old birthday party (plus we've always been too busy/out of town/celebrating weddings/etc), too. Of course I want to celebrate holidays with my kids - Christmas and birthdays do not pass by unnoticed in our home, trust me! But at the same time, my kids will have zero recollection of these events, so it allows me grace to not go all out.

My second and third point kind of go together. With growing kids and a small space with little storage, we are often buying and swapping out kids clothing and toys. Affordable, often used clothing and toys, but the point stands that there is a high turn over rate around here. Oli outgrew his warm pants last week so I spent a good amount of money on several news pairs. I could have bought them as Christmas gifts, I suppose, but he needed them now. Lily potty trained recently and thus needed two-piece pajamas instead of onesies so I bought her three sets. They would have made great under-the-tree presents, but we couldn't wait until December 25th. If I'm buying things for my kids almost weekly at this stage, should I also buy additional gifts to open on Christmas morning just because?

Lily looking very unenthused on her first Christmas morning despite everyone's best efforts to hype up the gifts

And lastly, and most profoundly, they receive tons during holidays regardless of our gift giving. These loved children have three sets of grandparents, four uncles, and one doting aunt - all of whom love to give generously at birthdays and Christmases. This year I asked the grandparents to avoid buying toys or clothes because we have more than enough (plus Lily still plays with last year's Christmas toys and this year's birthday toys) and to consider books instead. I'm preparing for loads of new books that will occupy the kiddies and I for many weeks and months to come.

In fact, the abundance that my children receive from relatives other than us has become almost problematic. Lily received so much last Christmas and for her birthday this year that we had to hide gifts for weeks and gradually let her play with the toys to combat overwhelming her (as excess often does). Another reason we did this was that we'd seen in the past that when she got many gifts all at once, none of them seemed particularly exciting and all became second rate quickly. When we gave her one toy, waited several weeks, and gave another (and so on...) she appreciated the gifts more and they lasted us longer.

So with all of this considered, we aren't buying our kids Christmas presents right now. We will in the future, but for now, don't find it necessary. I still love the idea of buying the kids a Christmas tree ornament yearly, and have done so this year from a sweet Etsy shop (I got the wooden circles with their names plus one for Brad and I that said B + E in a heart, both are no longer for sale this season).

What about you?
Are you buying your babies/toddlers gifts?
Why/ Why not?


  1. Anonymous20.12.12

    You are very wise, Em! It took us a bit longer in our kids life to learn this so be thankful you caught on early :) along with all of the things you said it also saves so much money and is better for our planet. Awesome.

  2. Hey Em
    Dave and I really struggled with this as well. Levi is 10 months old so we wanted to get him something because he will enjoy the unwrapping, but we didn't want to spend oodles. Also, he has EVERYTHING he could possibly need.
    So this year we bought him a toddler bible because we don't have one and that can wait until Christmas to give, and I bought him a wooden peg puzzle at a 2nd hand store. I think we spent $15.00 total.

    I thought it was a good compromise. But I DEFINATELY understand your points and agree with them wholeheartedly. It's just sooo hard because I LOVE giving gifts and I am not sure I can handle the fact that he might (/probably) won't care!!

    Merry Christmas

  3. I totally agree with you!
    This year, I asked my 3 year old daughter to pick out a few of her "old" toys to give her 11 month old sister. I did buy the oldest a few simple toys, for under 20$. We try to concentrate on quality time together!
    Danielle Cotnoir

  4. We feel similarly (and also I know all about the more/less conflict in your heart..so happening in my heart all the time!!) I feel really guilty not having anything under the tree for Pen, so I bought her a really special book that means a lot to me and wrote a little note inside. I also wrapped up a toy her Grandma bought her but I never ended up giving her yet. Oh, and I bought her socks because she needs them! But I spent under $20 on her, and I wanted to buy something meaningful and something that she needs.

    I also know what you mean about grandparents gifts and things being problematic. Pen is the ONLY grandchild and great grand child (for most of her great-grandparents). Basically, that means she has way more than she could ever want or need. Our house is about 800 sq feet and I'm very particular about toys...so I think we're going to struggle post-Christmas.

  5. Maggie21.12.12

    Though no kids do I have, I can totally understand the idea of not over-giving for toddlers and babies - especially when they won't remember their earlier birthdays and Christmases. But Lily and Oli are so lucky to be loved so much, we can't help giving them things to show our love when we're so far away! :) We don't mean to be problematic! (especially this year, since I'm excited about what we've found for y'all this year)

    1. it's not a bad problem :) our kids are so loved and so lucky to have family like you <3