The Christmas season means decorations, tasty treats, family celebrations, gift giving….and giving and giving. It seems that every year, we lose some of the true meaning of Christmas because of the excess of toys that enter my home. Two years ago, when the season came to a close, I found myself yearning for a simpler Christmas, one without so much toy overload. I wanted my children to still receive the gifts they wanted and for us to find joy in giving those wishlist items without overdoing it. Here are some strategies I have found to keep the Christmas cheer without fear of toy overload.

The four gift philosophy

This gift-giving philosophy goes like this: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” This idea gives kids a variety of gifts without going overboard. It’s practical, affordable and fun. Best of all, it’s easy to shop for without the risk of impulse buying.

Give an experience

Instead of spending a lot of money on toys that may or may not get played with, consider giving the gift of an experience. Ideas may include a membership to a local attraction like a zoo or children’s museum, classes that the child would enjoy (dance, art, music, etc.), tickets to a show, movie passes, gift cards, a special night on the town or even a vacation. This gift idea is great because it can be given to the entire family and is sure to create memories that last longer than an easily forgotten toy.

A family gift

Try giving a gift the entire family can enjoy. Some ideas could include movies, books, board games, electronics or a swing set. Individual gifts that go along with the family gift could make it more personal. For example, if the family gift is a new video game system, each child might receive a game of interest to them to go along with it. The benefit of this type of gift is it encourages quality family time.

A heartfelt gift

These types of gifts are special because they are so personal. One Christmas, my grandma made all of her children and grandchildren a special recipe book that included family recipes that had been passed down for generations. It was a gift that cost little but was priceless to the recipient. These gifts require more time than money but will keep giving for many years.

One big gift

For some kids, there is one large, costly gift that they have on their list. Perhaps they want it more than anything else. Consider getting each child the one larger gift they really want and forgo all the smaller extra gifts. This will be a good lesson in the cost of items and help them appreciate the gifts they do receive more.

During the holidays, it is so easy to shower those we love with gifts, but when January comes around, you often find yourself surrounded by toy overload. These strategies will not only reduce the excess toys but will also help your children appreciate the gifts they do receive while enjoying the true reason for Christmas.