My kids love giving Christmas gifts to their siblings, and over the years we’ve tried several different gift giving arrangements. I’ve teamed up with Paging Supermom contributor Erika from Yellow Pear, who is a mom of five, to give you two seasoned mom’s advice and tips for how to manage sibling gifts in your family. Here’s what we’ve tried and what works best for us both.
Over the years, we’ve struggled with how each of our children could give gifts to their siblings. We wondered if they should buy something for everyone (which could get expensive, especially when they didn’t have their own money as young kids), or do we have them draw names and focus on one sibling at a time. We finally decided to have them rotate names each year and some years they’ve bought gifts and other years they have made gifts. Some of our most memorable Christmas mornings, are the years the kids have given homemade gifts to each other.
A few of my favorites include: pillowcases with favorite characters that I helped one child sew for the other, a fabric-covered bulletin board, pens decorated with felt to look like animals, a paper airplane binder complete with folding paper and instructions for different airplanes, a craft kit, an illustrated and hand-written book, a gardening kit, felt finger puppets, a snow globe, clothes for stuffed animals etc.
I love to watch them put the thought and time into their special gift, and they are so excited to watch the other person open the present on Christmas morning…it is truly the highlight of the day.
It also really brings that special feeling of Christmas to the house during the weeks leading up to Christmas, as the kids are whispering and working on secret projects to give to others instead of worrying so much about what they are getting for themselves.
As the years have gone on, the level of expertise has obviously increased, but they were actually able to make great gifts as young kids (with some adult help). We talk ahead of time about making sure the gift is something the other person would actually want and use, and to put some time and real effort into the making of the item. One of my sons is not very crafty so he tends to put together kits for whoever he has that year, but he is still “making” something as he has to gather the supplies, think about how to contain the items and so forth.
When I was growing up, I gave gifts to all of my siblings each year. My mom kept a special basket where all the sibling gifts would go and sometimes we would even get to open these special presents on Christmas Eve. I remember as a child being so excited to pick out something special for each of my brothers and sisters. We typically shopped for those treasures at a little Santa Shop that was setup at my elementary school.
When my oldest daughter entered elementary school it was fun that they also did a Santa Sale type thing. We did that for a few years, but after we started homeschooling, this tradition evolved a bit. We still have each child do a gift for each of the siblings, and we’ve made it into quite a learning experience. One day in December — in fact we just did it yesterday — the kids get out their piggy banks (or the envelopes with their cash that we keep in a family safe) and everyone counts up all their money. My kids love this part, and it is an excellent math exercise. Even my three year old counted his money, sorting each of the coins, making stacks of four quarters and making rows of five dimes and nickels to be skip counted. It’s lots of fun and everyone feels rich by the end!
We then make a list of the people they plan to buy gifts for. That list will include all of their siblings, Mom and Dad and sometimes even have Grandma, Grandpa or another family or friend who will be joining us for Christmas morning. Once we have our gift list, the kids create a budget. For some of the kids this is a matter of deciding on the amount of money they’d like to spend per person. Other kids decide how much money they want to have LEFT and then divide the remainder among the people. Either way, it provides some more fun opportunities to practice math skills. They load their budgeted money into a wallet and then comes their favorite part — shopping!
Each child gets to take a turn going with me to the store. We typically hit up Target or Walmart, then go around picking out presents. Since their budgets are usually pretty small, we have to be creative. It’s nice that Grandpa doesn’t mind getting a candy bar and Dad always love a good pack of gum. As we pick out presents we calculate if there is any extra budget that could be allotted to another gift that might have been a bit out of budget. There is a lot more math going on at the store, and the kids handle checking out themselves too. Of course, my kids are used to going to the store, but it’s a whole different ball game when you’re the one talking to the cashier and handling the money.
Sometimes we have to spread the shopping trips out over a couple days because these shopping trips are not quick. With four kids, it’s quite an investment of time, but I really do look forward to this one on one time with each of my children during this busy time of year. I try to really let the kids each pick out the gifts themselves, and I’m always so impressed at how thoughtful and generous they are.
On another day, Dad rounds all the kids up to go shopping for Mom, and I typically use the free time to wrap presents or take a nap… j/k oh but I wish ;) HAHA!!
The kids typically wrap up their own presents. I still help my 3-year-old boy, but all the girls insist on wrapping their sibling gifts by themselves.
For families with adult kids
My husband and I both come from big families, with seven kids in each. Each of our families handle sibling gifts differently. In my husband’s family each of the siblings family is assigned a whole other family and we rotate each year. Often we will give a big group gift to that family; other times we’ll by something for the parents and something for the kids to share; but we have also bought gift individually for each member of that sibling’s family.
In my family, each of the adult siblings and their spouses all go into a pot and we draw out names. The cousins all go into a separate pick together so each of my kids gets to buy a gift for one of their cousins each year.
For Sibling Gifts Headed Out of Town
My best tip for buying gifts for out of town family and friends: Amazon Prime! We pick out a gift then ship it directly to the recipient so their is no hassle. It’s the best. Also with Prime, since their is no minimum purchase to get free shipping, we buy each gift individually and put the child’s name in for shipping (rather than their parents name). When they gifts arrive at my siblings’ home, they usually just wrap up the shipping box and put them under the tree without even opening. If you’re a somewhat anal gift wrapper like me, you’ll also see the beauty of having a box that perfectly fits the gift delivered right along with said gift. For the Christmas convenience alone Amazon Prime is worth every penny!
I hope these tips have helped you all. We’d love to hear more ideas for involving children in gift giving at Christmas. Please share your sibling gift traditions below.