24 December 2007

Spread out the gift-opening to keep Christmas morning manageable

Another holiday hack from Mel, who seems to have the realities of holiday logistics well thought-out:

I know everyone has their own treasured and time-honoured family traditions, but....since we have one young child and an older child who is easily overstimulated (leading to meltdown!), we like to spread out the excitement of Christmas morning a bit. As people bring gifts to our home, we allow the kids to open them. The givers get to enjoy seeing the kids' reactions, the kids get to have enough time to fully appreciate the item, and there's a little less stress on the Big Day.

So smart. We talked about this idea last year around this time as well. It really helps each gift get the attention it deserves.

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Our family is spread out and so Christmas usually lasts about a week here. We've had three gatherings here already so with each, we've opened gifts.

It means less to open on Christmas morning, but our boys don't mind.

We like it because sometimes there are two of the same things that have been bought, so if someone else buys the boys something we already have, theres still time to take it out from under the tree and make an exchange before Christmas ^-^.

We open stockings first in Mom and Dad's bed, then have breakfast of waffles (or pancakes) and then open the big presents.

We don't give a heck of a lot, so the excitement level is high but certainly not unmanageable.

Alternate kids opening presents so that the morning stretches out. Put on a little Christmas music so there's no dead airtime when there's no presents being unwrapped.

We have always tried to maintain some sense of order Christmas morning. As a kid growing up, and now with my own family, we wait until everyone is in the room, then we pass out presents one at a time. That way, everyone gets to see what everyone else receives. It also makes the gift opening last much longer, and much less chaotic. Try to evenly distrubute the presents, so one person doesn't end up with 5 presents and nobody else has any.

If you have toddlers, I found that allowing them to play with a toy that doesn't have a bunch of pieces to lose, is a great way to keep them occupied until their next present arrives.

We're "aggressively old-fashioned". We celebrate 12 days of Christmas, ending on Epiphany. Among other things, this means that we wait until late in Advent to put up our Christmas tree (in fact, we're finishing decorating it today, Christmas Eve) and leave it up for all 12 days. Present opening gets spread out over several days, which gives the boys time to appreciate each gift (and write thank-you notes).

In an effort to keep my kids' b-day parties about the celebration and not about the gifts, we do something similar to Mel's Xmas hack. The b-day kid opens each gift first thing when the guest arrives. There's no party-wide 45 minute gift opening "activity" (ick) but each guest gets to see the look when her/his gift is opened. Sweet!

You need an adult to oversee this hack, but it's worked great for us.

Funny, because I just decided that for Hannukah next year, our kids will open all their gifts on the Sunday of Hannukah. I'm tired of the nightly race to gifts followed by the inevitable postponement of bedtime.

This was our first Christmas with a kid. It wasn't too unmanageable since she is just a baby, but we decided that we will do presents from us on Christmas Eve, stockings and Santa presents on Christmas morning before going to Grandma's house for the day. We won't be giving much since our extended family is so large, so I think it will remain manageable.

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