What to say if your kid finds one of her presents before it’s wrapped

May’s a fast thinker! Here’s the Christmas "story" she told her daughter to explain the presence of…the presents:

So, if your husband decided to go looking for shoe polish and pulls a bin off the way-high shelf and your kid spots the EXACT TOY she asked Santa for, here is what you say: "That’s for charity. When you put that on your list I though some other little girl would want one."

If your kid is smart they will counter with "Doesn’t Santa bring ALL kids presents?" And you counter with, "Of course, but you also get presents for Mom and Dad and all your grandparents, aunts and uncles and poor families can’t afford extra presents for kids." If your kid is already suspicious this won’t help but it saved the day at my house.

What’s your best fast talkin’ response when the kids stumble onto their presents before the big day?


  1. says

    Sooo… did May then go out and actually buy that toy for charity, or did she just lie…about giving to poor children with no toys? Seems like it would be better to just say, “Sorry, you can’t have that until Christmas.”

  2. says

    We haven’t given Santa a ton of publicity at our house, but here’s what my father-in-law did when his daughter was caught looking for — and finding — her big Christmas present: He returned it. Ouch.

  3. says

    Everyone knows in my house that Mama’s bedroom is offlimits – ESPECIALLY in December. They all profess their belief in Santa still, though, as people who don’t believe, don’t get presents.

    My kids are oddly not snoopers. Maybe because I am all “no one goes in there in December. You know why. If you peek, anything that is in there goes to someone else.” I dunno – but my oldest daughter, now 14, has decided to adapt the saying “Curiosity killed the cat, then Mama took the presents back.”

    I love that kid. (grin)

  4. Lisa says

    This worked for a while with my messy teenagers. I hid the presents under their own beds. They never looked there!

  5. May says

    My kid wasn’t snooping, she just happened to be walking by when her dad was looking for something. She’s five and still a big believer.

    As for lying about giving presents to poor children…part of the reason she bought the charity line is because we involve her in our charitable giving.

  6. Abby says

    Nice going, May! That is quick thinking, and I applaud you for involving your child in charitable giving. :)

  7. Angie says

    We have cousins the same age so that is always a good explaination. My mom did this while sewing jammies for us, she just said my cousin was about my size and could I please try it on.

  8. Bee says

    I know someone whose son not only found his ipod he was getting for Christmas but took it out and used it at school, whereupon the teacher I think confiscated it and that’s how she found out. Busted! He’s old enough to be beyond Santa but I think part of his punishment was he had to pay for it himself, and couldn’t use it again until then.

    In my house (with one believing 6 year old) we have the “Christmas fairies” who bring things to the advent calendar, which is big enough to hold small toys. My plan is to say they must be helping Santa if she discovers any of the bigger things, though they are hidden in my closet in a large plastic bin that is under another plastic bin full of clothes, too heavy for her to lift and nowhere near anything my husband would be looking for (because he is stupid enough to do something like that too!)

  9. mo, m, again says

    May: remember next year, even if it’s hidden on the way high up shelf, KEEP IT IN THE BAG.

    my mom maintained a year round standard of her room being off limits, and snoopers of no longer beleiving age generally lost what they found because they were not only breaking a house rule, they were doing so quite purposefully. Malice aforethought rather than any possible accident.

  10. says

    When my daughter was a preschooler, she unwrapped all the gifts under the tree two days before Christmas, so I re-wrapped all of them in brown paper and duct tape. (This is pretty much par for any of my friends that I have sent mail parcels to because I like duct tape. A lot.)

    Now that we visit my parents’ out of town for Christmas, I simply have presents shipped there ahead of time.

  11. Uly says

    How about “Yup, you got me, that’s yours. But try to act surprised on Christmas, okay?” followed by “Santa? That’s a fun game, we can pretend there’s a Santa. Or would you rather keep being a firefighter princess for a while?”

  12. Amy in Portland says

    I’m pretty good at hiding things and I always tell my husband where things are so he won’t go there.

    As a preemptive lesson, I told my daughter about the time when I, at age 11, carefully opened my gift (even tried it on) then carefully re-wrapped it and put back under the tree. The problem was that when I opened it in front of everyone, I had to pretend to be surprised while I was terribly disappointed that I wasn’t surprised. That taught me that I don’t want to know, I don’t even want a hint! I think she understood, we’ll see…

  13. says

    I’m kind of unsettled by this. Santa is a really troubling concept in a culture of haves and have-nots.

    We don’t pretend about Santa in our house in part because of this very issue.

    My husband was raised by working parents who barely got by. Their kids went to exclusive parochial schools on scholarship and the income from second jobs. A sincere belief in Santa Claus was injurious for kids whose parents can’t afford presents; it suggests a meritocracy (presents for the good) when no such thing exists.

    My husband watched some pretty rotten kids get an abundance of great presents while Santa passed his house by some years.

    Suggesting to your kids that Santa helps the poor is a denial of the real situation.

    I tell my son that the Santa legend (like Saint Nicholas purchasing people’s freedom from slavery) represents people’s best impulses of generosity and compassion. I want him to understand and emulate that model rather than the mythical meritocracy propped up by capitalism.

  14. Michael says

    I just told my kid now that they’ve discovered it I was going to take it back and get them something else.

  15. says

    My daughter is 16 mos old so even if she did find something, she’d still be surprised on Christmas morning. I am glad I read through the comments, though. Now I have some tips for the future. I have been wondering what we will do about Santa. I think we will probably treat the story of Santa as history.

  16. Kellen says

    I guess I’m in the minority here, but I find it easier in action and conscience to avoid such a situation altogether by being truthful with my children about where gifts come from and focus on the true meaning of Christmas rather than the over-commercialized facsimile of St. Nick.

  17. Ticia says

    I’ve told my boys, who are old enough to remember these things, that these presents are for friends, which is not a lie, because my boys are friends, it’s a gray area.

  18. Lisa says

    When I taught, I used to read a book every year about the real St. Nicholas. I love these kinds of books because they are true, but leave just enough to the imagination for little ones who choose to believe in Santa Claus.

  19. Katrina Reed says

    What do you mean – there is no Santa???? Seeing how excited my three year old twins girls are by Christmas celebrations, the Christmas tree, prospects of Santa coming, and reading magical stories every night about the spirit of Christmas, I will try and keep the magic alive for them as long as I can. I applaud those that have found their own traditions in celebrating what you believe in, and finding unique ways to explain found gifts to the children.

  20. WorkingMom08807 says

    The best “hack” that I can think of was actually tried on me by my mom. When I accidentally opened the door of the closet in my parent’s bedroom, the present literally landed in my hands. A bit shocked with the discovery, I looked at my mom and she said, hurriedly, “Oh god.. you better close your eyes because otherwise Santa won’t come this year”.. Paralyzed with the fear of possibility of Santa not showing up (since there is no christmas without him), I closed my eyes and even covered my ears which allowed my mom sufficient time to re-hide the present and get me involved in another activity (cookies, anyone?), so this incident was soon forgotten.

  21. says

    Once I was old enough to realize that Santa was not “real”… I sheepishly admitted to my Mom that I thought it was her and my Dad…

    At which point my Mom said, yes it was them all along – but she still believes in Santa…

    “What do you mean?” I asked.

    “Santa is the spirit of giving, food to the hungry, toys for kids who have far less, or a helping hand when ever its needed..”

    That has stuck with since then, and to this day I (with a kid of my own) I make sure to give to charities or help out with events for the needy each holiday season.

    But as an only kid, I was too stupid to hunt for gifts..

  22. Kelly says

    We haven’t faced this yet with our 13 month old DD, but i remember distinctly what happened when my father caught my brother and i standing inside of a walk-in closet full of gifts on Christmas Eve. There was a lecture on disappointment and our part in ruining Christmas followed by banishment to our rooms. Soon after a locked knob went on the door and therafter all gifts, school snacks, and soda was kept there under lock and key. Good thing my father never caught us taking the door off the hinges while everyone was at work…

  23. says

    I actually used a similar line the other day! I had bought a bunch of sesame street books, two of which were for my son and the rest were for charity. He saw Cookie Monster thru the bag and started begging for the book. I told him they were for the other kids and not for him. Little does he know that there are a couple in there for him! He’s young enough that I don’t think he’ll realize or ask if the books he gets are the same ones from the bag!

  24. says

    How about you just tell your kids the truth?

    Or do you want to teach them that coming up with elaborate lies to hide the truth is ok?

  25. Amy says

    Dan- I am totally with you on this one. In our house, Santa is “anyone who gives a gift in secret”. So you’re a Santa, and I am a Santa, and even that guy dressed up in the mall is a Santa. My girls know that there are lots of Santas. They also know the story of Saint Nicholas, who is the reason that we can all be Santas for each other. Sometimes they even help pick out each others’ “Santa gifts”, but they know to not tell so that the giver remains a “secret Santa”.

  26. Sarah C says

    Oooh! I like Amy’s idea the best. I think that will fit well for my family. I don’t like the idea of lying, even if we have good intentions. But at the same time, it is a special time of the year and I want my daughter and future children to enjoy the magic of the season. The idea of defining a Santa as anyone who gives a gift in secret is brilliant. Thank you!

  27. k. says

    Listen, everyone who does the Santa thing *knows* that there is know way Santa can really fit all the toys for all the kids in his sled at one time.

    So, what the big man does, is drops off some toys at the houses a little early, and then stops by to wrap them on Christmas Eve.