Teaching Children About Gifting

Unless your love language is “gifts,” I think we can mostly agree that gifts cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for the giver. Whether you’re buying for your mother-in-law or your little one, you want to make it extra special and you want the receiver to think it’s special, too. There’s no need for things to be stressful if you can set yourself up for success. But also… I should probably take my own advice!

It occurred to me as my kids open presents each year for birthdays and holidays, that I want to show them how to give. And how to do it cheerfully instead of begrudgingly. So, here are five practical ways I am teaching my children about gifting and giving.

1. Setting Limits:

I’ve always wanted to be the kind of giver where money wasn’t a concern. But, let’s be honest … it will always be. One bit of advice a friend gave me once was to save X amount out of each paycheck and put it into a separate fund for Christmas or birthdays, etc. This is a great idea for parents to model with their children. Just having the conversation is often what the children will remember and ask advice about when they’re older. As children get old enough to understand birthdays and holidays, helping them set up limits for gift amounts can be super helpful. So, if your child has a piggy bank stocked with coins … this might be a great time to go the bank, redeem those coins for cash, and have a chit-chat about how they’re going to spend their money. Of course, not all of it will be spent on gifts, but helping them set some aside to buy something for someone special is beneficial.

2. It’s About the Receiver: 

Teaching children to give at an early age helps them add depth to their vision of holidays and birthdays. Even though they may not see it at the moment they’re doing it, they will definitely remember it as years progress, if you hold strong to the idea of thinking more about others than themselves. A very practical way to do this is by giving our toys or clothes we’ve outgrown to someone we know. Allowing children to see their items, hand deliver those items to a friend, and hopefully get a “thank you,” can visually help them see how their gifts make someone else happy.

3. Find an Event: 

There’s one thing that I love to do–find an event or a location to volunteer with your children. Having experience and seeing what it is like to give to people in need not only fills their cup, but your heart, too. When children can help pack a box of food, or go through gently-used toys and actually give those things to real people, their memory can be stamped forever with the experience. Some churches and malls even have “angel trees” during the holidays where people can pick an “angel” off the tree and go to the store to buy items they might need and want. It’s a special time for kids to go pick out items with the receiver in mind. United Way, Harvesters, Safe Home, Salvation Army and local churches all have events throughout the year to help benefit others.

4. Experiences vs. Things: 

I read an article by Motherly that talked about ways to give children experiences over toys. Some of these ideas include: season passes to the local zoo, children’s theater, children’s museum or local community pools. There are also cooking classes, swim lessons, musical instrument lessons, dance classes, and a plane ticket to somewhere fun! These are all things that are just as meaningful as getting toys, but they don’t take up any space and are full of fun experiences for the kiddo! We also have a list of these types of experience gifts in our Shop KC guide.

5. Give people lists: 

To go along with saving X amount of money out of paychecks, you can also make sure to create lists for each family member. Having lists of kiddos’ wants and needs helps the giver know what the receiver needs. Whether it’s a toy or a new pair of slippers, lists are super helpful. One way to make the lists efficient is to create a Google Doc that has a new tab for each kiddo. Inside each tab, you can create two lists: needs and wants. Keep this list ongoing throughout the year, and make sure to put a checkmark OR highlight the item a different color once the item is bought or accounted for. Don’t forget to share the document with loved ones who want to buy your littles gifts. This way will prevent duplicate gifts as well as that fresh pair of undies that you didn’t want from grandma Louise.

How do YOU teach your children about gifting and giving?


Kelly Burnison
Kelly is a wife, teacher, and mom of three. She has a very active 5 year old son, Banks, and 3 year old twin girls, Kate and Hayden. Originally a Wichita, KS native, she moved to Kansas City in 2010. After marrying her husband, Shaun, in 2013, they wasted no time starting a family. Having three kids in 2 years takes quite the amount of patience and task mastering. In between picking up toys, chasing monsters, playing in the dirt, potty training, singing songs and fixing meals that her kids don't eat, she loves exercising, coffee dates, wine, and binge watching the latest TV drama series. The busy-ness of life is what keeps her going, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. When life calms down and a date night ensues, Kelly and Shaun enjoy trying new restaurants in the KC area!