Turning “Gimmme, Gimme!” into Gratitude: Helping Kids Manage Excitement Around Gifts

Kids can get really caught up in the excitement of toys and presents around the holidays. They are still developing the skills they need to regulate their excitement and waiting for the time to unwrap gifts can be really hard for kids! All of this excitement can cause kids to hyper-focus on presents and make it even harder to wait Here are some ideas for helping kids manage their excitement around gifts during the holidays:

Talk to your children about the importance of kindness and gratitude. Help shift their focus from presents and toys to the meaning behind the presents, like kindness and gratitude. This can be as simple as talking about what you’re thankful for each day, or how you can be kind to others. Check out these 10 Simple Activities to Teach Gratitude  from Moments A Day for some simple gratitude activities. While talking about the importance of kindness and gratitude, emphasize the excitement of giving to others. Talk about how it feels when you give something to someone else or do something kind for someone. Have kids participate in getting or creating small gifts for family members to get them excited about giving to others.

Check out these blogs for more ideas on talking to kids about gratitude and making holidays more meaningful:

Talk to kids about expectations around gifts ahead of time. Kids are still developing the regulation skills to be able to handle their disappointment when they aren’t crazy about a present. Sometimes kids might flat out say they don’t like something. They can also get so excited about a gift that they forget to say thank you to the giver. Talking to them about their responses and practicing ahead of time can be helpful with this. For example, reminding them to look at the person who got the gift for them and tell them thank you or give them a hug if they want, etc. For some tips on helping kids respond in a kind way even when they don’t like the gift check out this blog:  Teaching children to say “thank you” (even when they don’t like the gift) – KITS (kidsintransitiontoschool.org)  

Use a calendar or some kind of visual countdown to the big day. If kids are having a hard time waiting for gifts, use some sort of visual count down so kids can have an idea of when the big day will be. Advent calendars are traditionally used to measure how much time is left until Christmas, but you could make them for any holiday. Kids can look forward to a treat each day. Paper chain countdowns can also be a fun craft and decoration. You can use different colored paper to make the links in the chain for however many days you want your countdown to be. You can take off a link each day or leave the whole chain up for a decoration.

Redirect the focus on presents to other fun holiday activities. Kids might get caught up in the excitement of gifts but there are many other holiday activities for kids to get excited about! Kids love crafts, decorating, holiday cooking/baking, holiday gatherings with family and friends, etc.  Build these up by asking for their input on what activities they would like to do and space out the activities so they are focusing on holiday fun in different ways before it is time to unwrap presents. You could even sit down with your kids and make a list of holiday activities you would like to do and when would be good times to do them.  If you’re doing a paper chain countdown it could be fun to write a holiday activity on each link in the chain, and do an activity each day.

Of course, kids are going to get caught up in the excitement of receiving presents but we can help shift their focus to the meaning behind the gift giving and the meaningful time spent together!

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Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2021

Image: © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com


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