Should Gifts Be a Surprise or Given by Request?
Gift-giving during Christmas can be a rewarding, fun, and stressful experience all at the same time. Most parents want their children to get exactly what they have wished for and then some under the Christmas tree. This sentiment may raise the question of whether it’s better to give gifts that are a surprise or give presents that meet their children’s requests.
Both Have Benefits
In terms of receiving an unexpected gift or one from a wish list, people are pretty much split down the middle as far as what they prefer—no matter their age. Some enjoy a surprise as much as the gift itself, whereas others would rather receive a gift that they truly want. However, it’s important to remember that nearly everyone appreciates receiving a present, whether it’s something they requested or not.
Here are some benefits of giving requested gifts:
• Eliminates returning and/or exchanging gift items
• More likely to be used and/or played with
• Helps avoid any disappointment at not receiving a desired gift
• Ensures that the gift will be appreciated
Here are some benefits of giving surprise gifts:
• Shows originality and thought on behalf of the giver
• Build-up of anticipation
• Unexpected presents add to the magic of Christmas
• Surprise gifts are often unique and fun
Of course, Christmas gift-giving can be a blend of requested and surprise gifts, depending on your family’s traditions and what you feel is appropriate for each child.
Consider Your Child’s Age, Interests, and Temperament
Younger children tend to enjoy unexpected gifts, both for the surprise and perhaps because they aren’t sure what to request. If you know your child’s interests or what might appeal to them in terms of toys, games, etc., then shopping for surprise holiday gifts will likely be fun for everyone.
However, keep in mind that some children truly do have specific ideas in mind for what they want as Christmas gifts. This may be a particularly sensitive issue if your child has expressed a wish or requested a certain gift from Santa. To avoid disappointment, it may be wise to accommodate their requests if the gift is appropriate to their age and development—and your budget. If you know your child has asked for something unrealistic, it’s advisable to explain that Santa can’t bring that particular gift and encourage them to select something more feasible.
Older kids tend to appreciate receiving exactly what they have requested for Christmas, which is just fine. Their requests may be a bit more expensive than those of younger children, so be sure to keep their expectations, and your spending, realistic. If you feel your older child will appreciate a surprise gift or two that matches one of their interests such as gaming, sports, or other hobbies, you can definitely include those as well. It may be wise to keep receipts for returns or exchanges, just in case.
One compromise between giving requested and unexpected Christmas gifts is to keep items for your kids’ stockings a surprise. For most families, it is implied that Santa fills the children’s stockings, so this is a great opportunity to give a few small, unexpected gifts to be opened as a surprise. In addition, stocking fillers are typically less expensive than Christmas gifts that are put under the tree, so you can potentially include a number of fun items for each child, no matter how old they are.
Here are just some ideas for stocking stuffers as a surprise:
• Candy or small treats
• Small, age-appropriate toys
• Gift cards
• Stuffed animals
• New winter gloves or scarves
• Card game
• Ornament for next year
• Fun or silly socks
• Bubble bath
• New crayons, pencils, markers, etc.
• Cute water bottle
Parents may worry that their kids will feel let down if they receive exactly what they’ve requested as Christmas gifts under the tree, without anything unexpected. Including stocking surprises is an excellent way to give some unexpected treats and gifts to create a fun balance for all members of the family.
Gifts by the Numbers
Another way to give Christmas gifts that have been requested and include a surprise or two is to do gifts “by the numbers.” There are different approaches to this method, but essentially, gifts follow a particular pattern of categories such as:
1. Something the person needs (this could be anything from new bedding to updated toiletries)
2. Something the person wants (they may ask directly or indicate on a wish list)
3. Something to wear (this could be new pajamas, a coat, sweater, etc.)
4. Something to read (consider what the person truly enjoys reading)
5. Something to do (this should be an “experience” such as movie tickets, hobby supplies, etc.)
6. Something special just for them (this can be something they’ve requested or a surprise)
7. Something that represents family (consider a framed picture, board game, large puzzle, etc.)
This example features a 7-rule gift guide, so each person would get 7 gifts total and one from each category (making the experience “equal” for each child as well). Parents can fit a few surprises into this strategy in addition to fulfilling gift requests made by their kids so that opening presents isn’t completely predictable.
Often, the best gift is creating fond holiday memories that focus on meaningful traditions and spending time together. At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational toys that encourage family fun as well as independent play as children grow and develop. That’s why we provide games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed, environmentally friendly, and unique to enhance children’s lifelong critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity. Our products allow families to connect with each other throughout the year in addition to creating lasting holiday traditions and memories by prioritizing excellent options for screen-free fun and healthy cognitive development. We wish you the happiest of holidays!