One of our favorite family Christmas traditions happens on Christmas Eve when the boys (and now Janie too!) give gifts to each other that they purchase with their own money. We started this tradition when Aidan was 4 and Gresham was 18 months, and it worked so well that we have been doing it ever since!
With five kids and lots of daily sibling fighting, I think it’s important to build in some family traditions that remind the kids just how much they really do love each other. Every step in this tradition is so good for building family memories and encouraging kids to enjoy giving as well as receiving. As our family has grown, we have talked about drawing names so that the boys can just give a gift to one sibling, but they don’t want to! They love the time of “brother gifts” on Christmas Eve, and they want to pick something out for each person.
Update for Christmas 2018: We did try drawing names last year! Shopping was faster and they were able to buy one $20 gift instead of multiple small gifts, but we decided to go back to buying small things for each person this year. It’s just more fun!
Part 1: Earning the money.
Sometime in November (when it dawns on me that it’s time to save for Christmas gifts), spending comes to a stop and no one is allowed to purchase any toys for themselves. Any money earned through allowances and extra paid chores goes to each child’s Christmas fund, which will be used for purchasing gifts. Just this past weekend I went to the bank and stocked up on $1 bills for this purpose. It’s much more meaningful to the kids if you can pay in actual cash as soon as a chore is completed. When they were younger, I saved the money for them in envelopes. Now the older two (12 and 9) keep track of their own funds in their wallets. Make it fun! During this time, I come up with extra chores to do that they might even enjoy, and then they get to add cash to their Christmas fund. (For kids under age 5, I usually supplement their earnings when it’s time to go shopping. The baby receives one gift from everyone and doesn’t give gifts until age 3 or so.)
Ideas for chores:
- Washing the car
- Organizing the pantry, cleaning the shelves, and throwing away expired food
- Organizing drawers
- Making mom and dad’s bed
- Folding laundry
- Washing the dog
- Dusting under furniture
- Dusting blinds
- Washing windows
Part 2: Shopping
The thing that makes this such a fun tradition is that the boys know each other better than anyone, and they are usually very good at selecting gifts. Plus, it’s fun to go shopping with them one at a time! They usually spend $5 or so per person, sometimes less and sometimes a little more depending on which child is doing the buying and who the gift is for. Three year olds will, of course, want to shop for themselves. But don’t give up! They mature a little each year. Last year, Gresham (age 8 at the time) had the idea to sew sock monkeys for each of his brothers. It took Grandma and I both helping, but he worked so hard! He enjoyed every step – making and stuffing the monkeys, then making superhero capes and masks for them to wear, then wrapping them. It was a very special Christmas Eve! But the gifts certainly don’t need to be that complicated. Another year, Aidan was tired of his little brothers borrowing his cowboy pistols all the time. He bought an $8 set with 2 pistols in it at Walmart and split it up, giving each brother a gun. They were delighted!
Ideas for affordable gifts:
- Split up a multi-pack of Hot Wheels cars and a child can give each sibling one or two
- Books from the library’s used book sale (our kids have not even noticed that they were used!)
- Christmas ornaments
- A $5 Sonic card or similar
- Card games
- Dollar Store toys
- Target $1 spot
- Lego mystery minifigures
Part 3: Christmas Eve!
Why Christmas Eve? The thing that I like about the kids exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve is that there is time to savor the giving. Our tradition is to go to the Christmas Eve service at church and then to come home for dinner and “brother gifts.” (They’re going to have to stop calling it that now that they have a sister too!) It’s not a mad dash as everyone scrambles to open things. Instead, each kids takes a turn getting his or her gifts from under the tree and giving them to their siblings. It has turned into quite a special time!
Do your kids give Christmas gifts to each other? How do you handle sibling gifts at your house?
Eva/ Kid Minds Nov 19, 2015
We don't do sibling gifts for Christmas, but I enjoyed reading about your family tradition. Pinning and sharing
Melisa Nov 19, 2015
Because of this post... I plan to start. Totally doable to earn $5 before Christmas for my 8 and 6 year olds. Also, very helpful with the job list. Not really given it much thought before other than that might be fun.... someday. That day is coming to our home next month. Thanks. :)
Donna Nov 20, 2015
Love this idea. I have twin boys and they would really enjoy this! Thanks for being willing to share your ideas!
Judy Nov 20, 2015
My four kids have been drawing names for years. It really helped as finances got tight that we had the tradition already in place! The kids are teens now and pick names pretty early so that they can plan ahead (well some of them!). :)
Carmen Nov 21, 2015
Hi, great idea. My friend has a tradition where they do crafts for the elderly neighbors throughout December and give it to them in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. A lot of these neighbors are a bit lonely over those days and it teaches the kids to give.
Elizabeth Washburn Nov 21, 2015
We do sibling gifts and about 6 or so years ago have split up our Christmas to the 5 days of Christmas with a day for sibling gifts, Mam-ma and Papa's, Nana, Mommy and Daddy, and stockings. They enjoy the multiple days of presents. We enjoy the more peaceful, relaxing, more thankful attitudes, and stretched out holidays.
I like your idea of paying for chores for my littles. Around 8ish, they have always used their money they have earned for doing extra jobs for neighbors and grandparents. Before then I usually have made them go through our gift bin to give gifts.
Addi Ganley Nov 28, 2015
This is such a cute idea thank you for sharing.
I bet my boys would love this tradition as well, they are always more excited to give a gift when they are a part of finding and purchasing.
Meaghan Dec 18, 2015
I was just wondering what to do for sibling gifts! In the past (and I think we'll keep doing it) is for the boys to hand make something for each other. I do like the idea of opening those Christmas Eve to make it more special and not lost in the chaos of the next morning.
Jan Horwood Oct 20, 2016
This is such a lovely idea!
Sue Nov 4, 2016
We open one family gift on Christmas Eve. In it is a new pair of pajamas for everyone, a new family movie, popcorn and hot chocolate. We all put on the pj's and enjoy the movie. It is something my children and grandchildren really look forward to.
Karen Nov 5, 2016
We gave my 3 year old the opportunity to pick out a gift for her baby brother at the store at Christmas last year and for his first birthday. She was so excited and always comments when Carter plays with "the toy I got him!" I like the idea of earning money to buy it herself though :-)
Tami Nov 10, 2018
I love the idea of doing it on Christmas Eve. We make a gift for someone in the family as a fun tradition. I think we might give those on Christmas Eve. Love it!!
Kikirime Dec 25, 2018
We did it this year and it was AWESOME. It was very emotional and touching for me as mom to see as they were exchanging the presents.
Thanks so much for sharing this tradition on your blog.
Catherine Luzanocl Feb 26, 2019
Love your gift ideas, I will surely keep this idea in mind for the next Christmas. Keep sharing good work with us.
Melanie Nov 29, 2019
We started when our oldest was 7 and little brother 1. We pick names and whoever you pick you make them a handmade gift. You can buy the your supplies but you have to make it. I now have 4 kids 31,23,20,16 and 1 granddaughter who is 6. I love to see what the kids have made each other over the years because they still have their gifts. Also what is most special is that their Dad passed away this will be their 5th Christmas without him and remembering the past gifts he made them is priceless. Come September even my granddaughter wants to know "when are we picking names". The ones that they make each other are the ones they want to open first.❤
Lauren Sep 21, 2020
We don’t do sibling gifts yet, my boys are still little, baby, 3 and 5. But they have been earning money for chores and really wanted them to pay for gifts for each other this year. There are so many benefits to it! Thanks for the clarification I needed for it! I love calling it “brother gifts” too because we have all boys! Thanks!
Renee Dec 18, 2021
Thank you for posting this and encouraging to stick thru the ages and stages of giving. I agree my kids know each other best and I love the immediate payment for chores. These details help to make it meaningful for them to become an actual tradition!!
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