The holiday season is upon us and while moms and dads might be overwhelmed with travel plans, decorating, and hosting family and friends, kids may be overwhelmed by something unexpected – too many gifts.

It may seem odd, but there can be too much of a good thing, even during the holidays. During winter festivities, children tend to get gifts from every corner of their life, from grandparents, neighbors and their own parents. Children who are overwhelmed with an abundance of gifts may react poorly and develop an attitude of entitlement: that they should receive something anytime they want it.

So, how can parents confront gift overload? Parents should develop a plan and get everyone on board:

  • Collaborate with relatives beforehand to make sure they’re buying gifts that your child really will enjoy.
  • Set a goal of the number of gifts you think the child should receive.
  • Take stock of all gifts that are there before you wrap them and if it looks like too many:
    • Create a prize bag to encourage good behavior in the future with some of the holiday gifts.
    • Withhold presents for later.
    • Return some gifts before the child opens them.
  • Ask the child to write thank-you notes for gifts received.

Some families like to assign a number to the amount of gifts a child will receive each year. Some families enlist a three-gift limit. If your child is receiving an abundance of gifts from friends and family, insist that instead of buying a toy, they should take the child to a movie, visit a museum or play for the day at the park.

If this is a problem that happens every year, have your children go through toys they aren’t playing with and give them to charities before the holidays.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips for donating toys:

  • Enlist your child’s help to sort toys for donation 
  • For every two toys, allow the child to keep one
  • Get input from your child about where he would like to donate his toys
  • Make sure the toys are safe and that all parts are intact and working
  • Include new batteries with the donation, if the toy requires them 
  • Check the Consumer Products Safety Commission websiteto make sure none of the old toys have been recalled


Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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