Santa vs parents? How do you do Christmas presents?
How many of your children's gifts come from Santa? Is the end of the bed the best place for a stocking? What's the 4-gift rule? Our parents share what they've learnt from family Christmasses past – so you can get some brilliant present tips
How exactly do you do Christmas presents for your child? Do all their presents come from Father Christmas? Or just some – with the coming from you? And how many presents does your child get in total?
And then there's where to put them. Do Santa's presents just go in a stocking – or are they also stacked under the tree?
And what about wrapping? Do presents from Santa get wrapped in a special way?
Here are their wise words about how to do (and not do) presents from Santa for children, along with some great little hints and tips to keep the magic of Christmas alive – as well as keeping your sanity on a halfway decent keel.
How do you do presents from Santa? Parents share their 10 top tips...
1. Don't make all the presents come from Father Christmas
Unless you want your child to remember for ever and a day the Christmas when they realised for the first time that Mummy and Daddy haven't got them a thing, you may not want to give Santa all the credit for your child's Christmas haul.
"I was devastated when my daughter, at the age of 6, commented how Daddy and I had got her nothing," says Tara B. "And that's because I'd always said all the presents had come from Santa. I've learnt from that mistake, and from now on, she'll get 3 or 4 from him and the rest from Mummy and Daddy."
One way to frame it – which a lot of our parents recommend – is to make the big present(s) from you, and then credit Santa with the little ones. "We decided that all big presents will be from family," says Emma P, "and then they will each have a few little presents in a stocking from Santa."
2. Though Santa can bring all the presents
"Presents are from Mummy and Daddy and stockings are from Father Christmas but he brings everything to the house," Rebecca C tells us.
We really like this idea: it shows plenty of involvement from Santa himself but it's clear that Mum and Dad have had a big part in the present process too. Win, win!
And Kayleigh A takes it one step further. "We tell our kids that we get their presents but Santa keeps hold of them," she says, "and he only brings them to the house on Christmas Day if they're on the Good List. Otherwise, the presents will be go to the other children on the Good List instead. It works for us!"
3. Don't be tempted to buy too much when they're really little
As easy as it is to get carried away with the whole Christmas vibe, lots of our parents have advised that it's not a good idea to go too OTT on presents when they're too little to appreciate – or remember – it.
"I wish I hadn’t spent so much on gifts when they were babies and didn’t care what they got!" says Christy J.
And Sophie H was grateful for the tip: "It’s my daughter's first Christmas and we're not going overboard now as you've made me see she won't realise it – and also I'd then feel we have to go overboard every year... "
And actually, even when they're older, it's worth restraining the impulse to buy loads. "This year, we are only having 1 or 2 pressies from Santa and the rest from Mummy and Daddy," says Emma R. "I’m not buying a lot of ‘plastic tat’ again, as most of is never looked at."
4. Send money to Santa to buy the gifts
There's a fine line between wanting to have a sense of magic around Christmas and making sure your child grows up knowing at least something of the value of money.
One thing quite a few parents told us is that they tell their children they've sent money to Santa, so he can then buy and deliver the gifts.
"I was always told, when I was growing up, that Mam and Dad sent money to Santa for the presents," says Rachel S. "I’ll definitely be saying the same to my son Theo when he gets older."
Just like the idea of Santa bringing the gifts you bought, doing presents this way shows that you've put some investment in the presents, and that they've not just come from Lapland for free.
5. Think about sticking to 'the 4-gift rule'
In case you haven't heard of it, the 4-gift rule is all about keeping it simple. You use the rhyme, "Something they want, something they need, something they wear and something they read" to buy your child a mix of nice-to-haves and useful gifts.
"I'm definitely going with the 4-gift rule," says Katherine P. "It's a good framework for ideas, and it'll stop me spending too much."
“The 4-gift rule really helps me think things through," says Donna. "I've heard people say it's just a way to be cheap but I don't buy that – the 'something they need' could be a laptop for homework, couldn't it?
The 'want' is usually straightforward, as it'll something they've seen advertised on the TV.
"Making sure you get 'something to read' is a good idea – always more thrilling for the kids than you think and easy to forget in all the rush. And 'something to wear' could be anything from PJs or socks to a blooming expensive coat.
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"I think the main thing is the thought behind it, not just following the crowd or the hype. I have 5 kids and, using this rhyme last year, I had 5 very happy kids.”
6. Plan where to put the stockings
There are a number of classic places for stockings, with the end of your child's bed being the most popular.
But if your child's a light sleeper (and what child isn't on Christmas Eve?) or you're not a quiet stocking filler, the option of a stocking by the fireplace (or somewhere similar in your house) might be better than trying to fill it in your little one's room, or taking it out, putting the presents in and putting it back – all in stealth silence.
"My friends do stockings on beds," says Sarah E, "but I do not risk this: I would never make it out without waking them!"
7. Make sure you use 'Santa wrap'...
For Father Christmas' presents, you probably don't want to use regular wrap that your kids might spot on other gifts.
"I’ve got a special sack from Father Christmas, says Claire H, "and I use a special wrapping paper every year (I stock up on it in a the January sales!) so my daughter knows that presents in that paper come from Father Christmas."
If that's a bit too much forethought for you, why not have a simple theme you can stick with every year? So, for example, presents from Santa always come wrapped in brown paper or plain gold...
That way, as soon as the kids see those particular parcels on Christmas morning, they'll know exactly who they're from.
8. .... but don't necessarily wrap everything
Helen on the MadeForMums team regrets ever starting to wrap all the little stocking gifts in different paper for each of her 3 children. And Sarah E agrees: "I hate wrapping stocking presents – it takes forever."
If you're looking for a halfway house, especially when it comes to the stocking gifts, you could always wrap a couple at the top and leave the rest unwrapped. Or wrap the gifts lightly in tissue paper without using sticky tape.
That's what works for Claire D: "I avoid wrapping every present 1) because I hate wrapping 2) it saves all the waste. Put things in cardboard boxes (children love them) or wrap things in tissue paper – minus sticky tape, so it's easy to open and then the tissue paper can be reused."
9. Put the name labels on before you forget what everything is
If you're the sort that likes to wrap presents as soon as you've bought them, rather than wrap them all in a mad rush on Christmas Eve, then we have one word for you (apart from 'organised'!): labels. Trust us, go back to those unlabelled packages a couple of weeks later and you'll be clueless as to which present is whose.
If you don't want to – or don't have time to – write out name labels for everything, you could do what Sarah E does: "I wrap each child's presents in a different colour, so I can wrap them all in advance and know whose is whose without having to put names on."
10. Don't forget where you've hidden everything
And finally, we know this one sounds obvious but, if you like to be organised and start early, there's a fair chance you'll forget where you've stashed everything.
"I love Christmas. I start very early and then forget where I put thing," says Anna A. "I usually end up over-buying as a result, because I've forgotten what I've got."
If you do like to get the presents in early, try and have a definite 'place' for them (or 1 place per child) so you don't, in February, discover something you squirrelled away and think: "Oh, yes, I totally forgot about that!"
Tara is mum to 1 daughter, Bodhi Rae, and has worked as Content Editor and Social Media Producer at MadeForMums since 2015
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