When celebrating holidays, I try to balance my desire to be practical with the light-hearted fun of the occassion. In our house, stockings and Easter baskets are filled with wonderful treats like toothpaste, body wash and pencils as well as minimal candy and toys. When my girls were little, I'd get three of everything (one for each girl) in their favorite scents, flavors or colors - Chapstick, bubble bath, mini notebooks, whatever. Now that we've added a boy in the mix and all of the kids are older, I've gotten a little more creative in my gift giving. I've also added a new tradition that helps me know that I've chosen things my family likes. Let's be honest, it's not always easy keeping track of four kids' changing favorites. Sometime each autumn, each of my kids fill out a gift guide. This is the one time of year when they can write out all of the wonderful things they want and like. They know that I don't want to hear about everything they see and want as the stores roll out their holiday displays because I will use these guides for my shopping. Sometimes I deviate from their lists, but that is by my choice, not theirs.
I don't just keep these lists to myself. I make copies and share them with their siblings and extended family who ask for gift ideas. By sharing this information, I often have an idea of who is getting what and duplicate gifts are avoided. The list offers ideas at a variety of price points so everyone can find a gift within their budget that is sure to please the recipient. These lists help to cut down on disappointments as gifts are opened because the things they receive are things they wrote on their lists. We always teach our kids to be grateful for what they receive, but for birthdays and holidays, I'd rather give them what they truly need or want. They are honestly excited when they receive their favorite toothpaste rather than the basic stuff I buy the rest of the year.