Preparing Kids For A Smaller Christmas

Filed under: Work Life, Holidays

It's official -- the U.S. economy is in a recession. So what does that mean for Santa's sack? For many of us, it will be much smaller this year. If you're like me and you tend to go overboard at the holidays, but you're cutting back this year, experts say you might want to prepare your kids for less loot under the tree.

Teens are readily able to grasp the concept of budgeting, but what about the little ones?

Holiday 2008 Gift Guide: Under $20

    Magic Bean

    Even the youngest child can appreciate the thrill of seeing something grow from a mere seed. What makes this seed so special is the secret message it reveals as it grows. Just add water and in about two weeks, the words "I Love You" or "Good Luck" will appear on this Jack Bean stalk. $11.95 at Wrapables .
    Ages 5+


    A gift the whole family can enjoy, Banagrams is a word game that can be played simultaneously by spellers of all levels. 144 letters in a bright yellow pouch provide take-along fun while helping to build vocabulary and improve spelling skills. So much fun, the kids might not even notice they are learning. $15.00 at Creative Kids Stuff
    Ages 7+

    Paint Your Own Tea Set

    Playing tea party is fun, but playing with a tea set you made yourself is even better. This one comes complete with 17 pieces of white porcelain just waiting to be adorned with the brightly colored non-toxic paint. Let it set for a few days or bake it in the oven and the art becomes permanent. $12.95 at
    Ages 8+

    3-D Drawing Pad

    Stereographic background paper lets little doodlers create their own 3-D images. Simply draw on the pad, don the groovy glasses and you have instant 3 dimensional awesomeness. At just $7.99 for a pad of 50 sheets, you can buy two and keep one for yourself at Perpetual Kid.
    Ages 3+


    This is not your father's ant farm. Sand has been replaced with gel and the results are groovy 3-D ant tunnels. Even better? The ants get their food and water from the gel, so they are practically care-free. The habitat kit comes with instructions and a magnifying glass for up-close viewing. Ants not included. $19.49 at Discover This.
    Ages 6+

    Bubble Gum Factory

    What kid doesn't like bubble gum? Make them work for it with this Bubble Gum Factory kit. Kit includes everything needed to make flavored, color-changing and even gooey center-filled gum. From the Discovery Channel Store at for $16.96.
    Ages 8+

    Cadaco's Spectacular Magic Show Set

    Now you see it, now you don't! Clever kids can amaze their friends and family by making playing cards vanish, pouring paint from an empty can and more. Includes everything needed to perform 100 different magic tricks, including an instructional DVD. $19.99 at Target.
    Ages 7+

    Pizza Party Play Food

    Get little chefs cooking with a pizza party. This all-wood set comes complete with six slices of pizza on a tray, a cutter, a spatula and over 50 toppings to mix and match. Packaged in a wooden box with a see-through lid, it sells for $15.96 at Gummy Lump.
    Ages 3+

    Zoob Construction Set

    Most building sets allow kids to build stuff and that's about it. With Zoob, they can actually play with their creations. The pieces snap together to form joints that rotate, extend, spin and more. Get their creative juices flowing with 55-piece collection of Zoob pieces for only $11.99 at Stuff Kids Like.
    Ages 6+

    Pirates of the Tub

    Make bath time a lot more fun with this cool pirate set. Includes foam pieces that stick to the walls, island-building pieces and three pirate squirters. Set contains 38 phthalate-free pieces and a suction-cup mesh bag for drying. Ahoy! $18.95 at Growing Tree Toys.
    Ages 3+

One Big Family: Try explaining the concept by saying that our country is one big family, and everyone needs to spend a little less, even Santa. Be honest and brief; don't overload the little ones with lots of heavy grown-up concepts.

Make A List:
Kids should still be encouraged to make a list, and don't limit them. Allow them to include everything they desire, even the extravagant stuff. As the holiday gets closer, ask them to revisit the list and choose a few items that are really important to them. Ask them to explain to you just why those items are so crucial.

Tell The Truth: Don't set them up for disappointment. Be honest if there is a big-ticket item that won't be under the tree.

Shop Together: When purchasing gifts for others, bring the kids with you. It can be a subtle way to teach about budgeting, and also helps show them that giving is just as fun as getting.

Deal With Tantrums: If your child is still unprepared and wakes up to disappointment on Christmas morning, he or she just might have a melt-down. After all, the holidays are all about build-up, and those TV advertisements can get under their skin. Lovingly but firmly deal with it as you would any other melt-down.

My kids would be happy if I wrapped an empty box and put it under the tree, so the giving is really about me. However, I know that in the long run, it is a greater gift to exercise fiscal restraint in these uncertain times.

How about you? Are you reducing your spending?

Are you cutting back on holiday gifts?
No, I'm busting out the credit cards8 (10.5%)
Yes, it's a lump of coal for everyone15 (19.7%)
I'll be spending less, but will still be generous53 (69.7%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.