One thing we do to handle this is give suggestions. Last year, we were saving for a swing set, so we asked that people give to the swingset fund. Some of them did, and it was so helpful! This year we'll be asking for pieces to the super awesome train table Santa is going to bring. I'm hoping people get on board with this. Train tables are awesome.
I'm posting to talk about The Lists. My husband is a planner, and it is a good thing because without his careful training and guidance, I'd be raiding Target for marked-up goods on December 23rd. The kid would end up with a set of hand weights and a soap dish.
Last year's system worked really well, so we're sticking to it. I thought I'd share some of our planning and ideas (toddler will be 2 after Christmas, so we're aiming for the 2-3 years range... I always put a few "older" toys in there and hide them until early summer, when the old new toys are getting ignored and in need of rotation), incase you are already thinking about what you're going to get your kiddos.
(Revised: I'm going to do this in three posts, because it is about to get HUGE.)
Hanukkah. Eight nights of beautiful tradition, latkes, and gifts. Some families do trinkets, some do full-on Toy Of The Year gifts. We do books, and I love it. After we've lit the candles and eaten our brisket, Toddler gets a (wrapped, so even I'm surprised... I don't remember what I wrapped!) book, and we all snuggle on the couch for a good read. This year, I've been buying them all along. I get books at the library, gently used (really they are like new) and 3 for $2.75. I usually give them $3 because it goes to the library and it is a dollar per book. You can't beat that with a stick. I've accumulated more books than nights and have a few more I want to get, so I may put a few of the smaller ones in her stocking.
If you don't celebrate Hanukkah and have a library with such an awesome program, maybe you can use books as an advent calendar. It is better than candy, and you'll have something new to read every night! That, and it will build a great library for your kids.
Here are some of the books Toddler will be getting this year:
Animals should definitely not wear clothing by Judi Barret
Stars by Mary Lyn Ray
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
(This book is ridiculously gorgeous, like Stars.)
I'm also looking for a great book about celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, like The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Pollaco (which we have, makes me cry every. single. time I read it, and is way, way above my child's head) on a toddler level. Most books I've read have some factor of the protagonist being embarrassed by celebrating two holidays (usually Hanukkah) and that is really not the idea we want to plant. Last year we focused on Hanukkah books specifically, so we have a bunch of those and some non-religious Christmas books (only a matter of days before I bust out Polar Express. I'm obsessed with Chris Van Allsburg. It's bad.) so if you have any ideas on merging the two, please share!
Be sure to read the other parts!
Stocking Stuffers - oy vey!
Santa Claus is coming to town!