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I’m tired of shopping for my kids. I’ve spent countless hours brainstorming ideas, discussing possibilities with my husband, scrolling all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals—and now I’m just done.

The problem, though? I haven’t even bought them a single thing yet.

Every idea, every good deal, has been passed on to grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and any number of random relatives who want to buy them a gift and asked for a list.

All of my gift ideas are ending up in someone else’s cart. 

And now, I don’t know what’s left to get them. 

In the spirit of Christmas, and from a heart of love, I have a message to all the well-meaning gift-givers in my children’s lives.  

First, thank you. 

Truly and sincerely, thank you. It means so much to us that you love our kids and are trying to buy them gifts they will enjoy and I approve of. And though I appreciate you asking for my input, I don’t want to do your shopping for you. You see, I have my own shopping to do and a limited amount of time, brain space, and energy to do it. So I’ve put together a few suggestions for you as you’re shopping for my kids that I think will make all of our lives easier.  

Give from your heart and your experience. 

If you’re buying a gift for my child it’s because you love them and want to see their little faces light up with excitement and appreciation. And really, unless it’s a package of underwear (with the exception of the cool Disney character kind their mom refuses to buy) or a book about cleaning their rooms (which they might actually need), I truly think they’ll love anything you give them. Think about what you know about them: What activities are they in? What do they like to do when they spend time with you? What do they talk a lot about? What movies or shows have they mentioned to you? Thinking about these things might prompt gift ideas. And these gifts will mean more because they show you’ve been paying attention to them and what they like. (And, honestly, there’s a good chance you’ll have even better ideas than me.) 

RELATED: Please Give Your Kids These 7 Gifts This Year

Ask for my opinion—not a list. 

Instead of saying, “Could you give me some gift ideas for your kids?” share two or three options you’ve already brainstormed and ask me if I think they’d like them. This saves me a whole lot of stress and time. I’m already over here trying to come up with the perfect gift and making sure to pick up that last-minute addition from the letter to the North Pole. It’s hard to make the time and brainstorming power to fill up your list, too. If you want to know general ideas or clothes sizes, I’m happy to oblige. I can tell you things like Barbies, LEGOs, football, crafts, and give you clothes and shoe sizes. But then . . . you take it from there. Search out some ideas and then feel free to check in with me to make sure you don’t duplicate something they already have. But, please, don’t ask me to send you the link, or even worse, tell me to just pick something up while I’m out doing my shopping. 

If you ask for my ideas, truly consider them.

I know gift cards, cash, or a deposit into a college fund isn’t terribly exciting for you to wrap up, but if that’s what I know my kids would benefit from, consider actually giving it. Maybe my newborn doesn’t really need another snuggly teddy bear, but a gift card toward the million diapers we buy each month would be much appreciated. Or the toddler with a full bookshelf doesn’t realize it now, but she’ll greatly appreciate the extra money when she’s headed out to purchase college textbooks. And the increasingly difficult to buy for tween or teen really does find joy in unwrapping that small, plastic rectangle that gives them the freedom to shop for themselves. 

Sometimes the unwrapping can be just as exciting as the gift. 

If we parents have given you boring ideas like those mentioned above, make the unwrapping part of the gift. Hide some cash or a gift card wrapped up in a baggie inside a bag or box of the kiddo’s favorite snack and make them dig (or eat) their way to it. Create a scavenger hunt prompting them to find and unwrap a new box to discover the next clue. Make it a game, requiring them to answer a series of questions or a riddle before unveiling the big prize. Or challenge them at their favorite activity, allowing them to win a prize at the end. For example, a kid who likes basketball gets 10 shots from anywhere in the driveway, each made shot equals $10. There are all kinds of creative ways to make “boring” gifts fun. 

Our kids love gifts, but they don’t always need more stuff. 

Some of us have growing families but small spaces, and with each Christmas gift that enters, something has to leave. Others already have a playroom full of toys that only get played with occasionally—most often for a few days after they’ve been opened—before making their way to the bottom of the bin or back of the closet. Please don’t give out of obligation to match what you did last year or to meet a gift count that you’ve established in your head. Yes, our kids love presents, but they love you more. Think outside the box for kids who don’t need more stuff. Give a small gift paired with the non-stuff things mentioned above. Consider boxing up an assortment of their favorite snacks or special drinks that they don’t get very often or the ingredients for a fun baking project. Think about consumable gifts that can be disposed of when they are finished with them like coloring books or craft supplies. And if you are giving a gift with the potential to be spread all over the house in five seconds flat (i.e. LEGOs, Barbies, Nerf bullets, tea set, etc.) package them up in a tote or tub for easy storage—gift for child, gift for mom. Or follow the wise and growing trend of experience gifts, planning time for you to spend with the kiddo you’re buying for.   

RELATED: 30 Experience Gifts For the Family

Ultimately, I want you to know we appreciate your generous heart and desire to gift our kids with not just things but Christmas memories.

While you do your shopping, I’ll do mine. And we’ll meet at the tree in just a few short weeks—I’ll be the one picking up loose wrapping paper, smiling as I watch my kids unwrap the love and thoughtfulness you’ve given them. 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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