Gift-giving to children: 8 etiquette tips

Courtesy of MGN

As the year comes to a close, I take this time to say thank you for reading my column; I appreciate your feedback and encouragement. Although many of us are blessed (privileged) enough to receive gifts throughout the year, during the holiday season, we are particularly mindful of giving to others. 

I recall growing up in Louisiana and my mother saying, “Christmastime is a time for babes.”  We didn’t have much and compared to today’s standards we were poor. But regardless of what we received or didn’t receive throughout the year, my parents extended themselves to make sure each of us (nine children in the household) had at least one gift for Christmas.

 I remember toys hidden in closets, under beds, and left in my father’s truck. I also remember my dad staying up half the night, thinking we were asleep, assembling bikes and toys.

During those times, if each family member received one gift, you were blessed, so receiving a gift from someone else outside of your family was not very likely. We shared food, fun, and fellowship. Most people did not have the means to give gifts beyond their immediate family.

Today, however, gift-giving among friends, relatives, and even casual friends and organizations is commonplace. Since a gift is a present or deed that someone gives to another without expecting anything in return, are there any special considerations around what to give and how to present the gift? Of course, there are! This is what we call gift-giving etiquette.

Since Christmastime is a time when we give special attention to our “babes,” this column will focus on gift-giving to children, specifically children who are not your own. I polled parents and grandparents alike from around the country asking them to share with me what people should consider when giving gifts to their children—gift-giving etiquette with children in mind.

I have narrowed the suggestions to eight major considerations. I have also taken the liberty of including some gift ideas for this holiday season.


Holiday gift-giving etiquette with children in mind

Ask parents first: Unless you know the child and the child’s parents very well, ask the parents first and let them know what you are considering before giving to the child.

Is giving money or a gift card acceptable? Money and gift cards are certainly acceptable, but consider the age of the child when deciding to give money or gift cards. Some people say that parents do not need to be informed if the cash or gift card is for a teenager. Ummmm!  I’m not so sure. Many parents want to know what is coming in and out of their house, so if a child (teenager even) comes into the house with a gift with a value over $25, would that parent want to know? Would you want to know? 

Even with teenagers, parents want to make sure that “healthy” boundaries are maintained between other adults and their children. Parents also want to be involved in helping their children learn how to use money wisely.

Always consider the child’s age: Check the packaging; toys and games are marked with the recommended age group. Just because the child wants a particular toy or game, it may not be age-appropriate. You wouldn’t want to cause friction or an all-out battle of wills between the parent and the child because the child can’t have what Auntie Tricia gave her.

 Give the gift of an experience: A movie date, a trip to the museum or a special event. Again, check-in with the parent. Make sure you get approval on the type of movie, the movie rating, or the type of experience you are planning before the child knows.

Cultural considerations: Consider the child’s culture and heritage, and purchase gifts that are a positive reflection of the child’s cultural background. One parent shared, “Keep the child’s cultural background in mind when purchasing gifts. I respectfully ask all of my friends and family members to purchase gifts that are reflective of my daughter’s brown skin. I want her to see positive representations of herself, especially as a toddler.”

No pets please: Cute puppies and kittens may be a few of your favorite things, but as a parent frankly stated, “I would not be okay with someone giving my child a pet without my permission first.” Really? Would someone do that? Someone somewhere must have done it and it was not okay. Not even a betta fish; although considered low maintenance, even bettas need care.

No violent toys, please! These include guns of any type or violent video games. “I don’t even care for water guns. So would I be offended if someone brought my child a ‘toy’ gun without asking me? You bet I would!” said one parent.

What’s the magic word? Thank you: Always teach your child to graciously accept gifts, no matter how small and regardless of what they perceive the value to be. Teach them to say “thank you.”

And on that note, here’s sending a thank-you to the parents and grandparents who responded to the survey. In addition to the tips shared above, I have compiled a list of gift suggestions for kids of all ages: books and educational games; craft and building kits that encourage and stimulate creativity; outings and experiences.

I hope that you will find these holiday gift-giving etiquette tips and gift ideas helpful. There is joy in giving. Give from your heart, give from your abundant blessings; but when giving to a child, check with the parent first. That’s good gift-giving etiquette; that’s good life etiquette.