At Christmas my son hit a point where each successive wave of toys stopped having an impact on him, there was just too many for him to handle and half of them have been barely touched since. It's really frustrating seeing so much money and resources effectively go to waste when he would have been just as happy with half as many. I particularly take issue with some of the plastic tat that people were buying as "little extra" presents, cheap trash that got played with once and then ignored and ultimately ended up recycled.
I totally get that everyone wants to be generous, and I don't want to be a scrooge, but the cumulative effect is overwhelming for a 4yo, and ceased to have any meaning for him. Just so much waste.
If I watch the body language of my kids during these present-opening extravaganzas, I can see so many cues: The annoyance at being pushed to keep opening presents before they're done engaging with the one they just opened. The saturation point where they're nearing some stage of psychological numbness after umpteen presents. The stress of being pressed to show some semblance of gratitude toward all the people who are giving them presents even after they've reached that point. The increasing piles of toys giving increasing opportunities for squabbling with the other kids in the room over toys, or feelings of envy and jealousy around all these material possessions, etc.
And then, after that's over and everyone's gone home, they end up enjoying the stuff they have less over the long term as well, because having such a large collection of toys creates such a high distraction environment. It's hard to realize it when you're in the thick of it, probably doubly so when you're a kid, but owning lots of stuff is mentally exhausting.
So this year, a few weeks after Christmas, we talked through all that with our kids, and we agreed to start curating the toy collection. They helped us pick a selection of stuff to put in the closet, and, whenever they want to, we'll rotate some stuff. It turns out that, a couple months later, they're still declining to do any rotation: They want to stick with the stuff they already have. They're busy finding increasingly creative ways to play with what they've got, and I honestly think they're getting a greater feeling of satisfaction that comes with the accomplishment of designing new games with the things they already have, and of finding cool new things to build with the one construction toy they chose to keep out.
It really seems to me like, by taking their toys away, we gave them back their fun.
I think I'm going to start broaching the idea of pruning his collection a bit over the next few months, or at least boxing some of them up like you've done. I like that idea, it's a nice half-way house, and doesn't force them into a situation of having to actually get rid of things.
We even showed them how it was the same closet where we keep stuff of ours that we weren't currently using, and joined them in the process by moving some jigsaw puzzles and board games from the game shelf and putting them away as well.
As such, I can see why they'd be upset about having to stay within limits. It's harder to hit that "wow" with a $10 gift than a $100 gift, after all.
Every Christmas or birthday that I've made someone say, "This is the best gift ever!" is the greatest feeling.
The worst for me is when someone asks for something specific. There's no way to get that "best ever" title from that. You're merely meeting expectations. Gift cards are also in this category since pure cash would actually be a better gift, and still just as soul-less and expected.
And if my aim isn't to wow them, I'd just be giving them a gift because it's expected socially, which doesn't interest me at all.
Chinese children get cash for New Year's. It doesn't hurt the mood of the holiday at all. I think what makes it work is the asymmetry -- children receive money from adults. In a symmetric exchange, exchanging cash is similar to doing nothing. In an asymmetric exchange, it's fine. (You see the same thing with Chinese weddings -- the couple receive money from the guests. I'm told that it can be hard to actually profit off the wedding, though.)
I'll also note that, as a white American, I usually received cash in the mail from aunts and uncles. This did not impair their relationship with me. I liked getting it.
Sure, you should learn what someone wants and try to target that. But denying someone what they know they want because you want credit for thinking of the gift idea, that's self-centered.
I think the only solution to to stash 99% of them out of sight after a day our two, wait another week or two, and then drop them at the goodwill. I wish I could build an underground pneumatic tube system straight from my basement to the goodwill toy bin.
Every kid bring 2x $2 or 2x $5 - one goes to the birthday kid and the other to a stated cause, like a charity that is close to the child's likes or interests.
In our experience it's a very socially acceptable way to ask for money, which I think most of the parents of attendees would appreciate more anyway.
Family tends to already give money for birthdays, or if not you still significantly cut down on the # of presents no one really wants.
You also have more time at the party for games and cake - we usually don't get a chance to unwrap presents at the party as it is.
I've also noticed a push-back against party bags filled with plastic knick-knacks, with people putting a bit more thought into what goes in, which is great.
It is very uncommon for friends or wider family circles to give anything big to a kid. Maybe clothes, a book, a little toy, sweets, ... usually it is more for the parents, especially with kids younger than 4
I knew one or two exceptional kids that got A LOT, and they were from a background where the parents certainly couldn’t afford it, which somehow makes sense.
In our case it isn't like the presents are all really expensive, it's literally the number of them that is the problem. I'd actually be happier if our families spent the same money but on fewer things. Like one decent present would be better than three pieces of plastic crap from the same person.
My wife's extended family also really struggle with the idea that I would rather have consumable things (nice beers, a speciality cheese, a treat etc) than some random thing that they think I'll like. I'm no minimalist, but I really don't need or want more stuff in my life and would be far, far happier with something simpler and less permanant.
I've been asked before what I would like for christmas, only to be asked to come up with something "better". So frustrating.
My own in-laws still have younger kids, and they also do fall into the mindset of giving lots of lower-quality gifts instead of less higher-quality gifts. I feel like if the kids get less gifts, even if better, they might complain, but I think they could grown accustomed to it.
It's been a constant battle to receive fewer presents just for myself.
As a child I didn't know how to tell the adults to stop giving me presents I didn't want.
As an adult with a child now, it's still hard to stop people from giving you (and the child) stuff. For some people gift giving is for them, not the receiver.
As for timing, Christmas is an all day affair. They open presents as they want, we take breaks for breakfast and lunch. Seems to work well.
I often think that many of life's problems come down to an issue of asymmetry. From the giver's perspective it's just a couple of presents, but from the receiver's (or their parents) its an avalanch.
We frequently do house sweeps and donate neglected items to keep clutter to a minimum. And it helps them to use and appreciate the items they keep.
More so, and now that our kids are getting older, we have been focusing more on putting money, time and energy into experiences, such as family vacations and activities. I find that the buyer's remorse I get with buying stuff for me or my kids doesn't really exist with experiences. It can be hard to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars planning a weekend getaway to the ocean or a day in the mountains, but I never regret it later.
And when asked for gift recommendations for the kids, we try to push them toward things that will help us do these things or experiences of their own to have with our kids.
The amount of gifts some of these kids get is absolutely insane. They're not getting a gift from everyone, they're getting an entire load of Christmas gifts from everyone. One from the parents, one from grand-parents, and occasionally aunts/uncles. Couple that with the fact that lots of people are on their 2nd marriage, that only multiplies the gifts.
I remember going to a friend's one Easter to look at his PC. Both of their kids had three mega-sized Easter baskets. One from them, one from his parents, and one from his wife's. Do two 8-10 year old's really need 20 lbs of candy each? Absolute overkill.
I simply do not accept you cannot stop it if you want to. So i guess my question is "why is trying to manage the fallout easier than proactively preventing it"?