One of the most celebrated traditions of Christmas is sharing gifts with your loved ones. For that reason, Christmas is one of the holidays most favored by children, who are often treated to several toys and other gifts on the day.
According to a February 2021 statement from the Toy Association: “One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has helped families rediscover the joys of spending time together and find value in bringing play into their daily lives.”
The association projected that this year families would be “seeking new toys that promote togetherness, as well as inclusive playthings that can be enjoyed by kids of varying abilities and interests,” the statement said.
But can these toys and other gifts become dangerous for a child’s health?
Can Too Many Gifts Be Damaging for Your Child?
There are different factors to be aware of when it comes to giving your children gifts during the holidays.
While it is possible that lavishing your child with Christmas gifts can become detrimental, it isn’t likely to “supersede parenting practices that promote resilience,” Dr. David Palmiter, a board certified clinical psychologist, told Newsweek.
Similar to playing video games, spoiling your child is, of course, unhealthy “but not nearly as damning as some might have imagined, especially if other things are going well in the family,” Palmiter explained.
The psychologist said the word “spoiled” can be seen as the opposite of the word “disciplined,” which in America, “appears to have become conflated with butt-kicking—it isn’t,” he said.
The etymology of the word “disciplined” is “to teach” and Palmiter believes that a foundational teaching, “when it comes to the bullseye of the discipline dart board,” is training your children to do things when they don’t feel like it.
“That particular psychological muscle, when well-developed, goes a long way to helping adults to reach their personal and professional goals. At birth, infants are incapable of discipline.
“We hope, as parents, that our child is well capable of it [discipline] by the time they leave home. And, if they are not, they are at high odds to boomerang back home. In this arena, the number of presents a kid receives is unlikely to be a major player,” Palmiter explained.
How Many Christmas Gifts Should Parents Give Their Kids?
The short answer? There is no prescriptive formula and parents cannot be told what’s considered an appropriate amount of Christmas gifts for their own child.
Speaking to Newsweek, David S. DeLugas, the executive director and general counsel of the National Association of Parents (ParentsUSA), said it’s up to the parents to decide “the number of gifts, the extravagance (or lack thereof) of the gifts or the appropriateness of their gifts…so long as the gifts do not cause long-term emotional harm or physical harm.
“We certainly hope parents use their specific knowledge of their child or children to avoid hurting their children by gift giving,” DeLugas said.
Palmiter said: “I don’t believe our science can tell us X number of gifts is adaptive and Y number is problematic,” explaining that “one-on-one time with a parent is much more desirable to most young children than the latest and hottest toy or gadget.”
The magic of the holidays can be captured without spending significant amounts of money, the psychologist said, and advises against stretching your economic resources for presents.
“When parents do this, I’ve found, it’s in service of trying to create a magical experience for their children. But, executed creativity does this much, much better than spent cash,” he said.