Let me set the scene: I have three children, and they have lots of doting aunts and uncles, not to mention three grandparents, who are all most generous at Christmas and happily buy them beautiful presents
for which my lot are very grateful.
But increasingly a new system appears to be emerging and it's slowly driving me to distraction.
"Could you just pick up something for the children," said my mum some years ago. "I'll put the money in your account but I don't know what they like these days and you do."
Fair enough Mum, I thought to myself, and very soon I found myself wrapping these presents too, and just giving her the tags to write. "I hope someone looks after me when I'm a little old lady like you," I joked, and she smiled and reminded me that when I'd had six children (like her) and I'm in my eighties (like her), I too will have earned such perks of the job.
But increasingly my sisters have started doing the same. "I'm snowed under at work and I just don't see myself getting much time for Christmas shopping this year," trilled my sister Maggie another Christmas. "If you could just buy something for your three, I'll put the money in your account of course, but you know what they like."
Remind me, where had I heard this before?
Then last Christmas I finally ended up buying my Mum's presents for my children, plus presents from my five sisters. The maths isn't that hard – three children multiplied by six relatives – that's a staggering, not to mention obscene, 18 presents.
Luckily, in bemoaning my fate in the playground this morning my friend Jinny told me to stop whinging and instead gave me some great advice. Reader, in true Parentdish fashion, and with huge thanks to Jinny, I list her suggestions below – they may just help you from pulling your hair out too.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Sit down and work out how much, on average, you will have to spend on your children. If six relatives give £10 per child, tell your children they have a £60 budget from their family and ask them for their ideas. The suggestion that they save some, have some spent for them, and even make a donation to charity, will go down well, or like a lead balloon.
Over a family meal bring the conversation around to the topic of Christmas presents – is there something your child would really love, or an event they are desperate to attend? Sometimes it's far better to enjoy one fabulous trip
, such as to a show with a pizza to follow, then to have six smaller presents which they can't find by February.
In the past we have designed whizzy little certificates on the computer, announcing they are off to see a show in between Christmas and New Year, or even later in the new year. It gives them something to look forward to and avoids a mound of unwanted presents.
Ask them to start writing their wish list
to Father Christmas early. Tell them they can put a certain number down, but tell them you don't think they should post it for a month. This will give them time to think, keep them busy, and, when you have a sneaky look, will give you a heads-up on what they are really hoping for.
If there seems no way around buying lots of presents, start shopping now
. It's far better to buy two or three presents a week, in a calm and unhurried fashion, in the run up to Christmas, rather than running out like a lunatic two weeks before 25 December and going into melt-down when you realise Argos is out of everything you had planned on purchasing.
And for a really radical approach – discuss with family members the idea of everyone having one decent present in a Secret Santa deal
, and every family also making a donation to charity – preferably one which has a personal meaning for your family. Like we say, radical, but surely a good idea?
Do you end up buying your children's presents from relatives?
Or do you have x times the dreaded book voucher?
Subbuteo The Game, £39.95 (but currently £29.99), from <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-Lamond-3005-Subbuteo-Game/dp/B006ZX71M6&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Amazon.co.uk</a>. </p>
<span lang="EN-GB">The faces of dads across the land are sure to light up on Christmas morning as they’re reunited with this classic football favourite…oh and the kids might like it too! Recently relaunched after 15 years on the toy equivalent of the subs bench, this core set allows them to stage their own matches with an improved pitch and two teams of sturdier than the originals players. Add their favourite Premiership, Scottish Premier League or national team for £8.99. </span></p>
Kindle Fire, £139, from <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/" target="_blank">Amazon.co.uk.</a></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Sick of the kids stealing your tablet? Time to get them their own! Where once older primary school children hankered after an iPod Touch, tablets are now relatively affordable and offer stacks of functionality - music player, e-book reader, watching films, gaming and internet surfing (it’s easy to add parental controls). </span></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">We’re going against the grain of many of this year’s Christmas gift guides for children, by picking the grown-up Kindle over ‘specifically for kids’ tablets such as the <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kurio-7-Android-Tablet-Kids/dp/B008VS3VQI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1353063137&sr=8-2" target="_blank">Kurio</a> and <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/VTech-136853-Vtech-InnoTab-Pink/dp/B00763PSGU/ref=sr_1_1?s=kids&ie=UTF8&qid=1353063340&sr=1-1" target="_blank">InnoTab</a>. Whilst the latter are ideal for parents wanting something like this for preschoolers, we think the Kindle Fire has a better mix of price (it’s a shade cheaper than the Kurio) and longevity (it’s more grown-up looking than the InnoTab and <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/LeapFrog-LeapPad-Explorer-Tablet-Green/dp/B004Z7H07K/ref=sr_1_1?s=kids&ie=UTF8&qid=1353063354&sr=1-1" target="_blank">LeapPad</a>). </span></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">We know this is still at the upper end of how much most of us want to spend, so this could be one to get other family to chip in for or to get as a joint present for siblings (provided there won’t be arguments over it!)</span></p>
Hexbugs Nano Live Habitat, 24.99, from <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hexbug-Nano-Hive-Playset-Electronic/dp/B0051C0HGY&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Amazon.co.uk.</a></p>
Brilliant little robotic bugs that scuttle around like the real thing; children can create habitats for them to explore either with the official sets or with whatever they can find around the house. Ideal for budding engineers!</p>
Toy tester Luca, seven, says of these: “They’re really fun and there are some good layouts you can make. I think my friends would like them when they come round to play.” </p>
Rosie Flo Colouring Fashion Show, £14.99, from <a href="http://shop.rosieflo.co.uk/product/rosie-flo-s-colouring-fashion-show" target="_blank">Shoprosieflo.co.uk.</a></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Gorgeous fashion craft set which proves that it isn’t only techy toys which manage to have a wow factor these days. With 18 models to colour for the catwalk plus a host of spectators and even a handbag pooch, it’s surely a case of Anna Wintour eat your heart out!</span></p>
Furby, £59.99, from <a href="http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Search/searchTerms/FURBY+PURPLE.htm" target="_blank">Argos.co.uk.</a></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Another old favourite which has had a high-tech makeover - expected to be one of this Christmas’ biggest sellers. We were a bit non-plussed by the idea initially but when we tested him out at a recent toy industry event we really fell for his charms - think of him as a robotic pet which kids can stroke, pat and have conversations with. Crucially, owners can shape his personality - the way you treat him determines how he behaves over time. Great to play with on his own but even more fun when hooked up to the Furby smartphone and tablet app (although note that this is only available for Apple gadgets at the moment). Ages 6+.</span></p>
Lego Creator Seaside House 7346, £34.99, from <a href="http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/9074927.htm" target="_blank">Argos.co.uk.</a></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Every day can be a holiday, well for your LEGO Minifigures at least, thanks to this cool seaside home, complete with surf board, beach and sea. It can be built in three different formats for maximum play value and makes a sound present choice for boys or girls across this age range. </span></p>
Deadly 60 Board Game, £14.99, from <a href="http://www.bbcshop.com/deadly-60/deadly-60-tracker-board-game/invt/1685/?source=112_74" target="_blank">BBCShop.com.</a></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Based on the popular CBBC programme, this board game pits you against some of the deadliest animals on the planet! First to find their three of the deadly 60 wins, but on the way you’ll need to collect key trek equipment, medical supplies and much-needed extra physical strength. </span></p>
Lego Heartlake Riding Stables, £49.99, from <a href="http://shop.lego.com/en-GB/Heartlake-Stables-3189" target="_blank">Shop.lego.com.</a></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Whether it’s for a child who’s horse-mad, Lego-obsessed or both, this is sure to be a hit. Let them recreate the summer’s Olympic equestrian events or help the two figurines groom and feed the horses with the equipment included. </span></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Our toy tester, Isabella, says: “The Friends Lego is a bit girlier than some Lego but not all pink which I don’t like either!”</span></p>
Snow Scooter,£14.99, from <a href="http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/products.detail/code/D3110020" target="_blank">Cotsworldoutdoors.com.</a></p>
Fab snowboard meets scooter hybrid that’s surely one of those ‘why did no-one think of this sooner?’ products. We can’t wait to get our hands (and feet) on one – the only problem: we can’t guarantee the Christmas Day snow needed try it out! For ages 8+. </p>
Harry Potter Wonderbook: Book of Spells for Sony PlayStation 3, £24.99 for the game only, £59.99 for the game + PS3 Move bundle, from <a href="http://hmv.com/hmvweb/navigate.do?pPageID=5676" target="_blank">HMV.com.</a></p>
<span lang="EN-GB">Harry Potter fanatics will love this interactive game, set in the literally spellbinding surroundings of the restricted section of Hogwarts library. Using PlayStation’s clever new ‘Wonderbook’ technology alongside the Move device, which acts as a magic wand, they can learn the art of spellcasting and get their hands on brand new content written by J.K. Rowling herself. You’ll need a Sony PS3 to play. Age 7+. </span></p>