"Santa came! Santa came!" The excitement of Christmas morning is palpable for many families — but short-lived. The kids wake up stoked, bolt to the tree, and rip into their presents. In a tiny fraction of the time it took you to buy and wrap your kids' gifts, they've been reduced to a colorful pile of wrapping paper remnants. It can leave many kids (and grown-ups) feeling overwhelmed. It also makes it hard to genuinely connect over the gifts you've chosen to share with each other. Honestly, though, what can you really do about it?
Over the years, some families have initiated rules for opening presents, like going from youngest to oldest. There's even a mom who only lets her kids open one toy an hour. While there's certainly something splendid about the sheer mayhem of an anarchy-style "Merry Christmas," it can be hard to teach your kids the real meaning of the holiday during the all-out blitz on the wrapping paper. You want your kids to have a glorious morning. Obviously. But don't you also want them to be able to take pride in the gift giving, too?
There are many, many ways you can slow down the magic of Christmas morning sprint. Hopefully one or some of these hit right for your family. If not, try a new one next year.
1. Alphabetical Order... With a Twist
This one slows things down because, well, it can get a bit confusing. However, the idea is actually pretty simple: You start by opening presents in alphabetical order, but each time someone opens a present, they get to give one, too. You can make this the only rule without any more stipulations. So, Aidan opens a present and then chooses any present he wants to hand to the next person. Let the sibling bargaining begin!
If you want to mix things up more, you could try the following stipulations:
- Aidan then gives a present to the person who gave him his present. If Aidan opens his present from Mom, he should give Mom the present he got for her. Then you return to the alphabet and let the next family member (Bailey?) open their present. This only works if you're a family that ensures every person buys a present for... every person.
- Another option is to let Aidan find a present for Bailey to open, and Bailey picks out which present Caleb opens, etc.
2. Youngest to Oldest
A time-honored option for many big families, this method can get serious. To keep things fair from year to year, you can rotate going from youngest to oldest one year and oldest to youngest the next. Just make sure someone does a good job keeping track. It doesn't slow things down a lot, but it does simplify things so you can avoid the chaos of three kids opening presents simultaneously.
3. Designate Presents for Certain Times
If you go this route, you can be as vague or specific as you want. One option is to have a Christmas Eve present (like PJs or something to read), a before-breakfast present, and even a present for "after lunch." In between breakfast and lunch, you can open any other gifts you have — except for that single "post-lunch" present. You might still want to pick a "pecking order," too.
4. Minute-to-Win-It Games
Want to seriously slow down the present opening and amp up the family bonding? Try some Christmas-themed Minute-To-Win-It games, and let the prizes be the Christmas presents. There are so many ways you could do this. Play a game between each gift. Or compete the night before and let the prizes be prime present-opening positions. (Ex: "Whoever does this the fastest gets to open the first present tomorrow morning!" and "First person to finish will open the second present!")
5. Present Opening Points
If your kids are too old for Elf on the Shelf (or if you opted out for your own sanity), you could use "present points" to motivate good behavior during December. Hand out points for kindness, test grades, chores, whatever you want. Then use those points to assign the order for present opening.
6. 'Twas The Night Before Christmas
If you're gifting in a large crowd with more generic gifts, this is the game that makes everything more fun. Choose someone to stand in the middle of the living room and read "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" aloud. Everyone should sit in a circle with a wrapped present in their hands. Every time the word "the" is used, everyone will pass the present quickly to the left (or right!). Once the story is finished, everyone can rip open their gifts. (Note: We're pretty sure this idea came from the glorious and hilarious Jen Hatmaker's family, but that might be wrong.)
7. The Mitt Challenge
Slow things down in a truly hysterical way when you grab a pair of mittens or oven mitts and watch each other try to open presents while wearing them.
8. Wrap 'Em Together
Take one small present for each person and tape it to a paper plate or piece of cardboard. Attach a long ribbon to each gift, with their name tags at the end of the ribbon. When it's time to start the present-opening fiasco, hand everyone their ribbons and let them wind or pull. This won't necessarily slow things down, but it does add a few seconds of hilarity.
9. Introduce "Santa Boxes"
Wrap everything up individually; then put each person's presents into a large box and wrap that. The excitement/chaos of that initial ripping open of the box is still there. They get to peek inside and see their stack of gifts! But then it slows down when they all take turns opening the individual gifts.
10. "First Things First" Rule
Setting an hour-long timer may seem strict, but there's something to be said for giving your kids time to enjoy each gift before moving on to another. One way to do this is to push the pause button between rounds. Once everyone has opened their first present, take a moment to play. Put the batteries in the fire truck, let Junior read the first chapter, help take out all the secures on Barbie, or let dad plug in his drill so it's charged after the final round. Pausing between rounds gives everyone a chance to appreciate their first present.