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How to Get Kids to Open Christmas Presents Slowly

Karla loves Christmas and offers tips to help families get the most out of the holiday.

If your family rushes through their presents at Christmas, try these strategies for slowing down and enjoying the act of opening gifts.

If your family rushes through their presents at Christmas, try these strategies for slowing down and enjoying the act of opening gifts.

Fun Ways to Open Christmas Gifts Slowly

When it's time to open presents, there is often a person (or two) who starts tearing through the wrapping and ripping boxes open, even looking a little maniacal.

They grab one present, tear the wrapping open to see what's in it, then grab another and another until you have a flashback to the out-of-control crowd at the last Black Friday sale.

They open their presents so quickly that they don't seem to register what each gift is, and you'd better be well-prepared with some practice in wildlife photography if you expect to get any good pictures. And you can abandon all hope of seeing who received what and how they liked it. (They probably haven't really registered it, so they don't even know yet how they liked it.)

Gift Opening Doesn't Have to Be Rushed

Opening presents doesn't have to happen this way, no matter what greedy or over-excited souls are hovering around the Christmas tree. You can slow that process down considerably. The first time you do it, they will undoubtedly complain. However, you will probably find that the complaints only happen the first time, before the presents are opened using this new method.

How quickly will your family tear through this stack of presents?

How quickly will your family tear through this stack of presents?

A Slower Method for Opening Presents

1. Distribute Stacks of Presents

First, when distributing presents from under the tree, don't let anyone start until the "OK" is given. Make a stack of presents for each person, but don't allow the stack to form in front of each person. Put each stack off to the side, perhaps along a wall.

2. Have Everyone Take One Present From Their Stack at a Time

Tell people that each one can go to his or her stack and pick one present at a time to open, then return to his or her seat with the present. (If anyone has mobility problems, someone else can help by bringing the present to be opened.)

  • No running is allowed.
  • No present opening is allowed until the person reaches his or her seat.

This will slow down the frenzy. But, if you want to, you can slow it down even more.

3. Wait Until Everyone Has Opened a Present Before Getting the Next One

After everyone has that first present, tell them that nobody goes for a second present until all of the first presents have been opened and the last person to open a present indicates readiness for the next one. Nobody is allowed to push the last people who are still opening presents, so the adults will be able to control the speed simply by opening their presents in a sane manner.

Not everyone will have the same number of presents. You can make this rule last until people start dropping out because they've opened their last present. Usually, by this time, a pace has been tacitly set, and it will usually be followed until the last gift is opened.

What to Do When You Have a Small Group

  1. For a very small group, such as your close family, everyone opens their first chosen present at the same time. Then each person gets to show what the present was. This allows the kids to open the present they are the most curious about.
  2. Then, after that, the pace slows down to only one person in the group opening a present and showing it to everyone else.
  3. Then the next person opens a present, etc.
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(If it's a tough year, and there are few gifts, opening presents may go very quickly. Having each person open a present before moving on to the next person stretches the opening of few presents into a more leisurely and enjoyable process that keeps the excitement up for a while longer.)

How Do You Choose the Order for Opening Gifts?

You can choose the first person to start opening that second gift by drawing straws or putting names in a hat. It makes a game out of opening presents more slowly. If you want, you can put a dot of color on one of the names or on one of the straws, and after all of the presents have been opened, announce that the person with the colored dot has one more present.

If you don't want to worry about finding a gift that anyone in your group would like, you could make it a gift card. Or it could be an activity limited to a certain cost that the winner could do with a parent alone or with a friend.

Use a different color ribbon for each person, and don't tell them whose is whose until Christmas Day.

Use a different color ribbon for each person, and don't tell them whose is whose until Christmas Day.

Extending the Gift Mystery

Another way to extend the gift mystery is to not let anyone know which gifts under the tree belong to which person until it's time to open them. Then they don't know which gifts to shake or weigh in their hand or otherwise inspect.

  • You have the key. You either wrap the gifts in whatever wrapping paper you choose, but have the ribbon color identify the person each gift belongs to, or you wrap all of the gifts for one person in one type of paper and all of the gifts for the next person in another type of wrapping paper.
    • (So you don't forget, write the name of the person on the bit of ribbon or the square of wrapping paper the same night you do the wrapping.)
  • The guessing comes from nobody but you knowing what belongs to whom. When opening presents is about to begin, you give each person the key by handing each person the color ribbon for gifts that belong to him or her.
    • If the wrapping paper is the key, then hand each person a small square of paper that says which gifts belong to him or her. (If you are using several different kinds of paper, you can hand a square for each kind, but beware of confusion. It can ruin the whole game.)

What If I Have Small Children?

If you prefer to use name tags on your gifts, but you have small children who can't read yet, you can still use specific ribbon or wrapping paper to identify that certain gifts go to certain people. This will help the small child to participate without being able to read his or her name and to possibly even bring some gifts to other people by matching other ribbons or wrapping paper.

Imagine a 2- or 3- or 4-year-old being able to look at a gift under the tree and know by color that mom or grandpa gets that gift. The child will be able to take gifts from under the tree to the right people simply because each person will be holding up the ribbon or square of wrapping that matches the gift.

Enjoy the Act of Opening Gifts!

So the act of opening gifts, done at a slower pace, can add dimension to your Christmas morning or whenever you open your Christmas gifts. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Comments are welcome, and so is sharing how your family handles opening presents.

Karla Iverson (author) from Oregon on December 25, 2011:

Wonderful! It sounds like you may be right, that the family may need to open most of the gifts at home.

The best part of gift giving to me is giving to children who are just old enough to appreciate the present. They are such a joy to watch!

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on December 25, 2011:

Opening presents this Christmas morning was a little chaotic, but for us a change to slow it down won't work. You see, there were 6 children and 11 adults; the stack of gifts was huge. I think next year we will have to split up and open most gifts in our own homes; the practice of gathering at one home has gotten out of hand as our extended family has grown.

On the plus side, I got put in charge of my little 4 year old grandson. Each gift he was handed he would hook his little fingers under the paper, ready to pull, and ask me "Open it?" Only when given the go-ahead did the paper fly. HIS biggest problem was that after opening each gift he wanted to play with it instead of opening others. Lots of fun this Christmas morning.

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