Children expect less for Christmas than parents think


As parents, we probably spend too much on Christmas gifts, but do children really want lavish presents? Two recent surveys seem to show that parents and their children have different expectations when it comes to Christmas gifts.

Parents spend £2.47bn on Christmas 'magic'
December 2012 research from protection specialist LV= has uncovered the vast amounts of money spent on Christmas gifts for children. According to the survey, UK parents spend £2.47bn on stocking fillers and other Christmas presents for their children. This means that the average child will receive £178 worth of gifts from their parents alone, before they even begin to open presents from grandparents, other relatives and friends.too-many-presents

The easiest time for parents, financially, is when their children are 3 years old or younger. During these years, the average child receives gifts worth £133 from their parents.

Spending soon creeps up, however, as the children grow. By age 4 to 6, children are typically receiving £200 worth of gifts, rising to a peak of £220 between the ages of 7 and 11 years. This latter figure can be broken down into £196 worth of Christmas presents and an extra £24 worth of stocking fillers.

Why the huge outlay on gifts? Parents want Christmas to be magical. About one in four adults surveyed admitted they miss the excitement about Christmas they used to feel as children. A third said that giving gifts to their children had brought some of that enchantment back.

"The magic of Christmas can begin to fade as we get older, as we start to focus on giving rather than receiving and the costs involved," said Mark Jones, head of protection a LV=,  in a statement. "It's good to see that although Christmas can put an additional strain on the purse strings, life-changing events such as having children help to keep the festive spirit alive."

But do kids really expect expensive presents?
Although parents may be busting their budgets on re-capturing the magic of Christmas, another survey suggests youngsters place more value on less tangible (and less costly) gifts. According to a December 2012 survey of children by the charity Family Action, all kids want for Christmas is quality time with their families.

Family Action asked children between the ages of 6 and 16 what was most important to them this Christmas, and some admitted they wanted the latest gadget or toy. However, the majority chose spending quality time with their parents as being most important to them. Participants were asked to rank the three most important aspects of Christmas out of a list of 10. The top-ranked option was "spending time with my family." Meanwhile, "receiving a present you have asked for," "extra Christmas food" and "having time off school" all received fewer votes.

What exactly do children consider quality time with parents? Many of the children interviewed for the survey mentioned playing board games or watching a DVD. Some said they'd rather gift money go towards a traditional Christmas dinner, enabling family members to gather together. Children from broken homes, meanwhile, dream of a festive period when both parents are able to be present without stress.

Furthermore, when asked whether they thought it was more important to receive a present they had asked for or any present at all, the majority said it was more important to receive any present. And when given the choice between the latest gadget from Apple or the chance to contribute to their family -- such as by receiving a trolley full of groceries or a tank of petrol -- the majority of children said they would choose the latter items.

The findings should provide some reassurance to parents who are wondering how to give their children the best possible Christmas on a tight budget.

"Children clearly have their priorities right this Christmas, with quality family time topping our chart of Christmas priorities," said Family Action Chief Executive Helen Dent in a statement.  Dent added that parents should talk to their children about what they think is most important "at a time when family budgets are pushed".

See related: Brits trying to spend less on Christmas dinner, How to be frugal and festive: Money bloggers share their tips

Published: 21 December 2012