/ Money, Shopping

Is Christmas too commercialised for kids?

Is present-giving getting obscene in your household at Christmas? Don’t worry, you’re not alone – today’s parents are spending four times as much on Christmas presents than previous generations.

Ah, Christmas – a time for giving and thinking about others. True if you’re a parent of young children, not so true of the youngsters themselves, if a report out today is to be believed.

It doesn’t take a genius researcher to tell that today’s parents spend more on their offspring than those of previous generations. With more choice, clever marketing and peer pressure to contend with, it’s hardly surprising kids get most of their festive cheer from the value of their Santa sack.

The generational divide

What’s interesting about this research, though, is that it questions different generations. Older parents were quizzed by Saga and today’s young mums spoke to Netmums. They found that 61% of parents born in the 1930s typically spent less than £50 in total on Christmas presents for their families, compared to only 14% of parents born in the 1990s.

While these figures don’t take inflation into account, they did ask people to estimate the equivalent value in today’s terms. And it’s hard to disagree that the figures show a clear trend – the meaning of Christmas is changing for today’s families.

Not convinced? How about the fact that 63% of the younger parents admit they go without things in order to buy their children presents at Christmas? I can’t decide if this is the ultimate sacrifice or one step too far in spoiling kids.

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed the growing sums of money parents spend on kids. Only in September I started a Conversation about how we spend an average of £438 a year on techno gadgets alone for children aged between five and seven. At the age of seven this average spend leaps up to £761.

Make presents personal

Last Christmas, my daughter’s main present was a renovated wooden toy kitchen we saved from a bric-a-brac stall. This year, we’re planning to make her a doll’s house and have asked relatives to buy some furniture to go inside.

Yes, I’m lucky that my partner is a joiner and has the skills to do this, and no, I’m not perfect and still buy pointless pressies. But couldn’t we all apply more creativity to present giving and make them more personal in the process? Or even get kids into the idea of giving by making presents together or creating an ‘Operation Christmas Child’ shoebox to send to a child overseas.

Back in October, the usual ‘must have’ toy list for Britain’s five- to 16-year-olds was published by Duracell. Three Apple products (the iPhone 4, iPod Touch and iPad) took the top three places, Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect camera was fourth and Sony’s rival, PlayStation Move was at number eight. Depressing, but not really surprising.

As my daughter’s only two-and-a-half, I can’t tell yet if our homemade gifts will result in a child who’s blissfully resistant to gadgets like these. But at least she’ll have some unique toys to remember her childhood by, and I won’t be out of pocket.

Sophie Gilbert says:
24 November 2010

Is Christmas too commercialised for kids? The answer is a resounding yes! (But kids aren’t the only ones for whom Christmas is too commercialised, and Christmas isn’t the only feast to be too commercialised.)

Lovingly homemade gifts from parents are those we cherish forever, not those from Sony. I think my husband’s most treasured possessions are his childhood teddy and a wee toy suitcase filled with a whole set of outfits hand-knitted for it by his mum.

One of my most treasured Christmas presents was a SEGA Mastersystem games console. But I also liked a bike I was given. I think there’s room for both, but it shouldn’t have to break the bank.

Sophie Gilbert says:
25 November 2010

You’re right actually, Patrick, I’ve got a second-hand train set I adore. I had always wanted my own and a friend of the family gave me his unexpectedly out of pure kindness. I would therefore change what I said by saying perhaps that the givers of presents and the circumstances in which the presents are given make them more or less precious to us? But breaking the bank won’t make the givers and the presents any more loved.

Simon says:
25 November 2010

Stop giving the kids the laminated Argos book of dreams to look at parents have themselves to blame for this

The laminated book of dreams to catch the tears of joy?

You’re not guilt free at Which! did I see you suggesting MP3 players as STOCKING FILLERS!

Sarah says:
8 December 2010

I remember staying up ’til 2am making mountains and rocks and painting scenery one Christmas for my son’s Warhammer figures.
I loved doing it, it hardly cost anything and he thought it was amazing 🙂

Surely the whole (western) world is too obsessed with consumer durables, not just kids, and that’s why we have this question to even consider?

Perhaps if people remembered what Christmas is actually about (and you don’t have to be religious – Christmas is an amalgamation of a Christian festival and the Pagan sun worship festival) all these expensive items would matter less?

More realistically and more likely given the current financial climate, the rising unemployment, the cost of fuel and food and all things related, perhaps kids and adults alike are soon going to be FORCED to rethink what is a stocking filler, what is an “Essential” and what is ‘affordable’ and no amount of Violet-Elizabeth Bott (“I’ll thcweam and thcweam and thcweam until I’m thick”)** will get them the items they covet.

** read the William stories by Richmal Crompton if this means nothing to you!