Teach Kids How to Receive a Gift

This site focuses on what types of gifts are good for children, but if you're a parent, you want to make sure that your children receive a gift in a manner that shows respect and gratitude in a genuine manner. Parents see children as extensions of themselves, and want the actions of their children to reflect accordingly. This article aims to provide help to parents teach kids how to receive a gift.

Start Teaching Now

You cannot start early enough. Encourage kids to say 'please' and 'thank you.' As soon as babies are able to pick a slobbery pacifier off the floor and hand it to mommy, say 'thank you.' Repeat at every opportunity. Saying 'thank you' won't be an automatic response until the child is much older (closer to two years old), but this can develop early if the child witnesses this behavior in the home consistently, and it's actively reinforced.

Also in early childhood, kids voluntarily initiate role play, including playing the 'giver' of a gift. A young child may pick up their ball, put it into an empty box, and present it to Daddy as a gift. You've got the toddler's full attention at this point, so this is the perfect time to model the appropriate behavior:

“Thank you! Wow - a blue ball! This is so fun to play with. Will you play it with me?”

At about pre-school age, it's good to encourage kids to go beyond the 'thank you.' Just look at the phrasing used above.

  • “Thank you!” - This should be the immediate response.
  • “Wow - a blue ball!” - Acknowledge exactly what the gift is.
  • “This is so fun to play with.” - Say what you intend to do with the gift.
  • “Will you play it with me?” - Tie it back to the giver, if you can.

Is this not exactly what adults do with thank-you notes? Saying this verbally is just as impactful, if not more-so, coming from younger kids. This may seem like a lot for a kid to learn, but they actually can pick it up very easily during role play at home, or by watching others opening presents.

What YouTube Taught on My Behalf

One thing my kids used to love doing was watching youtube videos of people opening 'Surprise Eggs', which are a type of toy that consist of plastic eggs with little surprise toys inside. On the video, we see some hands opening the surprises, and voice describing what it is they uncovered - that's it. I have no idea how we stumbled across the first video of this kind, and I am equally dumbfounded as to why my kids were so drawn to them, but nevertheless, I saw that my kids (2 and 5 at the time) learned some very valuable gift-receiving skills from watching them. Here's how.

My kids would find all kinds of things to make their own 'surprise eggs'. Sometimes they'd take one of their small toys and cover it with playdoh, then roll the playdoh into a ball. Once their masterpiece was done, it was time to open the 'surprise egg.' It surprised me, in a good way, to see how this was done.

They would exclaim, “Oh - it's a little toy zebra! Awwweeeesooomme! He's got little black and white stripes, and he's so cute”. It clicked with me immediately that they were emulating the surprise eggs videos on youtube, and I was floored at how eloquent they were in receiving their own little surprise gift. So when Christmas was around the corner, I told them to do exactly that when they open their Christmas presents, too. They are like surprise eggs, and so when you open them, let it show how 'awesome' they are, and describe what it is out loud. This type of thing will melt a grandma's heart.

Having the chat

One of the challenging scenarios is when a kid receives a gift they already have, or one that the child just isn't interested in at all. It's important to talk through some things before this type of event occurs.

When you have their attention, say something like, “It'll be your birthday soon. You'll be getting some presents from lots of family. Not everyone knows exactly what you want, or what you already have. They may have chosen something to get you that you aren't thinking about right now. That's ok for them to do. What's important is that you tell them thank you when you receive a present. Giving you a present shows that they were thinking of you, and wanted to make you happy. You may love it, or you may not care for it, or you may already have too many of them already, but no matter the situation, the giver thought of you, so tell them thanks.”

It's not about the gift. Tell the child that when someone gives you something, that means they were thinking of you. That alone is why you say thank you.

What is said afterwards nearly doesn't matter once that initial thank you comes out, but some easy things to teach kids to say is, “I have one of these already - I really like them. Thank you for giving me another one.”

In summary

To teach kids how to receive a gift, start early. Show them how it's done, both by role play, and by letting them see you receive gifts every once in a while, too. Also, talk with them directly about it. Let them know that it's about the giver being thoughtful, not about the gift itself. Even kids can learn that it's the thought that counts.

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