I've learned, in my 17 plus years of Christmas' with kids, that the best place to hide gifts are under the tree. I've lost gifts in the back of closets, under beds, and hiding in the rafters in the garage..what a surprise it was to find them later in the year!
But how do you keep those gifts from being shaken, and their contents discovered, especially when some of the kids are old enough to know what a box of Lego's or video game sound sliding in a box sound like?
I've learned a few tricks that not only keep the gifts a surprise, but also build more anticipation.
If you see it, you don't get it! This one has worked more perfectly than I ever expected it to when the words first left my tongue. Honestly though, the first time I had to take a gift back to the store was a sad time. I was really excited to give my daughter a toy I knew she'd love, but she wandered into the closet before I had a chance to wrap it and dove right into the bag it was in. She was super excited- a look I had hoped to see come Christmas morning. After a few times of gifts being taken back, the kids run the other direction when they hear there are gifts entering the house for fear of accidentally seeing something and ruining their chance of getting it! For those of you who need to motivate your kids to clean their room- try this one "clean it before dinner or I'll show your your Christmas present" ;)
We do allow them to shake the gifts (carefully) and try to guess what's inside. That's part of the magic of Christmas!
Don't put their names on the packages. This has become a tradition that the kids really look forward to! Every year, I come up with a different way of marking the packages so they don't know who they belong to. Not only does this make guessing the contents more difficult because they don't know if the gift is theirs- .....; they also look forward to cracking my code!
Ways I've done it in the past:(be sure to have a key so you know how you've marked them)
1. Swap the kid's names around.
2. Give them a new name entirely- one year we did Wiseman, Shepherd, Angel, Star; or you can use regular names not associated with Christmas or your family.
3. Use a different wrapping paper for each person. All of Sara's gifts are in the red paper, while John's are in gold with green stripes.
4. Use a specific ribbon for each person
5. Use a specific gift tag- with nothing written on it
6. Write a number or letter on the package
7. Write their real names on the package after you've mixed them all up a few years- they'll never know you didn't switch
Even the little ones who can't read love trying to guess if it's their gift. They count on older siblings to tell them what the gifts say (or don't say). Christmas morning, before the gifts are opened, we open a small box that has the code I used that year. It may contain name tags with their new names, a ribbon to put on their wrist, or a swatch of wrapping paper to pin to their pj's. Whatever the code was, the answer is in the box. Having a visual for each person will help a lot when you need to pass out gifts. It makes it easier to remember who had what.
Change the packaging- We always put batteries in toys, and get rid of the impossible twist ties before wrapping to save us some sanity Christmas morning anyway, so taking things out of the box it came it or adding things to it to help conceal the contents is a pretty easy trick. We may put tissue paper in a Lego box to keep it from rattling as much, or tape a video game to the bottom of a shirt box so it won't slide. Extra large gifts that are hard to conceal (a bike comes to mind) are hidden in a nearby room or closet and a box with a paper giving it's location are put under the tree in it's place. One year, we even took a high chair out of it's box and replaced it with the new Wii console. The kids didn't even want to open the box, because they didn't care about the high chair. It was a gift for the baby....wasn't it?? We had to talk them into delving further. We used an old printer cartridge box for our daughters new camera lens. She didn't open the box...and was surprised when she didn't get a printer to go with the cartridge- until she opened the box at the end and was doubly surprised to find the lens! (she didn't want a printer anyway)
Hide large items at a neighbors home or other location If you don't plan on wrapping that bicycle (maybe Santa is bringing it??) and are planning to get it put together before Christmas Eve so you can sip eggnog and watch "It's a wonderful life" instead of wrestling with a wrench- you may need to stash it off location. We have asked neighbors to hid it at their home, or put the items in other locations not at our home (my husband's office, the trunk of his car..).
Give little ones gifts they CAN open I've learned that my young ones really just want to open a gift-and waiting until Christmas is a long time. They love to open a gift, and then want to put it back and open it again. I bought a set of nesting prefabricated Christmas boxes for them to play with, and it keeps them happy for the several weeks before Christmas. They fill them with gifts for each other- toys from their bins, books, socks, whatever. They are then gifted, and refilled. The magic of a secret gift is satisfied all season long with the gifts they are allowed to open. From time to time, I'll even put a little something in them, like fruit snacks or other little things so they have a real gift.
Above all, try to remember that you were once little and anxious for gift opening. It's better to have Christmas spirit than be stressed about your kids getting into gift before you want them to. Try to find ways to keep them excited about the secret of gift giving!!