How We Drastically Changed Our Christmas Mornings {for the better}


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Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season

Is there anything MORE FUN than Christmas morning? The chaos of unwrapping gifts, squeals of delight, my husband and I sitting bleary-eyed watching it all unfold… it truly is the most wonderful day of the year. HOWEVER, I’ve learned a few things over the years about making the morning go smoothly, minimizing the mess while not interrupting the fun, and also teaching my kids it’s not about what you GET, but what you GIVE too. Here’s what’s in our Christmas Morning Survival Kit, which I tuck in a basket behind the tree so it’s ready to handle just about anything… plus a few tips we’ve learned over the years about remembering the reason for the season and not getting sucked into what Santa is bringing but rather appreciating what you have in the first place.

Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season

What’s in our Christmas Morning Survival Kit

1. Your Instruction Manual binder. Keep it handy and file all the instructions away right then and there; no more lost booklets! If the toys/gift contain small pieces, I’ll zip them up in a baggie with the instructions and file it away all together.

2. Open It. If you don’t have one already, it’s not too late to order via Amazon Prime and get it before Christmas (hopefully!) The Open It is THE most important accessory for us when opening gifts on Christmas morning. It cuts those tough plastic packages like a champ, making quick work of even the worst designed packages and zipties. PLUS it even has a little screwdriver in the handle for opening battery compartments! I can’t tell you how much time this puppy has saved us over the years.

3. Trash Bags. We have two, one for trash and one for recycling (I’m a recycling NUT JOB, so every paper scrap goes in that one!) Having bags nearby means no one even has to leave the room during the gift unwrapping and play session, and not lost manuals or accidentally thrown away pieces because everything stays neat. 🙂

4. Batteries. Have them handy. There’s nothing like watching a 3 year old open his favorite toy and then not having the batteries to use it.

5. Pen. I use this to jot down who gave the kids what if we’re opening gifts from relatives, and also to quickly fill out warranty cards.

6. BONUS: have this is ready to go:

Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season

7. An Easy Breakfast. We usually have a breakfast casserole or even better a bowl of popover batter in the fridge. If you make the popovers, take out the bowl when you first wake up and let it come to room temperature (about 45 minutes) before baking them. They’ll puff up sky-high!

How to make perfect Popovers, a wonderful Christmas morning breakfast!

CHRISTMAS MORNING TIP #1: We learned this one the hard way. If you have young kids, consider pre-opening the boxes and assembling the toys in advance. Then just cover it with a pretty piece of fabric or put in a large gift bag. They still get the thrill of ‘opening’ it, but no waiting time as you struggle with packaging and assemble the toys. Some of their toys took 45 minutes to put together– torture for a 3 year old! After we started assembling everything the night before, the mornings became a thousand times more relaxed and the kids could play with their toys right away. Bliss! Now that my kids are older, the joy is in the assembling (like the LEGO train we got my son) so this becomes less of an issue. For those sweet baby years though, it was key!

Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season

CHRISTMAS MORNING TIP #2: As parents, we want our kids to have the world. But that doesn’t mean giving them everything they want. As my mom says, once you over-give, you can’t go back. One or two awesome gifts are better than 15 things that will break in a few weeks. We’ve definitely cut back on the amount of gifts for the kids. They get one gift from my husband, one from me, and one or two from Santa plus a few stocking stuffers and books. I don’t want them to feel like their worth is determined by the number of gifts under the tree. I’d so much rather they find joy in the process of cookie baking and carol singing than gift opening!

Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season
Her FAVORITE gift last year was from her YiaYia, a purple tent with lights so she could read under the ‘starts’.

Leading up to Christmas, we also read the Advent Storybook. My daughter can read it independently now, she carries it around our home all December! As much as I love our advent calendar (and I do, because it helps the kids understand how many days we have until Christmas morning) it’s the Advent Storybook that teaches why we celebrate Christmas.

Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season


After the gift wrap has been collected and batteries installed but before major playtime begins, we sit together on the couch and open our grateful hearts and GIVE.  We look through a different type of catalog, not one filled with toys but ones filled with hope. Hope in the form of clean water, chickens, and medicine. Things we take for granted that others so desperately need. And we choose our gifts to others, and hand over piggy banks and delight in thinking how much a gaggle of geese may help a family a world away.

Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season

That’s how we put the giving and gratitude back into Christmas morning.

It’s drastically changed the way we celebrate Christmas, for the better.

What are your Christmas morning traditions? How do you find meaning in this season that can often be overrun with commercialism?

Tips for minimizing the mess on Christmas morning and keeping the focus on the real meaning of the season

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, on all points! One especially hits home – once you overgive you can’t go back. We’ve scaled back this year, partly because our Christmas morning with three kids was getting out of hand and partly because we just have too much already and to be honest -I’m happier about it! Now I just need to work on a good, quick breakfast and I think our Christmas morning will set!

  2. I totally open all the presents and add batteries before putting them out to TOTALLY skip those steps. Nothing like a whining toddler while you wrestle with the packaging around Elmo. Lesson was learned 😉 Now all toys are ready for play as soon as opened, at least if they are from us!

  3. Good stuff! I’ve never heard of popovers, but I’m googling if I can make them gluten free! We are pretty prepared, there won’t be any warranty stuff and we are overloaded with batteries. 🙂 And usually it’s pretty easy to figure what come from who.

  4. Where can I find the squirrel and tree game? Double check spelling on warranty organizer. Love, love your site. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have 6 children and when they were growing up I added a few ideas over the years. I have a couple of nice baskets or I wrap a big box to throw in paper etc. I do this because when taking pictures it always looked so much better than trash bags. I also, took apart things and PUT the batteries in the presents that need them. It always helps to take out the paperwork before it accidentally goes in the trash. It also saves our hands in opening that plastic packaging. AS for opening the presents we opened them one at a time going from youngest to oldest so everyone could see what others got and more importantly, Thank Yous were said and heard. A breakfast casserole, usually a baked french toast browning i the oven the reason for the season was talked about. I know this sounds slow, but it really worked! Everyone enjoyed seeing others faces when they received their gift and everyone, years later, started doing the same with their children and thanked us for slowing them down on such an important day! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  6. Lego + train ?!?! You must get this on video. I know he’ll be so excited!
    Our Christmas brunch is all made the night before, too, then just popped in the oven to bake: Pioneer Woman’s baked French toast, spinach quiche (using leftover spanakopita filling!), and a spiral ham.

  7. Such great tips. I think you can never have too many batteries on hand. And coffee, yes we bleary eyed parents need our coffee. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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