This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

How to explain why Santa brings a lot of gifts to some kids and not many to others…

A grey piece of paper with red text and a sprig of holly at the bottom.

As a child development play therapist, I was once brought face-to-face with a question from a seven-year-old child: “Why do you think Santa gives more to other kids?  Does he like them better?  Even kids who aren’t nice to other kids?”

This child was kind, loving and sweet… and I felt helpless when he asked me that question.  I knew what I wanted to tell him, but I had to think of a way to explain it so he would understand.

Every week when I would meet with their family to work with his little sister on her speech, he would help me.  He was patient and was always respectful.

This question that he asked me that week has stuck with me for quite some time, so when I read a comment on Facebook (shared below), it reminded me of him and what we talked about that day.

While we, as adults, know that Christmas is not about presents, children have a hard time understanding that concept.  They are young and excited for the thought of Santa dashing from house to house with toys and gifts.

To a child, immature and innocent to the ways of the world, they only know that Santa brings gifts to “good little boys and girls”, as they are told by the movies they see, books they read & stories they hear.  While it is a fun and exciting magical tradition, this one occasion had me wondering how to explain it in a way that a seven-year-old could understand.

 Santa Claus placing gifts under a tree.

It is hard for a seven-year-old to comprehend how a child who is unkind and downright mean to him at school could show up after the holiday break talking about the new iPad and gaming system that was found under his tree with a note “from Santa”, while this sweet little boy who has listened and shown kindness received a sweater and socks “from Santa” under his tree on Christmas morning.

All that he knows is that Santa made the choice to give these gifts to each of them.   Santa gave one child an iPad & gaming system and another child socks and a sweater.   He heard this at school… and then he wondered why.

He knows that he didn’t get anything that he wished for…   In THE CHILD’S eyes, it simply feels as if he did not deserve it.   He feels that he didn’t do enough or was not good enough.   As parents, we know the truth behind this and we know that we can’t all have everything that we want, but this is a child.

Unfortunately, it is hard for a child to not take it personally.

Why some kids get so much & others get nothing for Christmas
While I can’t personally remember thinking about “what Santa brought me”  or who got more/less when I was young (I can’t remember much from that age. lol!), I do know that if one child feels this way, I’m sure others do, as well.

That’s why I wanted to talk about it today… even if it is only for that one child. ♥

It is hard for a child to feel deserving when they have not received any toys or gifts from Santa (the ones that he wrote on his “Christmas List For Santa” just weeks before).   He doesn’t understand why.  This child just knows that Santa serves each and every child.   Being overlooked feels like it was intentionally done.

A close up of a Christmas ornament.

As I said earlier, I was reminded of this yesterday, when I read something on Facebook:

One group member wrote:
“Just a reminder to all you parents out there to consider being modest with your gifts from SANTA because many parents do not have as much money as others to spend on Christmas gifts.  
It is hard, as a parent, to explain to your child why Santa gave your friend a new game console, a bunch of new games and a lot of other toys while your child didn’t get anything from his list.  I know that there are children that will only get a new pair of gloves or a new shirt while their friends get so much. 

It’s hard to explain, especially when the kids that are not getting as much think that it is because they aren’t as good.   It just isn’t true.  On the other hand- it’s also hard to explain to your child why he got what he wanted, but his friend did not, even though they both asked for the same thing…   it’s hard to answer when your child asks “Do you get more presents if you are good?    So I ask you to be modest, so all children feel equally valued.”

A close up of a brown paper package tied with red and white ribbon with a gift tag attached.

I have always wanted our kids to know that it did NOT boil down to who was more deserving of a gift… children are children, and they all deserve to be given gifts on Christmas. ♥

For this reason, we’ve always handled gifts from Santa in a particular way.  It’s not for everyone, but what we’ve chosen to do…

How we handle it (this is how OUR family does it, but not to say that it’s right for everyone )

1- We don’t separate gifts from Santa and parents.  They all are together under the tree.

The gifts are just under the tree in the morning, everything wrapped in the same wrapping paper (supplied by mom & dad) with the kids’ names on them.

None of our kids have ever really thought about who gave which gift.   They just know that some are from us and some are from Santa.   It’s just never been a big deal in our house about who gave what… well – until they are about nine years old and can understand what’s really going on… then they know. 😉 ♥♥♥

Of course, if there is a really special or personal gift, I’ll leave it in another room until they are done opening their other gifts/stocking.

⇒ A great alternative is to have only ONE GIFT FROM SANTA and the rest from the parents- many of my friends do this & it works well for them.  

We love our Four-Gift Christmases, as well.


2- We still pay for the gifts, even the ones from Santa. 

Our children think that we send Santa money each year to cover the costs of the gifts.  One year our son asked for a gift that was very expensive and when I said: “That’s just too expensive.” He replied: “It’s OK- I’ll just ask Santa for it.  I won’t ask for anything else from Santa.”

I told him that we still pay for gifts because we pay for the tools, materials, etc…    It was an explanation that I gave in the spur of the moment, but one that they have all remembered since.

We also remind them that we need to be grateful for each & every gift that we have… which takes me to #3. ♥

A girl in a white dress holding a tray decorated with toy soldiers and ballerinas.

3- Be Grateful.  Be Humble.  Be Thankful.  

No matter what, we need to be humble, grateful and thankful.  We do not brag or boast about what gifts we’ve received.  We don’t compare (in our family or outside).   We are just thankful that we have received gifts.  Christmas is about celebrating Jesus… opening gifts is one way that we celebrate.  It is our job to be thankful and humble, just as He would be.

This was one of the reasons that we loved the 4-gift idea.  It was a way to keep it simple and allow us to not become overwhelmed with gifts or lose sight of what Christmas was truly about.

Again- whatever works for each family is the right choice. ♥

A dog in a Santa hat lying on a blanket in front of a Christmas tree.

When I was a new teacher, I had the chance to teach in a school where many children lived in poverty. It was the very first school that I ever taught in, and it was before I had children of my own.

If it had not been for the teachers organizing gifts for those children through the Christian Mission, local organizations and churches, many of those students would not have had gifts on Christmas morning.  We (teachers & staff) secretly delivered gifts to those families on the days before Christmas.  I knew that those donations would be the only gifts that many of my students would be opening.

I have told my own children this story many times, so they always know that we need to be generous in our giving to others and we need to be thankful for what we are given.

Be Generous. 

Each year we find opportunities to GIVE to others, so they can find the joy that lies in giving and not just in receiving.

Be grateful and have fun! 

Santa Claus talking to a little boy.

If you would like more posts like this sent to your e-mail inbox, you’re welcome to subscribe here (Free)  (I’ll send you this one-on-one time planner as my way to say “Thank you!”

A close up 30-day printable calendar to spend one on one time with child

Here are a few more posts that you might like ↓

Non-Toy Ideas non toy gifts

This next post is about why our kids DO NOT buy gifts for one another, but what they do instead that means so much more. 
sibling gift idea

How to unspoil a child
how to unspoil a child

How to teach KINDNESS so your children will WANT to be more kind to others10 ways to teach kindness

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. We always leave toys for the elf to take back to give to other kids. This allows us to make room for gifts and to help others less fortunate. We also only get one gift from Santa.

  2. I told my DD that we give Santa the money as well and my in-laws said it wasn’t true now I have a very confused DD

    1. I’m sorry – that would be confusing to hear conflicting stories. I would talk to your in-laws and explain why you made that choice. Hopefully, they will understand & get on board, as well. 🙂

  3. My mom told us that the reason some kids get more is maybe their parents have less to give, and that. as a parent she could afford to give us our presents so she asked Santa to only give one, plus our stocking and our parents would do the rest. We also had the something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read rules. I’ve done this with my son, and he has yet to fallen in to wanting everything he sees stage.

  4. Mine are now in their 20s. Letters to Santa were encouraged to be special surprises and one wish item as they got older. This seemed to avoid issues around expensive items as they came from us.

  5. We tell our kids we get to Santa bill. Santa will only bring my mom and dad can afford. Kids don’t want things the elves make they want electronics that are expensive. Some parents can’t pay the Santa bill. So that’s why Santa has a lot of helpers. That’s why we donate money to the Salvation Army in the little red kettle every year. That’s why we donate toys to the Marines toys for tots program. The Marines are one of Santas favorites helpers. The shop with a cop program helps families that need it and it shows the policeman or not people to be afraid of they are helpers of the community and helpers of Santa! When they are old enough take it to be part of Santas helpers!

  6. It’s unfortunate but this will be the same for many things, some kids will get one or two gifts, some will get 5 or 6. Some kids will get a birthday party, some won’t, etc. I won’t change the way our family celebrates Christmas, but I will teach my kids to be humble & not to brag.

    Every year, everything comes from Santa, this is the one day a year since we get credit for everything all year long. Some years we can afford more, sometimes less, either way in our home everything is from Santa. To each it’s own.

  7. I was very poor growing up and got almost nothing and now I splurge on my grand children.

  8. My 10 year old adopted son had just finished watching the Polar Express and was getting tucked into bed. He sleepily asked me if Santa was real. When I said no, he looked relieved, “I didn’t think so. I’ve never gotten a present before.” It broke my heart.

    1. That makes my heart break, too. I’m glad he has you to change all of that— and I’m sure his future will be bright.