Sneaky Ways to Keep Kids Out of the Holiday Gift Stash

When I was a kid, my mom hid our Christmas presents in the laundry room. We never went in there, thanks to the pretty awesome laundry chute my dad installed. So how do I know our gifts were stowed there?

One December, my older sister dragged me down there and showed me the loot. "See! Santa isn’t real!,” she declared. I immediately stormed out -- not even peaking at any of the packages -- yelling, "Yes he is! He’s just dropped them off early!"

It’s a lot of work to deliver presents all around the world in one day, after all. I kept on believing for a few years after that. I loved Santa and I wasn’t ready to give him up. I’m still not. So I go to great lengths to hide my boys’ holiday gifts.

Some parents dole out one or two gifts from the jolly ole man and the rest are from Mom and Dad. But we go all out and everything comes from Santa, so I really can’t afford to have the kiddos unearth any of the goodies. So I start by shipping all that I can directly to Nana and Grampy’s house, where we celebrate every year. Second, I de-package everything that’s at my own home. For instance, this year Santa got my youngest a Mickey Mouse floor piano. When he was at preschool, I took it out of the box so I’d be hiding something much smaller -- and I did a secretive recycling run for the packaging. Third, I ditch any toys store bags instantly. My oldest can't read, but trust me he knows a Toys R Us bag from a CVS one. Finally, I hide high. (Under the bed is a massive mistake many parents make.) My kids are short! And that Ikea foot stool can only get them so high off the ground.

My friend Elizabeth stows all her gifts in large lidded opaque bins in the basement. "The containers are always there so if my son happens to wander down there, nothing looks different or curious," she says. My sister uses Elf on a Shelf, essentially to scare the heck out of her son. "Lucas knows that the Elf is watching and reports to Santa that night.”

When my boys get older (and taller) and trade their Santa fantasies for mom-and-dad gift harassment, I’ll need to tweak my strategy. A friend who has older, wiser, sneakier kids, has taken to hiding their presents in the trunk of her car. I'd be too freaked out that the car would get stolen, so here’s what I’m thinking: I'll wrap each present as it arrives to my house. It’s harder, though certainly not impossible, to snoop when packages are already gift wrapped. I’ll also put a big sign on the (still-hidden) gift pile that reads: "If a tag is torn, if tape is sliced, if wrapping paper is ripped, the gift goes back! Snoop at your own risk!" Nothing says "It’s Christmas!" like threats written with a Sharpie, right?

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