Simple theme nights can feature gifts of winter staples like warm socks, hats and gloves and underwear. More elaborate nights may include current kid favorites like American Girl dolls, Hannah Montana toys and the Nintendo Wii with games and accessories.
"The themes tend to work out a lot better in terms of teaching a lesson or making them more appreciative of what they're getting," said Andrew Borislow, of Lower Gwynedd, Pa., who gave his 10-year-old twin sons a Planet Earth DVD game last year on Green Night.
In addition to creating family time, low-cost ideas like hot chocolate and personalized mugs teach children that not every night can be Big Present Night.
In Chicago, Lisa Curran has a night devoted to a family gift, like a vacation, and a pajama party, when her children — a 3-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son — will get new PJs, stuffed animals and a DVD to watch together. She also sets aside nights for gifts from relatives.
"It sets an expectation that she's not getting eight gifts from every single person," Curran says of her daughter. "She knows she's not getting toys every night, not six toys every night."
She began theme nights with her daughter's first Hanukkah, concerned that her family might go overboard for the first grandchild. "We needed some kind of strategy to sort of keep the holiday under control so it wouldn't be a general free-for-all," says Curran, 41.
Mary Salke-Roth, of Irvington, N.Y., keeps up her mother's tradition of toothbrush night with her 7-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, who loved the musical ones they got last year. She also does underwear night, book night and music night. And there's always one big present, which this year for each child will be Heelys, shoes with a detachable wheel.
"We've been working on appreciating how much we have," says Salke-Roth, 44. "It's important that they know that the things we take for granted every day are valuable and thus are good presents."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.