Does your childrens' interest in their gifts last about as long as the batteries that run those gifts? Maybe you need to consider recharging both the batteries and your children.

Some degree of post-Christmas letdown is inevitable, says Dr. Shelley Lindauer, early childhood specialist in the Utah State University College of Family Life. Children are restless - caught in limbo between Santa Claus' coming and getting back to school to see their friends. It's almost as if a balloon has popped.What can be done to prolong the festive, warm feeling of the Christmas season and minimize the letdown?

Giving is an important part of Christmas, Lindauer says. It is also a gesture that can be continued throughout the year. With so many children receiving new toys at Christmas, now is a time to clean out toy boxes and closets. Toys which are no longer used or interesting may be donated to your church or favorite charity. These toys will be a welcome gift to a less fortunate child and give your child the joy of making other children happy.

"My family had an interesting tradition," Lindauer says. "After the initial excitement with our new gifts had worn off, we were asked to choose our favorite three or four. These we kept to play with. The others were put in boxes on the shelf in our hall closet. The "hidden" gifts would reappear at regular intervals throughout the winter, making for great excitement. I'm sure we were far more interested in our toys than if we'd had them all at once."

Children need to learn to show appreciation, and the holiday season is a perfect time for this, she says. The days following Christmas are ideal for writing thank-you notes. Even the youngest children can be involved in this endeavor by making a drawing and having a parent write out what they dictate.

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Snapshots are fun to enclose in thank-you notes. A child who writes Grandma and Grandpa to say "thank you" for the red sweater can include a picture of herself wearing the sweater.

Taking decorations down and getting the house back in order need not be drudgery. Make it a family affair, Lindauer suggests.

It is fun to safely tuck two or three special snapshots taken on Christmas day into the box that decorations are stored in. That way, when you get the decorations out next year, you'll have some happy memories of last Christmas to talk about as you decorate the tree.

Be creative: Develop your own post-holiday traditions that will be meaningful and memorable. If your family has something to look forward to after Christmas, the after-Christmas letdown can be replaced with new family rituals.

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