Holiday Planning: Etiquette for Unexpected Gifts
Even if you're an expert at holiday planning, you're bound to forget one or two gifts (or to not anticipate them in the first place)! But rest assured, it is not necessary to return every gesture of a gift. My best advice is when holiday planning, have a few gifts on hand just in case one of your child's close friends does present them with a gift and you are not prepared.
If they receive gifts at school and it is a gift that everyone in the class also received, then it is not necessary to reciprocate. But a thank you note is necessary for every gift. Teach your children to write notes to show their appreciation. If they are too young, then you write the note and let them scribble their signature. Start them young so they know the value of showing their appreciation for a gift, no matter the size of the gift.
If you are unprepared and have no gift, it depends on the friendship of the children and also if you want to start the tradition of them exchanging gifts every year. Children can have their feelings hurt and feel if they give a gift they should receive one in return. Try and teach your children "that it is better to give than to receive." Teach them the fun of giving.
Most importantly, stay within your budget when holiday planning. If you did plan to have your child exchange gifts with some of his friends, don't feel you have to outdo them with a more expensive or elaborate gift, as that can send the wrong message.