Part of the problem is that the girls strongly prefer my parents, not because they're better people but because my parents tend to shower them with gifts and special trips, plus lots of time. They'll take them out for fast food and get them whatever they'd like to eat, plus milkshakes, unless I specifically put limits on it. They want to give them sweets all the time. My mom wants to buy my oldest an American Girl doll. My oldest is 5, and her dolls still get dragged around the house. A previous Christmas, I counted at least 16 presents per kid. My parents are retired (well, my mom works two days a week), so they've got all the time in the world to take the girls to the park, to the mall, play with them outside, etc. They live on 1/3 of an acre and have a beautiful, child-friendly backyard with swings, sandbox, play kitchen, bikes, etc.
His parents love our girls just as much, but they've been unemployed for a long time, and while they're both now employed, they work full time and can't take much time off, so they can't spend time taking the girls to the mall or park as easily. They live in a small house with a tiny yard, so they don't have a ton of toys on hand for the girls to play with. They have 7 grandchildren and can't afford to spend a lot on each, so it's generally more like one present per child, often a book.
Trust me, the girls notice the difference. My 4-year-old just had a birthday, and she happily opened the single present each from my husband and myself, her aunt and uncle, and my husband's parents. Then, she was like, "NOW, let's see what all the presents from Grammy and Grandpap are!" There were three, so not a *ton* more, but each present was the equivalent of a single present from anybody else and it obviously made a huge impression. They definitely regard my parents as the givers.