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.
This sounds like an awful big difference then that of the cost of presents and I understand that you want your children to appreciate family members for who
they are...not what they can do for them.
Perhaps now would be a good time to start gathering up old but in good condition toys and clothes from your girls and donate them to charity funds. Have your children pick out X amount of toys that they really love and play with often and bring them with you to donate the other toys. Explain to them that they already have a lot of toys and get new ones often but other kids don't get to have as many. Show them that by giving up the toy, they are not giving up the love they felt for it or the memories they had with it. Teach them not to value the object
I think it's very easy for young people to develop an unhealthy relationship
with gifts. We put so much importance on them that a lack of a gift or one 'lesser' gift is seen as a personality fault in the individual who's lacking in presenting a gift. We come to associate gifts with love. There is nothing wrong with asking Grandma and Grandpa to please scale down on the gifts, but you may have to put your foot down on the matter. If you feel like very lavish gifts are not appropriate or should be kept as something mommy and daddy buy it's up to you to personally consider the amount you find appropriate and request that nothing is spent above that.
It also seems appropriate to set limits on what the children are allowed to consume. Buying the kids all the fun meals they like whenever they want it is a branch off of a 'gift'. If you feel this is not appropriate, say as much. Tell your parents to please stop indulging them and put your foot down on the matter.
To be honest I have never spent more then $30 on presents for my niece and nephew, they have loved the presents every year. While my brothers ex-wife had her parents buy expensive toys like a miniature ballpit/trampoline contraption the kids have never even used it. The drawing/painting sets I put together for my niece however get much use.Same for the bug 'hunting' set which included a little plastic 'cage' for the bugs and other 'exploring' equipment like binoculars and a canteen. All of these where well under the $50 mark and where loved and played with right away. The ballpit sat unused in the basement for as long as I can remember.
What's important for all of us to learn, young or old, is that we should not put so much value in the object we are given but the memories and times we have from it. Teaching young children to appreciate a gift for it's meaning, but not it's material value will help them to disconnect the quantity or 'quality' (not to say cheaper presents are not quality)of the gift with how much they love the gift giver. If you children only want to be with your parents because they get things from them that is not cultivating a loving relationship
, that's just teaching your children that their grandparents are gift machines.