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How old is too old to give kids an Easter basket?

One pediatrician's advice? Ask your kids what they think.
When it comes to the classic Easter tradition of making an Easter basket for children, how old is too old?
When it comes to the classic Easter tradition of making an Easter basket for children, how old is too old?TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The Easter holiday on April 17 is fast approaching, and for many parents, the countdown to egg hunts and basket decorating is on.

Kara Cargill, a picture book writer based in South Carolina, was talking with her husband about the Easter basket gift she's planned for her son, who is 15. Her husband, however, thought she shouldn't bother. "He's too old," he said.

"Well, I'm still going to do one anyway," Cargill replied to her husband.

"I'm probably going to be one of those moms that always does it," she told TODAY Parents.

After the exchange with her husband, she took to Twitter to ask the her friends their opinion.

"My husband says my 15 and a half year old son is too old for an Easter basket. I still did one anyway. What are your Thoughts?" Cargill tweeted.

What she didn’t expect was for that post to go viral.

Many responded that of course there's no limit on the tradition. Some noted that by a certain age, kids should outgrow egg hunts and a belief in the Easter bunny, but Easter baskets? The consensus was clear: No one is too old.

And experts agree.

Dr. Candice Jones, a pediatrician in Orlando, Florida, told TODAY Parents that the best way to figure out whether or not to make a basket for your child is simple: Ask.

"These family traditions and holidays are very fun and loving, and many children look forward to them," Jones said. "And so for us as parents and adults to make the determination that they're too old may be a little unfair."

The best way to approach this conversation is simple: First, relax. Then broach the subject by asking the child for his or her thoughts on the tradition: "Easter's coming up, what do you think?" Jones suggested saying.

Related: 41 Easter basket stuffers for the kid who’s interested in more than just candy

Starting these conversations is part of maintaining healthy relationships and staying connected with children as they grow, Jones said — even when it’s over something as small as an Easter basket.

“If you think enough to ask them their opinion about that, that encourages more dialogue when things really, really matter,” she said.

Some kids may say no to an Easter basket or other childhood tradition in order to prove that they are maturing, parenting and resilience expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa told TODAY Parents. But parents should ask again later, she advised.

"Sometimes kids just want to know that they are allowed to say 'no,' and then they go back to saying 'yes,'" she said.

What about the Easter bunny?

Belief in the magical creatures who leave gifts under pillows or trees is part of many childhood experiences. Children usually grow out of these beliefs naturally due to their social context, Jones said. But it never hurts to watch out for that progression and start a conversation when those beliefs start to end.

Gilboa cautioned that when children start asking about the existence of these figures, it's important that the child doesn't feel like they've been lied to. With legends around the Christmas figure Santa Claus, she's heard of many parents who say that "Santa is an idea, not a person." The same can be said for the Easter bunny.

"There's this idea, and once you're old enough you get to be a part of the helping instead of the receiving, or the helping and the receiving," Gilboa suggested parents say.

Related: 27 fun Easter gift ideas for teens

Evolving traditions

As kids age, it might be best to get creative when approaching the Easter holiday, said Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and the author of “Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine.”

Instead of a basket, some kids may prefer a gift bag with some of their favorite trinkets or even just some candy and treats, Borba said. And instead of participating in an Easter egg hunt, some may prefer helping hide the eggs for younger siblings or neighbors.

Easter is an example of a family tradition that can become a core memory for kids as they age.

“I think we’ve got to get beyond ‘it’s just a basket,’” Borba said. “It’s the meaning behind the basket.”

Related: 15 festive finds to make Easter eggs-tra special

For many families, Easter might not be the most meaningful and memorable tradition for children.

In Gilboa's family, a different tradition has proven to be enduring. On each child's birthday, she decorates their bedroom before they wake up. Once her kids reached middle school, she started asking them whether they still thought it was fun.

So far, each of them, including her oldest, who is 19, has said yes, Gilboa said.

It’s worth finding out what traditions matter most is in order to preserve them over time. Borba recommends that parents ask their children: What are the family traditions that you’ll tell your kids about later on? The answers may be surprising.

After conducting focus groups with children across the country, Borba said one thing kids miss most right now is fun. Finding out what traditions and activities spark that sense of fun can bolster family relationships. Many possibilities are small things that “don’t have to cost a dime,” Borba said, such as movie nights or certain sweet or funny rituals.

“They love the predictability of it,” Borba said. “And right now, in an uncertain world, the predictability of ‘let’s keep doing that’ can be really fun.”

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