Parents are being urged to spend more time with their children at Christmas, and less time chasing costly presents.
Some parents compensate for lack of time with expensive gifts
A poll of 2,500 for the Children's Society suggested two thirds looked forward to spending time as a family, but 40% went over budget on presents.
The society says youngsters will remember activities such as baking together more than expensive presents.
The charity has published a free guide with lots of suggestions for cheap and simple things to do over the holiday.
In the poll, nearly half (48%) thought there was competition between parents to get their children the best presents.
There have been reports of parents going to great lengths to secure the latest computer game or sought-after children's television merchandise.
Some 64% of those polled thought Christmas had become too commercial.
The Children's Society campaigns director Tim Lineham said: "Spending time as a family at Christmas is such a big part of childhood.
"When you reflect back on the best Christmas experiences of your childhood, I bet they involve fun memories of who you spent time with and the games you played."
Fun is free
The society argues that every child deserves a good childhood - to be loved and to feel like they are part of a family.
"So there's nothing more important than spending quality time with them, especially at Christmas," it says.
"In fact, some of the best times can be had for free, from fun family games to practical ideas you may never have heard of."
The free guide, Batteries not Included, shows how quality family time does not have to revolve around expensive toys and gadgets.
It provides more than 100 ideas of things to do and games to play.
It gives tips on making Christmas decorations and special things to eat, such as chocolate reindeer droppings.
Call 08707 809 875 for a free copy of the guide.