Should you set up the Xbox you're gifting your kids? As a parent, here's my advice for happy holiday gaming

Xbox Series S
(Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

I recently came across some threads on, er, Threads, that were discussing the upcoming holidays and whether or not you should unbox and set up a console you were gifting to your kids. 

There were plenty of arguments on both sides, but it's not the first time the topic has come up for me. I had the same internal dialog last year when gifting my son an Xbox Series S for his birthday. I decided to open it up, get it set up, then re-box and wrap it. 

Obviously I'm not going to insist you follow my lead, but as a parent who's asked himself the same question before, I feel like I have a good reason to offer the advice that I am doing. 

Excitement of a new Xbox foiled by waiting for downloads

Xbox Series S

Who wants to open a new Xbox and be told they can't play on it yet?  (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

It all comes down to the inevitability of the first part of new Xbox ownership being downloads. Downloading a system update, downloading games, it takes time. Even if you have the fastest of home internet connections, the holidays are a peak time for servers to get slammed. You're not the only one gifting a new Xbox, after all. 

It doesn't matter if your internet is fast, if the servers at the other end can't keep up, you'll still end up stuck waiting. Then you've got the process of installing games. Even if you're gifting an Xbox Series X with its disc drive, there's still installation time and almost always a patch of some kind to download as well. 

So make your kid's day even more exciting by opening up that box, running through all the setup process, updates, and get at least one or two games on there. Setting up a new console is really easy nowadays using the Xbox mobile app, but ultimately you're getting all the boring, time-consuming bits out of the way ahead of time. 

Both the Xbox Series S and Series X are easy enough to re-box neatly and wrap up. The packaging is actually really good, so you don't have to deprive them of tearing off the wrapping paper and being all excited. 

Of course, if your kid is older, then maybe it's less of a thing. But for younger ones, as my own are, I'd highly recommend getting it set up before wrapping it. 

Chance to get parental controls set up 

The other main reason to get the console set up before gifting it is to give you a chance to get the parental controls in order. It isn't a particularly complicated process, and Xbox Family Settings even has a mobile app to help you keep tabs on the go. We have a full guide on how to set up Xbox Family Settings to assist you. 

It's worth doing, though. For example, with my son's Xbox I have it set up so that he can get new stuff if he asks permission first, but also have age restrictions set on the games he can access. This is particularly important if you're sharing your own Xbox library with your child. 

Xbox Family Settings will also generate regular reports for you on how much time your kid is spending on the console, and allow you to set limits on the time they're allowed. 

It's important for a parent, but it's also a bit of a buzzkill if you add this into the pre-gaming time when they open their new console. Help yourself, help everyone have more holiday fun and get ahead of the game.  

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at

  • mitwee
    A few years back, my nephews received the Series X with several games. Their dad didn't take any steps to prep. He didn't really think about it, I guess. They live in a rural areas with DSL access only and download speeds were really, really slow.

    Anyway, he ended up bringing their console to my house for our Christmas get together that day. They plugged in their console and did install and updates for the rest of the day at your house. 😂

    One bad thing, they used like 300 gigabytes of my monthly Xfinity data allowance. It is 1.2 terabytes, I think. It was the first time I hit my data cap.
  • VitoNotVito
    What kind of father buys their kids an xbox.
    Wanna be a good parent buy them PlayStation...
  • mitwee
    They have both and so do I. I like my Xbox more though. It's called not being a fanboy.