If like thousands of parents Santa is bringing your little ones a games console for Christmas, it'll save Christmas morning heartache if you know in advance that your new console will definitely work as soon as you switch on the TV. This can be more complicated than you think.

Those of a certain age may have fond memories of unwrapping a brand new games machine on Christmas morning, plugging them into the TV and playing on.

The days when consoles worked straight out of the box went out with the Nintendo Wii. Modern consoles require always-on internet connections, which means there are several more hoops to jump through before you can start playing.

So if there's going to be a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch under your tree this Christmas, follow these instructions before you pack the machine up and send it off to the North Pole for redelivery. Your kids will thank you for it.

1) Set it up, connect it to the internet and download software updates

This one is a must. Chances are that expensive plastic box you just bought has been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse somewhere for months, and in the meantime several gigabytes of new system software updates have been released - all of which must be downloaded and installed before your machine will work properly.

This process can take a long time, depending on your internet connection speed. Leaving it until Christmas Day is a particularly bad idea as there will be thousands of other parents doing the same. This puts a strain on the servers you're downloading the updates from, with the result that everyone's downloads slow to a crawl. Nobody wants to spend Christmas morning watching a download bar tick painfully across a screen, so get it out of the way in advance.

2) Set up your payment cards - and parental controls

There's no getting away from it: more and more videogames are sold digitally these days and online services cost a monthly subscription fee. It is possible to pay for anything in the consoles' online stores using vouchers that you can buy separately, but it's generally easier to set up a payment card that the machine can use.

Everyone will have heard the horror stories about kids spending thousands of pounds on virtual football stickers or hats for their Fortnite characters. That's why it's vital to set spending limits. Both PlayStation Network and Xbox Live offer options to control what your kids can send, from requiring adult approval for purchases to setting a monthly spending limit. Read up on this now, and set it up before there can be any arguments.

3) Install your games

Depending what machine you've bought, chances are you have some more downloading to do. Some value bundles come with a download code to be redeemed in the online store rather than physical copies of games - again, these may be extremely large downloads so don't leave them until Christmas. Even if your games come on a disc or a game card, they will need installing to your console's internal storage before they can be played for the first time and - guess what? - they will also prompt you to install still more multi-gigabyte updates. This is emphatically not a festive way to spend your precious family time.

Load up each game and jump through any hoops required, then put them back in their boxes to wrap.

4) Put everything carefully back in its box, wrap it up and send to Santa

Enjoy a stress-free Christmas morning!