When it comes to holidays with kids our family has figured out what works best for us when it comes to gift giving. If my kids had no connection to the outside world I'd probably just say "Merry Christmas! Here's a cookie." But unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for them) there are outside influences and grandparents that want to buy them presents, so we've developed a bit of a guide to help us set expectations and limits. This might sound extreme to some, but I don't want my house full of broken plastic junk that never gets played with come February. For Christmas we really try to emphasize the "season" and feeling of the holiday rather than just Santa coming and getting presents. By focusing more on the spirt of Christmas our kids get so much more than gifts, they get life long memories and values that will keep them happy for years to come. Here are a few ideas to keep Christmas minimal-ish this year, and keep the junk out of your house.
1. Create Family Traditions
Get your kids into the spirit of Christmas by creating memorable traditions. Putting up the tree with music and eggnog, baking cookies, making a gingerbread house and bringing out the "elf on the shelf" are all things that make the holidays super fun for kids of all ages. Make it special by really building it up and talking about it for a few days before you decided to put up the tree or bake those special cookies. You can invite some friends and family over too, which will only add to the fun for the littles. So get out the Baileys and throw on some Mariah, lets get this Christmas going!
2. Make Gifts with your Kids
Talk to them about the meaning of Christmas and how we give presents to let our loved ones know we care. Sit down with them to brainstorm ideas about what you could make for their siblings, grandparents, teachers etc. They will be happy to spend time with you, and will feel super proud when their handmade gift is being opened. And lets be honest, all grandparents really want is a picture anyway.
3. Get Experience Gifts
Experience gifts can be a great gift to give that will create long term happy memories for your children. Study after study has been done that show experiences over stuff brings more happiness. This is so important to instill into our children from a young age. Everything we are doing while our kids are young is setting the stage for the types of values they have as an adult. I for one, want my boys to know that life isn't about acquiring things, its about experiencing it to its fullest. If you're stuck on what type of experience gifts you can get for your little ones there are tons of ideas out there. Here are a few to get the wheels turning...
-Go see a kids show (Paw Patrol live or the Wiggles etc).
-Get a pass to a children's museum (extra points if whoever gives it makes a date to bring the kiddo there for some "special time").
-a special ride on a train or plane. (We got a float plane ride for my sons 4th birthday and he's still talking about it!)
-a kids cooking set and a time to open it up and use it together.
-lessons (swimming, piano, staking. etc. Anything that you can then do together would be ideal).
You get the point. Just make the experience something fun and out of the ordinary and you're little will love it!
4. Setting Gift Limits
After a bit of push back the first year, the grandparents now know they cannot go out and "spoil" our children with stuff for Christmas. If they want to spoil them they will have to take them out of the house and spend "special time" with them, while I take a nap and then watch Netflix. But seriously, we like to do 5 gifts max per kid, and usually divvy up the gifts between us, grandparents and Santa.
We try to follow the "4 gift rule" +1 for Christmas.
-Something they want
-Something they need
-Something to wear (I know of a great little shop full of sustainable kids clothing www.gimmegimme.ca)
-Something that they read
5. Giving Back
This is the true meaning of the holiday. I have always loved to donate formula to the food bank every Christmas since my oldest son was born. He used to drive around town with me while I collected donations. This year I'll be bringing him and is brother with me to the grocery store and the food bank when we drop off our donations. Teaching our children about how good it feels to give is one of the best gifts I could ever imagine giving.
I hope you can take one or two of these ideas and use them to help you to have a slightly less stressful Christmas ( did you note the part about the Baileys?). Our world can change if we can all start consuming a bit less and caring a bit more. Teaching our kids about what its like to truly value and appreciate what we have will make an amazing impact on the world.