Do you ever feel powerless against the onslaught of toys and gifts at holiday time? Without a plan in place to give guidance to gift-giving, your children could end up with more toys and possessions than any child would even know what to do with. Therefore, I am offering some gift-giving guidelines in this post.
I know I’m a grandmother now, with no small children at home. But I see the toys explosion our grandchildren face, read about the toy havoc in other families, and wander the malls and stores at the holidays where everyone is vying for your gift-giving dollar.
I’m not anti-toy. I think children need toys and playtime as much as ever – in fact, maybe even more, given that so much of their waking time is spent in front of a screen. Playtime should be a time of growing, stretching, ideas, imagination, creativity, experiences, risk-taking, and physical challenges. Many gift ideas offered today do not encourage children to play in ways that build thinking, physical, social, or emotional skills.
With that said, I’d like you to consider purchasing (or requesting) gifts that fall into one of these categories.
Gifts That Will Encourage Physical Activity
Sporting equipment such as rollerblades, balls, a basketball hoop, or cleats falls into this category. But so could family gifts such as snowshoes for everyone, dance lessons, an outdoor playset, a mini-trampoline, or even interactive video games. Other ideas include experiences like monthly hiking dates scheduled in advance on the calendar and kept faithfully, bi-weekly trips to the park or playground for some real climbing and risk-taking, or joining a youth bowling league. The idea is to challenge your child to use his body, not to sit and soak in the video games!
Gifts That Will Encourage Creativity
This one is tricky because creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. That said, here are just a handful of ideas: art supplies, knitting classes, hand tools and wood, camera and photography lessons, a commitment to teaching your child one new cooking or baking recipe each month, or building toys – if your child isn’t the ‘gotta only build what’s in the directions’ type of child. While building a Legos pirate ship is great, learning to build something totally out of your imagination with Legos is better.
Gifts That Will Build Their Reading Skills and Knowledge of the World
Yes, of course, I’m talking about books! But not just any books. Focus on good literature and interesting nonfiction books. Avoid almost anything related to television, cartoons, movies, or pop culture. They can always get those books at the library – and they will. But spend your hard-earned money on books that will challenge and stretch their minds, not just provide ‘empty calories.’
There are plenty of people that will disagree with me here – but the books you provide and have in your home are the mind and spirit food you are feeding your child. Just as with eating, a little bit of junk food occasionally is fine, but a steady diet of unhealthy food leads to an unhealthy body and unhealthy habits.
An aside here from a teacher: don’t miss any opportunity to give good books and read them to and with your child! No skill is more important to their success in school and life than reading. You might also enjoy this post or this one about children and books.
Gifts That Build Memories
Focus on experiences in this category, not things. Having said that, I think the tradition of buying each child their own ornament commemorating something special each year is a great tradition. I’d also encourage you to go to an online photo site and get a photo book of the family for each year – records of memories are as important as making them.
That said, what can you do this year to build memories with your family? Monthly daddy-daughter or mother-son dates? I regret never starting this tradition! Start young, when they’ll be excited about it, and keep it up well into the teen and young adult years – as long as possible.
Weekly family game nights (buy a new game to try)? Bi-weekly family movie nights (be sure to discuss what lessons the movie teaches)? Living room picnics? Pizza nights? Museum trips? Concert tickets? Broadway-type shows?
Perhaps you could reverse the tradition of children giving their parents coupons to redeem for ‘clean bedroom’ or ‘doing dishes.’ Instead, give your children coupons for ‘one trip to the park each month’ or ‘bi-weekly horseback rides together’ or ‘lessons from dad on how to ____ (fill in the blank – what can dad teach?).’
Pull out your calendar the day after Christmas and start penciling in commitments to redeem those coupons, teach those lessons, have those dates, and make those memories. You could even give your child her own calendar to keep track of your commitments. She won’t let you off the hook!
Gifts to Avoid
Technology. Let’s face it – your child will get plenty of technology in his life without giving it the place of honor reserved for Christmas gifts. If your child is like the majority in the United States, he probably already has a phone and/or tablet. Don’t avoid the issue of technology, but don’t let it steal the show. Make Christmas gifts all about becoming a better person, a better family, a better servant, and building more and better memories.
For more on technology and screen control, check out this post.
Make Christmas less about getting tons of stuff and more about making lasting memories. You might want to set a limit on gifts. Some families choose to give three or four gifts per child, no more. You could also limit the per-child budget, making it necessary to evaluate your choices more carefully. Do your best to get grandparents and other relatives onboard with the plan your family adopts.
Whatever you choose to do about gift-giving, at the very least have a plan. Just buying everything your child wants will only breed entitled children who think they deserve everything they want simply because they are your children. While that might seem cute at a young age, it quickly gets old. The world needs believers – and our children – to stand out as different. Not entitled but serving. Not grasping for more but giving more. Not focused on stuff but instead focused on Jesus.
Make a plan. Adjust it yearly as the children grow. But have a plan and follow it. Your children and you will all benefit from making Christmas gift-giving more intentional.