9 Gift-giving Tips for a More Meaningful Christmas for Kids
With Christmas merchandise popping up in stores as early as Labor Day, Christmas has likely been on your mind for a while already. And if you’re anything like me, you’re getting a pit in your stomach as you contemplate all of the shopping madness ahead.
While gifts are an exciting complement to the season, we’ve all seen them get out of hand. If you have children, it’s good to start early establishing healthy traditions for gift giving. This can protect your budget, decrease feelings of entitlement, and turn Christmas into a more meaningful occasion.
Here are our top nine tips for better gift-giving this year:
1. Establish limits. A friend of mine, who is also an experienced parent, often reminds me that once you give, it’s hard to take away. This wise advice reminds me that giving lavishly when kids are small can lock you into a hard-to-sustain pattern. I’ve seen families set gift-giving boundaries in a number of ways. Some establish a dollar limit for Christmas gifts so kids understand that their wish list must stay within those parameters. Others have a four-gift limit designated as follows: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. If you communicate the limits to your children in advance, they’ll know what to expect and be less likely to be disappointed when you don’t cater to their every desire.
2. Stick to your list. Does this scenario sound familiar? You head into the store to find the Harry Potter Lego set. One hour and many dollars later, you emerge with the Legos plus a board game, a soccer ball, and the plush reindeer that sings “Up on the Housetop” in multiple languages when you squeeze its nose. Stop the madness. Make the list, check it twice, then stick to it with laser focus. Don’t get sidetracked by all of the little extras—even the $3 ones that line the checkout aisles. And if you can’t trust yourself to resist the impulse buys, consider shopping online. There are still plenty of deals to distract you there, but they may not be as “in your face” as they are at a brick and mortar store.
3. Give gifts that foster development. There are some amazing gifts out there to help kids develop interests and skills. If your child is on the verge of potty training, consider giving them underwear with their favorite cartoon characters or Peejamas—designer pajamas that double as an alternative to disposable diapers and overnight training pants. If they’re on the cusp of reading, look into interactive phonics games and beginner books. Building sets, interactive globes, and science kits can all stimulate your child’s love of learning while they’re having fun.
4. Give experiences. Toys are fun, but they can get old or break in a hurry. On the other hand, experiences can create lasting memories. Have a family meeting and talk about some experiences you would like to have together, whether it be attending a play or concert, visiting a theme park, zip-lining, or taking a vacation. Discuss the possibilities of swapping out gifts for memorable experiences together.
5. Get kids involved in giving.
You don’t have to be the only giver in your home. In fact, the holiday can take on far greater depth and meaning when kids participate in gift-giving. You can have them help you shop for gifts for neighbors and teachers and wrap the gifts. Within the family, they can draw names of their siblings and make arrangements to select and purchase a gift for the brother or sister whose name is on the slip.
6. Give gifts of service. Encourage children to give gifts that require a little bit of themselves. This can help counteract the rampant commercialism and point them toward the spirit of the holiday. Gifts of service can be as simple as caroling at a retirement home or making coupons for one good deed for a sibling. As a family, you can sign up to volunteer in the community over the holiday or adopt a family in need.
7. Open gifts slowly. Ever sit down to a meal starving, then inhale it all in a matter minutes? Where was the savoring? Where was the enjoyment? Now, you’re left with an overly full belly and an empty plate. Christmas morning can feel a bit like that—one big riot of wrapping paper and torn cardboard, then that anti-climactic pause when you realize it’s all over. To prolong the joy, try opening gifts round-robin style. Go in order, pausing to ooh and aah over each gift before moving on. The kids might go just a little bit crazy waiting for their turn, but the delayed gratification will pay off.
8. Rotate gifts. This tip is for handling gifts after Christmas day. I can think of only a small handful of Christmas gifts at our house that haven’t lost their luster in just a few weeks. To counter this natural phenomenon, try strategically pulling certain toys out of the mix and stashing them away in a closet or storage bin. When you pull them back out in a couple weeks, they’ll seem like new.
9. Remember that there are other holidays. Christmas is a big holiday, but it’s not the only one. Given the principle we discussed in the previous paragraph, consider giving fewer gifts but giving them more frequently. I’ve often thought that I could pull off something far greater by purchasing my young children a couple dozen $5 gifts throughout the year than I could by purchasing one really pricey Christmas gift. So don’t feel pressure to over-deliver on Christmas, realizing that you can save a gift or two for Valentine’s Day and beyond, spreading out the excitement.
There are many ways to make Christmas both magical and meaningful, and sometimes it involves rethinking some gift-giving traditions that we embrace out of sheer habit. As you strive to give more mindfully this Christmas, we’re guessing that you’ll notice a difference in the way the holiday plays out for both you and your child.