When my oldest daughter was three and finally old enough to actually tell me some things she wanted for Christmas, I made the mistake of giving her a toy catalog. "Show me some things you want Santa to bring you," I instructed. She eagerly flipped through the pages pointing and saying, "I want THIS! What is it?" There were so many choices. She was overwhelmed, greed took over, and she wanted everything.
As parents, we really do want to give our children everything they want. We want to see the joy on their faces on Christmas morning when they open the perfect gift. Of course, we can't really give them everything, though. Nowadays, there is just too much "stuff," but our reality is limited by space, budget, and teaching our children the value of moderation.
So, how do we do it? In an environment where we are all bombarded by advertisements trying to convince us we need more and more, how do we reign it in? How do we curb the greed and still make our kids happy?
Over the years, I have seen three different strategies used to help reign in the holiday gift giving.
Three Gifts - This is the basic strategy we use in our home. It stems from the idea that Jesus was given three gifts from the Wise Men. Our children are allowed to ask Santa for three things and they can ask us for one additional item. As they get older, we have also specified that one of the items can be a big, somewhat more expensive item, but the rest should be smaller. (Otherwise their 3-4 items would most likely all be high dollar choices.) This approach can certainly be modified to fit your family's needs and rules.
Body, mind, and soul -
This gameplan also involves three gifts, but they are more specific and focused. One focuses on the body such as a bike, trampoline, or sports gear. The second is something to enhance the mind such as books, puzzles, or even a tablet. Finally, one for the soul. This one can be tricky since most kids wouldn't really enjoy a massage, so try to think about what is most important to your child. Does he/she love music? Animals? What would "feed their soul?"
A couple more things to consider:
- This year, I am trying to help my girls understand that a gift is not always a thing. It could be an experience such as a horseback riding lesson, a cooking class, or going to a movie. Some families even go to Disney or somewhere big in lieu of gifts. It could also be just spending time together doing something fun, like a coupon for a tea party or a family game night. Gifts don't have to = stuff.
- Other intangibles can make great gifts as well. My oldest daughter LOVES animals, so one year we made a donation to the World Wildlife Foundation and "adopted" an animal. She loved it! Especially at this time of year, many non-profits offer items in exchange for donations. Maybe making a donation to a worthy cause would be a better solution than buying more things they don't really need.
- Think about helping others. Especially as children get older and can understand the correlation between money and gift giving, how wonderful would it be if they were willing to "give up" one of their gifts and give to someone in need? What if you took your kids shopping to fill a stocking for someone who, otherwise, might not get anything for Christmas?
This year, I am really trying to think outside the box when it comes to gifts for my kids. It's tough because we are still riding the Santa train with my youngest daughter. I'm working on it, though, and I hope these ideas will help you, too!
What gift giving strategies do you use? What are some "alternative" gift you have given or received int he past?