In this day and age with so much consumerism, excess, and waste, there is something inherently beautiful about not giving traditional gifts at Christmas. That is not to say we should forgo gifts altogether, but rather, we should be more mindful and intentional with our purchases, choosing to spend our time and our money on things that are important, rather than just more junk and stuff that takes up space in our homes. There are so many ideas out there about ways to celebrate the holidays without the excess of gifts, toys, and trinkets that get played with for a time and then are left on the shelf to gather dust.
If you are like me and are tired of the chaos of Christmas shopping, the overspending that always happens, and the amount of junk that accumulates around the house, here are some alternatives to buying traditional Christmas gifts.
Give the Gift of Time
As a Kindergarten teacher for many years, there is one common theme in the memories my students share with me about their holidays – the time they spent with their loved ones. Sure, the occasional toy is mentioned and celebrated, however most of the time they talk about the special memories they created with their family. Spending cozy mornings cuddled up watching TV together, doing some Christmas baking, sledding in the snow, playing a family board game, etc. Those are the things that they are most excited to share with me – because the greatest gift in your children’s eyes is YOU! They simply want uninterrupted time with the people they love most. So, this Christmas, don’t worry so much that every popular toy is under the tree. Instead, focus on setting aside quality time to spend with your kids. That is what they want the most.
The best gift you can give your children is the gift of your time.
Give the Gift of Memories
While toys are loved and appreciated in the moment, most times they quickly get shelved and forgotten. If you were to think back to your childhood days, would you recall every toy that you were given? Probably not. But, what if you were given a membership to a new activity or club? Or those skating lessons you were hoping to take? Or a season’s pass to a favourite amusement park, museum, or zoo? You would likely remember all of the wonderful memories that were created visiting those places or participating in those activities. Instead of giving stuff this year, try giving the gift of experiences instead. Your children will remember those long after the Barbies and Transformers are forgotten.
A season’s pass to a favorite amusement park is something your kids could enjoy all year long.
Give the Gift of Giving Back
It is important for us to take time to recognize the blessings in our lives, and to foster gratitude in our own children. If we have a roof over our heads, food in our tummies, and clothes on our backs, then we are richer than many other people in the world. This is an important concept for children to understand, and one way to help teach this, is to foster a love of giving back to others. There is no better time to start this than the holiday season.
You could bring your children to the local soup kitchen and volunteer some hours to help pass out food to others. You could take a trip to the grocery store and have your children pick out non-perishable food items to take to the local food bank. Perhaps they could go through toys they’ve outgrown that are still in good condition and have them donate them to a local charity. Or, you could visit a website like Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope, where you can purchase specific gifts that help to strengthen and support impoverished communities around the world. Whichever way you decide to give back, make this a family tradition and part of your holiday gift giving. You will be giving your children the gift of compassion, generosity, and kindness – something that no amount of money can buy.
Helping others is something we all need to be teaching our children.
Give the Gift of Travel
This gift is similar to the gift of memories, because you will be creating wonderful travel memories together. Instead of giving toys this Christmas, save your money and spend it on a family trip somewhere instead. Plan a fun family vacation to a new place that you’ve never been before. Perhaps give the kids a few little gifts that are clues to the big gift, such as flip flops and sunglasses if you’re going somewhere hot, or cute luggage tags if you’re going on an airplane. Providing opportunities for your children to see the world not only creates wonderful memories together, but it also teaches your children about the joys of travel and the many things they can learn when they experience new countries and new cultures.
Give your children the gift of experiencing the world.
There is nothing wrong at all with giving gifts at Christmas, and it is something that I love to do with my own children and family. But, being more mindful and intentional with our purchases, and choosing gifts that will last longer than the initial excitement, is something that I am striving to do this Christmas. It is a great opportunity to teach some important life lessons to our children, including the idea of giving back to others and helping to create some kindness in this world. That alone is a gift in itself.