Most parents & grandparents enjoy giving gifts to little ones at the holidays. Isn’t that wonderful? Generosity is a tangible way to express love. However, many people feel that their space is already overcrowded, and the idea of bringing in more “stuff” is unsettling. Furthermore, when a large number of friends and family members contribute, it can feel like children get more than they can even enjoy.
Here is a four step solution:
1. Take time during the days leading up to Christmas to clear out your space.
Walk through the house and gather items to pass on to someone in need. If your children are old enough, invite them to help. This could be clothing, books, toys… whatever they are willing to release. If children are reluctant, consider offering an incentive, such as “When we find 20 things, we will all go get pizza!” Be sure to follow through by having them join you on the trip to donate to a local charity.
2. Limit the toys children get on Christmas morning.
There are many ways to set a limit, depending on what is important to you.
- Establish a boundary that relates to your faith, such as, “Three gifts from the magi, three gifts for you.”
- Conduct a family gift exchange where each person pulls a name out of a hat (works especially well with the extended family.)
- Give each child a large, decorated box and then limit his/her gifts to whatever fits inside that box.
- If you see too many gifts walking in the door, set a few aside for a future celebration, such as an “A” on a test, an accomplishment, or to acknowledge a kind gesture.
The idea here is to put some sort of “cap” on how much a child receives at once.
3. Consider giving gifts that the child can look forward to.
Examples here include:
- Coupons redeemable for special treats
- Waivers for specified chores
- A gift certificate for a hotel night away (bonus points if there is an indoor pool!)
- Supplies for an upcoming vacation, summer camp, or trip
- Tickets to a movie, museum, sporting event, show, etc.
- A voucher for the gift of time to work on a project
4. Create holiday traditions and memories that have nothing to do with gifts.
Over time, these anticipated events often end up meaning more to children than the presents under the tree. Some ideas include:
-> Attend faith services and special events that align with your beliefs.
-> Take an annual trip in the car to look at lights around your town while everyone sips hot chocolate.
-> Countdown the days before Christmas with a calendar or other system.
-> Watch holiday movies or television shows.
-> Bake cookies, decorate a gingerbread house, or prepare food gifts.
-> Serve your community by giving to Toys for Tots, Operation Christmas Child, or a local charity.
-> Hang a stocking on a chlid’s doorknob late on Christmas Eve with a special treat to munch on in the morning. Older children might enjoy a few printed games to keep them busy while they wait for everyone else to wake up.
-> Have a traditional meal on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning or Christmas day (and it doesn’t have to be fancy – we have Chinese every Christmas Eve!)
The possibilities are endless, and will vary by the age and stage of your children.
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Gifts are not a bad thing or a commercial “sell out.” We all love to give and receive. But keeping “presents” within the larger context of a holiday celebration will provide enduring joy that lasts well into the new year.
What clutter-free gift ideas do you have?