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 possibly enjoy. So what can parents do about kids, clutter, and holiday gifts?
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 to donate, we will all go get pizza!” If your children are excited about donating, have them join you on the trip to donate to a local charity.
- This is also a good time to dispose of items that are no longer in good shape. Throw away old craft kits that are half-used and won’t get played with, trash broken toys, pitch the dried-up markers, etc.
- If you can, sort through the drawers and closets to make space for clothing that might be coming in.
- Also, plan now for where you will store gifts (especially large ones) that you know are coming. If you can, do a bit of rearranging so that it will be simple to settle gifts into your space once they are opened.
- Lastly, set up a “donation box” somewhere in your home and encourage children (and anyone else in your space) to put anything they no longer want inside.
2. Limit the toys children get during the holidays.
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 and only gives to that person. This can be especially effective with extended family, such as cousins.
- If you sense too many gifts are accumulating, set a few aside you had purchased for a future celebration, such as an “A” on a test, an accomplishment, or to acknowledge a kind gesture. Children won’t miss what they didn’t know was coming, and it may be more special at another time.
The idea here is to put some sort of “cap” on how much a child receives at once.
You can also reduce the overwhelm by opening gifts over time, such as one or two on Christmas Eve or one each night of Hanukkah. Additionally, be sure to slow the pace of gift opening by having only one person at a time open a gift. This enhances everyone’s experience and appreciation of each gift.
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!), ice cream date, or any favored activity
- Supplies for an upcoming vacation, summer camp, or trip
- Tickets to a movie, museum, sporting event, concert, show, etc.
- A voucher for the gift of time to do an activity of their choice
4. Create holiday traditions and memories that have nothing to do with gifts.
Over time, anticipated traditions 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.
-> Put on a familiar holiday playlist or sing some favorite carols.
-> Make it an annual event to participate in a town tree or menorah lighting ceremony.
-> Take an annual trip in the car to look at lights around your town while everyone sips hot chocolate.
-> Count down 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 child’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.
-> Enjoy some special foods that you only eat during the holiday season, such as latkes during Hanukkah or a special coffee cake on Christmas morning. Remember that it doesn’t have to be fancy, just something familiar that people look forward to.
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 tips do you have for keeping gift-giving in perspective?