At our house, the kids get to open their gifts on New Years Day instead of Christmas. While it’s only a slight variation, it’s one that matters to us. For our family, Christmas is about waking up to Jesus in a manger, not gifts under a tree.
We also recognize that gifts are an expression of love to our kids and to each other, so we shifted the idea of gifts to the New Year. It’s a fun way to start the new year!
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s become best-practice to give experiences to our kids instead of toys. You know, because toys are wasteful and experiences create memories that last forever. But, despite the trend towards giving vacations, experiences, lessons, and money towards an education fund, our kids will be getting (three!) toys under the tree this year. Some of them will be plastic and all of them have zero educational value. And we’re happy with that.
I can admit that I like the sentiment behind the “non-toy” gifts. Less stuff. Less waste. Simple.
But I resist the trend for several reasons:
1. We don’t really buy toys for the kids, except for New Years and their birthday.
They want something in June? It goes on their New Years wish list. They have developed some amazing patience as they wait for something they want! Sometimes they will try to save their money (from research jobs at the University) to buy something they want, but mostly they have to wait. Every now and then we’ll give in (and sometimes toys show up at our house to review- bonus of being a blogger’s kid!). Generally, the answer for a toy will be no. So, when New Years comes around, it is my joy to get them a toy that’s not going to benefit their future resume.
2. We love to play.
We love lazy weekends. The kids get out their toys and create and imagine and role play and experiment and get bored and find something else to do. Jake and I sometimes play with them; often they play with each other. Lots of fights, lots of arguments, lots of laughs, lots of excitement. SO MUCH NOISE. But it’s in this laboratory of play that their minds are growing and expanding, and they are learning to collaborate and negotiate, and well, fight, I guess :).
3. Honestly, the last thing we need to do is cart one more person to another lesson.
While lessons and sports and art classes are great for kids, there is a line. For our family, we really like hanging out with one another- so we try to make sure there is time for family dinner, playing games, reading/listening to stories, watching movies, dance parties, learning new things together, and conversation. This takes up a lot of time! We tell the kids they can (generally) each choose one extra-curricular during the school year that “interrupts life” — for them, it is soccer in the fall and spring. Winter is chess club for Asante and an occasional art class for Aly. Those things are budgeted already– not as holiday gifts, but as a part of ordinary life.
4. Every “non-toy” gift list I’ve seen has a ton of toys listed!
So if bikes, scooters, skates, art supplies, travel games, and board games aren’t toys…. what are they??
4. Toys are often MUCH MUCH cheaper than the vacations and experiences.
My Christmas budget would get each kid 2 piano lessons. Simplicity isn’t only about less stuff, but also spending less money overall.
5. The real problem is being masked.
The problem isn’t giving toys as gifts. The problem is that they are already getting tons of toys year round. We (as in American parents) are saying our kids have so many toys that instead of changing our habits of buying our kids everything they want during the rest of the year, we’re just going to fill up their rooms with non-toy stuff (sleeping bags, watches, art supplies, outdoor tools, board games, travel games, clothes, subscription boxes that come bring you more stuff EVERY SINGLE MONTH). You know, simple.
Of course, each family has their own way of doing things– so perhaps you do have a gazillion toys in your home and kids don’t play with them, etc etc., and you’re committed to the non-toy gifting option this year. Cool! May I suggest a few that truly doesn’t involve more stuff and that your kids may really like and enjoy over the long haul? 🙂
Make something for them
There are a hundred thousand blogs with tutorials of things to make for your kids. Try out your hand in repurposing something to make something else. It could be fun for you to brainstorm and create, and it’ll be meaningful for your child to have something you made for them. Don’t make a lot of things. Just one thing.
These could be for anything… what to eat for dinner, choose a restaurant, decide on their own bedtime, unlimited screen time, etc. Many kids thrive on being able to make more decisions– important ones (to them) that affect their daily life. In a way, you’d be gifting power- ha!
Create a Space
An artist space. A reading space. A gaming space. A quiet space. An outdoor space. Whatever your kid is into, create a space surrounding that theme.
Allow them to pick out a gift for someone else
In the past, it’s been so fun for our kids to choose something to give through the World Vision catalogue. It’s easy to find something that your kids care about and it makes them proud to be able to give some things they take for granted to others.
Seriously. They get an animal to raise and take care of on a daily basis! My kids would heartily agree with this. Too bad it’s not for them in the cards this year. 🙂 (What?! For the first time in 7.5 years I’m not changing someone’s diaper on a daily basis. Give me a couple years to recover before I start all over with an animal!)
Whatever you choose, I hope you and your kids have fun giving and receiving, while also balancing the values of your family! 🙂