Ready or not Christmas is around the corner. For many, this brings excitement. For others, it brings stress.
I’m speaking to several groups this holiday season on moving from stress to simplicity to splendor during the Christmas season. I thought it would be fun to take a little poll to see what stresses everyone out and solutions they have discovered. I will be sharing tips to simplifying the season over the coming weeks.
TOO MANY PRESENTS!
Today, I share a common stressor. Too many presents! One of the most common complaints I hear is this, “We have to clean out and purge toys before Christmas because the grandparents buy so much stuff.”
“We have asked relatives to simplify gift giving, but it is X’s love language, and she just can’t help herself. She brings bags and bags of toys each Christmas.”
“We can never think of anything to get our kids because they have so much stuff.”
This may seem like something silly to be stressed about, but it’s actually not so silly.
When you are trying to model the true spirit of Christmas being about Christ and not material gifts, it’s really hard when kids are bombarded with the gifts. And what kid doesn’t like loads and loads of presents?
A closely related stressor for many people is the materialism and consumerism of Christmas. The pressure of gift buying, the draining bank account, and the ungrateful attitudes that begin to develop.
SOLUTION TO TOO MANY PRESENTS
If you have been a reader here for awhile, you know I love to talk about creating memories and traditions. When our kids were little, we asked the grandparents to try to limit the amount of toys they gave our kids. Toys were bursting through every crevice of our home, and the more our kids had, the less they actually played. At the same time, we wanted them to have something that went beyond Christmas morning- something of value, something that could create a memory.
We began incorporating more experience types of gifts.
About 2 weeks after Christmas, our kids were unable to list the toys they received. And they certainly couldn’t identify who gave them what because there was so much stuff, nothing had much value. However, the gifts they clearly remember and still talk about are the ones that created memories.
I love memory-creating, experience-happening gifts. One year our kids received a day of snow-skiing lessons from the grandparents as a Christmas gift. One year Andrew received 8 weeks of swimming lessons. One year our kids received season passes to the local amusement park. They enjoyed that gift for months and even created sweet memories with the grandparents.
Not only do we as parents love these gifts more, our kids do as well. Even if they don’t realize it now, they will later in life.
When they outgrow the latest video game, the newest all-the-rage toy people wake at 3:00am to fight for, they will not outgrow the memories they created with a gift that is a moment with you or an experience they can hold onto.
Here’s a list of alternative types of Christmas gifts:
- Lessons– sports, music, art, etc. Do you have a child who wants to play the guitar? Do you have a baseball player who wants a few batting lessons? Do you have a budding artist? Giving a gift such as lessons also begins to instill gratitude and appreciation in a child. They begin to see the gift and sacrifice in something such as piano lessons rather than simply expecting they are entitled to it.
- Sports registration– season of team soccer and a pair of new cleats, session of swim lessons and a swim bag. Sports registrations are expensive, again this is another way to teach children to appreciate the gift of playing team sports rather than simply believing they are entitled to play.
- Movie passes with a box of candy and a popcorn bucket. We love taking our kids to the movie theater, but it’s a rare treat for our family of 5. Giving the gift of movie passes allows us to enjoy movie trips through the year we wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy.
- Hotel night away– use points earned from travel or credit cards to save more money. This is meant to be very inexpensive and not extravagant at all. Really focusing on the simplicity of time together. Grab pizza, play games in the room, swim in the pool, just being together away from home.
- Tickets to favorite sporting event -MLB, NHL, NFL.
- Gift cards to favorite restaurants
- A favorite camp. Camps are expensive, and many kids love summer camps. This is a great way to give a gift they will get to enjoy months after Christmas has passed.
- Books, books, more books. Now, I don’t feel about books the way I do about toys. I think one can’t possibly have too many books. And books are a wonderful way for children to spend time together with their parents as well.
- A special date night. This takes a little creativity but would be so special to a child and something they would always remember. If you are a grandpa who likes to fish and one of your grandkids likes to fish, plan a special fishing date for the just the 2 of you. Wrap up a little tackle box of a few fishing supplies with a note inside for a private fishing date.
- Future project together. Are you a grandma who loves to sew? Plan a day of sewing a special project piece with your granddaughter. Wrap up all the supplies and a picture of what you will create together along with a little note about the date you will do this. Are you a dad who loves woodworking? Gift a project date for you and your son to build a project together. Just the 2 of you.
- Coupon book of 12 one-on-one dates for the year. One coupon a month. The activities should not be expensive or extravagant but should focus on doing something in particular with that child. A trip to a favorite ice cream shop. An evening walk or bike ride. An early morning breakfast out when everyone else sleeps.
- A collection– coins, baseball cards, stamps. Collections are fun for kids, but even more fun when someone they love gets excited with them and takes part.
- Groupons for bowling or skating. Each year we purchase a groupon to the local bowling alley.
- Family gifts– One year we received a popcorn machine from my dad, and one year he gave us a soda machine. These have been so much fun for our family to use on movie nights or when friends come over.
- Trip supplies – Are you planning a trip next year? Find a way to include aspects of that trip into their Christmas gift. Are you planning a ski trip? Give ski lift tickets and new gloves as part of their gift.
Kids love time. Kids love moments. Kids love experiences. Kids also love stuff. But stuff doesn’t give much beyond the moment. Time, memories, and experiences go far beyond Christmas.
As a bonus, when you give gifts that you don’t necessarily buy at a store, you effectively combat the consumerism of Christmas. Spend less and give more.
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