I Love Christmas: Thoughtful Giving for Children

I love Christmas! I love Christmas trees, I love turkey, but most of all I love giving and receiving gifts. It’s a wonderful tradition – and a way that we can show our love for one another. It can also be a useful tool to teach our children about the value of money and the worth of manners and to encourage them to think of others before themselves. Since becoming a parent, I have become aware of the gifts of time, space and creativity too.
There are lots of toys in world. Unfortunately, most of them are in the Western world. In fact, many are all over my house! They are covering my floor, bursting out of the toy box and taking up precious cupboard space. One of the best pieces of advice I have received from the Inner West Mums group is to declutter your toys. Clutter can create negative energy – it can devalue what you have and sometimes overwhelm you. Having fewer toys, or maintaining a smaller, higher quality selection by storing some in a cupboard and rotating toys, is a great idea. I feel stressed when I can’t walk around my home or find things easily –and so do my kids. Having fewer toys can actually help children’s imaginations. And it’s worth noting that some toys allow for more creativity than others.
Many toys can be handed on when they are no longer used, creating a wonderful circle of recycling. Unfortunately not everyone has someone to pass things on to, and charities will only accept certain items. (For instance, most will not take soft toys.) Perfectly good toys can end up in the bin as landfill before their time. Increasingly, families are becoming more ethically and environmentally conscious. Some families avoid certain brands altogether, due to a reputation for poor labour conditions or environmental wastage. Some families prefer wooden toys, whilst more expensive, over plastic items. A well-selected pre-loved item in excellent condition may fit in perfectly with some families’ ideals. Think about who you are buying for. Even ask about their stance on these issues if you are unsure.
Each child and family is different. Children have varied interests, and a present that is suitable for one family may not be suitable for another.
When buying for children, consider the following:

  • Will this be a helpful gift, or just add to clutter?
  • Is this gift age appropriate? Does it encourage creativity or teach?
  • Does the child already have one (or many) of this item?
  • Can I add to a collection that the child already has? (For example, having one large set of Duplo blocks is more fulfilling than having five different kinds of blocks with only 20 pieces in them.)
  • Does this gift fit with the family’s ideals? Do they want less plastic in their lives? Are they into gender-neutral toys? Would they be happy to receive a second-hand item?
  • Can the family accommodate this item in their home?
  • Would I like to receive this item as a parent? Is this actually worth buying? Or, would an experience satisfy the child more?

Before I became a parent I never would have considered any of the above in my gift giving. Now, I try to put more thought into the needs of the family, the size of their home, their pre-existing toys, and giving experience gifts, educational or creative toys and quality second-hand items.
Here are a few ideas for gift buying.
Gifts that parents will love you for:

  • Clothes (one size up, and keeping in mind the season in which the child will be wearing them and the child’s style. This may include character pyjamas or well-made dress-ups.)
  • Books. (Ask for age-appropriate recommendations at your local bookstore or in the group. A bookstore voucher is another option.)
  • Shoes (one size up, too. Perhaps you could even take the child on an outing to select these.)
  • Art and craft supplies (textas, crayons, pencils, paint and brushes, art paper, playdough and so on)
  • Play items that will last a long time, such as a toy kitchen, kids table and chair set, drawing or painting easel or water table
  • Sports equipment, if needed
  • Or … just ask parents if they have anything in mind!

Gifts that clutter less:

  • Bubble mixture, balloons or stickers (all two-minute wonder toys)
  • Colouring books – for little ones and older kids who like art too!
  • Annual memberships or one-off passes for outings such as the zoo, aquarium, museum, or even a theatre event or train trip
  • You can also buy memberships or one-off passes for an older child too! They may enjoy a movie voucher, or even one to go bowling, to the ice-skating rink or to the local amusement park. Sports fans will love a club membership.)
  • A term’s worth of lessons to suit the child’s interests, e.g., swimming, dance, soccer or music
  • For an older child, a magazine subscriptions suited to their age and interests
  • A cooking experience. This might include a recipe card or kids’ cookbook, any particular equipment needed, such as a kid-sized apron or baking moulds, and a trip to the shops or markets to source the ingredients.
  • A voucher – for iTunes or a physical store – to purchase new music for home or the car.
  • A new backpack, lunch box or water bottle
  • Body wash or fun, colourful nail polish for older kids
  • A photo book of special moments together with the child, e.g. ‘special time with grandparents’. Children love poring over photos of themselves!
  • A donation to a charity, such as Oxfam or World Vision!

I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas!
IWM Anonymous Guest Contributor

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