Holidays and toys go hand-in-hand for kids. While I love making children happy during the Christmas season, I prefer giving holiday gifts that aren’t toy-related. Am I being a scrooge? I don’t think so. For starters, most parents buy piles of toys for their kids. These toys receive attention for a day or two and then end up under the bed or in a box. I don’t think parents should stop buying toys, but I don’t want to add more items to the clutter. Instead, I think outside of the toy box, and you can too.
I have fond memories of reading books to my stuffed animals, and those play times opened doors to imaginary lands and forever friends. For the holidays, I love giving books to the children on my list. When choosing books, I consult a list of the top 100 children’s books. From the list, I choose interesting books that reflect the child’s current interests and match the child’s reading level.
On the front page of each book, I write a thoughtful note. Sometimes, it’s a simple holiday greeting, and other times I write a personal reflection about the book’s meaning for me. Giving books as gifts is personal for me, and it’s one way I can invest in the education and future of each child on my Christmas list.
So many cute outfits catch my eye as I window shop at the mall. I’ll buy shirts, skirts and pants the kids can wear to school, or I’ll buy uniforms they need for after school sports activities. Outdoor play is important for growing kids, too, and outerwear is one of my favorite holiday purchases. Warm jackets, fuzzy hats and waterproof mittens keep kids warm and cozy as they play outside. I also tuck single serve hot chocolate packs and packets of popcorn into the pockets so the kids can enjoy a warm treat after their outdoor adventures.
Physical presents last a few days, months or years before they’re outgrown, broken or forgotten. Memories of special experiences, though, last a lifetime. That’s what I want to focus on when I give holiday gifts.
My family and friends know I prefer giving experiences. They appreciate that I talk with them before the holiday to make sure the experience I have in mind is age appropriate and enjoyable for their children. So far, my favorite holiday experiences and the gifts they replace include:
- enjoying a manicure or pedicure replaces nail polish
- dressing up for a fancy princess tea party replaces a dress-up doll
- racing go-karts at a local track replaces toy cars
- visiting a zoo replaces stuffed animals
- board games replace video games
- riding on a real train replaces toy trains
- viewing a live theater show replaces movies on DVD
- attending a live concert replaces musical CDs
- assembling a tree house together in the backyard replaces building blocks
- touring a hands-on art museum replaces art supplies
- playing laser tag replaces the toy light saber
- baking cookies together replaces play food
The Christmas spirit includes more than physical gifts. It’s about making memories and magic. That’s what I try to give the children on my list when I give books, clothes or experiences. What memory-making gifts are on your list this year?