Christmas Gift Ideas
Christmas time can be difficult for a lot of people. For some they spend the day rushing between family events, while others can feel very alone at Christmas. And then there is the pressure to find the perfect present, which can be extremely difficult when we live in a culture where everyone buys everything as they need/want. Or, when it comes to gifts for your little ones, they either already have a room full of toys they never play with and clothes they never wear, or it’s a struggle to afford even one gift from the wish list you’re little dreamers have concocted based on the brilliant marketing campaigns launched by toy and brand labels at this time of the year.
A few Christmas’s ago, after a lot of careful thought and consideration, we thought we’d come up with a wonderful, but modest, assortment of gifts for Ilah – things she wanted, plus things we knew she would love – only to have Christmas Day roll around and after madly tearing paper and discarding each gift with barely a glance, she got to the end of the pile and asked “Is that it?” We were floored. How had this happened? There was more than enough and still it hadn’t been enough. The excitement of opening presents had taken away from the gift itself. How could we bring back the joy of receiving a gift and being grateful for what we have?
The following year we came across an idea to help limit the craziness of Christmas gift giving. It’s by no means a new idea, but the premise is simple… 4 gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. The aim is to not only reduce the amount of gifts being purchased, but to prepare the child for Christmas day so they know exactly what to expect when it comes to gift giving. Dividing into these categories can help children sort through their desires and the never-ending list of must-have toys. The element of surprise is still there, as they don’t know exactly what they will get for each of the four categories (plus there are always extra gifts from family and friends), but at least when it comes time to opening the presents, the child knows that there will only be four gifts from us.
The first year we sat down together and each discussed ideas of things we would like or needed in each of the categories. We discussed that only one of the options would be selected from each category and the reasons why. Every time Ilah came up with something new to add to her Christmas wish list (as is the way with young children), we discussed which category it might fit into to help her start to shift from thinking only of things she wanted (because she’d just seen them on an ad on TV or someone else she knew was talking about getting one) to thinking creatively about her interests and likes and how the gift ideas fit into these (so that she would genuinely get some use out of the gifts she received rather than they end up in the bottom of a toy box).
Now into our second year of the Need, Want, Wear, Read Christmas gift giving, Ilah still draws up long lists of ideas, but we find that this helps all of us to stop buying things we really don’t need. Christmas shopping is a lot quicker as we have a definite idea of what to get and stop once those four items are sourced. It also helps us to shift focus away from physical presents and start to incorporate more experience based ideas as gifts or gifts that give back to the community.
Here are some of our favourite ways to get creative with the gifts for NEED, WANT, WEAR, READ…
For us adults, it’s generally when we buy each other new underwear! But for the kids, we look at what their biggest, and most sustained, interest has been and find something that can help encourage this. Last year, for Ilah it was her love of swimming in the ocean and catching waves. She’d outgrown her body board, so to continue encouraging her love of the water and the outdoors she needed a bigger body board that would support her size, otherwise she would continue falling off her too small board and become increasingly frustrated by what was once an enjoyable activity. Not only has she had hours and hours of exercise outdoors, but she’s enjoyed every moment of it especially since using the body board means her dad is in the ocean with her and they are having fun together. This is the category though that is perfect for updating school supplies, such as new school bags, lunch boxes, sports shoes, etc, because they are items that are definitely needed for the new school year ahead.
This one is tricky and generally the category that toys can acceptably fall into. Again we look at what has been the biggest interest area, but also this is that one present that is something that we wouldn’t normally purchase: a Shopkins or Barbie house, a nerf gun, or tickets to a kids show, etc. This category is the most exciting because it’s the present that goes beyond the things a child needs and is usually the one they wish for the most!
Again you can get creative with this category. Maybe you raid the local op-shop for some play clothes for the summer holidays. Maybe the gift is the one item of clothing you wouldn’t normally buy for them (last year her dream item was a pair of silver high heel shoes! And it’s something we’d never normally think to get her because they’re not really practical, but that’s what makes them even more special as a Christmas gift). Maybe it’s something to wear for a new sport/activity they’ve started.
Op-Shop! There is always a huge selection of pre-loved books in great condition at the op-shop and you can pick up 3-4 books for the price of one new book. The other option here, especially as kids get older, is to think of alternative ways that encourage reading. Writing books and pens/pencils, card games, board games, or language/literacy games for game consuls.
This process of gift giving has also encouraged us to think creatively about the choices we make when giving gifts…
Can we make a gift to give to someone rather than buying something?
Can we buy from a small business to support another family this Christmas?
Can we buy second hand or from an op-shop to re-home something that is still in good condition and meets our needs, and stops perfectly good items from ending up in landfill?
Can we gift a normal expense in a creative way? Food hamper, gift voucher to cover the next appointment a family member regularly attends, or homemade treats such as soaps, bath products, or food treats for Christmas parties.
Can we purchase an item that supports a charity or community in need through our purchase, by donating a portion of the proceeds to an educational or empowerment program?
Christmas is not about getting presents, but about being present in the moment and we have found that the four present method has helped to bring all of our focus back to being more present in the moment at Christmas time. Instead of rushing through opening presents, we take a little more time, trying to guess what it could be based on the clue on the tag and then when each gift is opened we talk about how or when we can use it, either on our own or together as a family. We are no longer buying presents for the sake of buying stuff, and instead trying to limit our purchases while still having a memorable Christmas with the ones we love.