Every year starting in November, I ask my friends and family how they approach celebrating Christmas with their kids. When mine were younger, we gave them a few gifts and their favorite part was the wrapping paper! Presents were easy to pick out based off their favorite tv shows or basic toddler toys we thought they’d love. Now I feel like expectations are higher, the list gets longer with every trip to Target, and we’ve moved from buying baby riding toys as the “big” gift to considering swing sets, trampolines, or bikes for our kids as more wow-factor presents.
But I am not Santa. I am a mom and a parent who wants to shape her children into content, generous, and less-entitled kids than the culture that surrounds them– and therein lies the problem. How do we help our kids have a wonderful holiday without going over the top? Since my own heart bends toward MORE, MORE, MORE I decided to ask around and glean some ideas from others and share my own on how to spend your holiday season focused on things that matter.
1. Check Yo-Self
When I spend a lot of time on Instagram, reading my favorite bloggers post about Holiday gift guides, or perusing the best sales, my thoughts drift to shopping and suddenly have a desire for things I never knew I needed! When I turn off my device and the television, there is not only peace in my home but also in my heart. The bottom line is before your kids realize accumulating stuff won’t make them happy, you have to believe it yourself. Materialism in my home starts with me. Every time.
2. Make a Plan
My husband and I discuss the budget then I make the purchases because of my amazing online shopping skills. I leave a few items for him and I to buy together, then we get a baby-sitter and make a date out of it. A favorite way to go about gifts for kids is thinking through the Big Four: one to wear, one to read, one they want, one they need. One friend says her and her husband swear by this, then she embellishes when it comes to the stockings!
3. Shop Early
Getting gifts bought before the holiday rush helps me stay organized and on budget. Of course this can backfire on you if you end up adding to your list throughout December, but shopping early gives you more time to enjoy family as holiday commitments increase. After years of being a harried Christmas Eve shopper, my goal this year was to finish by December 1st just to give myself the headspace to focus on my family and Advent.
4. Teach Your Kids to be Good Gift Givers
I’ll never forget the first Christmas I bought gifts for my parents and siblings. I was five and my mom let me use my allowance to shop at a local craft fair. I couldn’t wait to watch my Dad open the Christmas tree lollipop holder I bought him and see my sister open her tulle fairy crown!
One way we teach our kids that it is better to give than receive is by helping them buy gifts for their siblings. Taking each kid shopping individually is also a great way to have one-on-one time with them during a very busy season!
5. Be Generous
Our school does a wonderful program where they adopt residents from the local nursing home and encourage students to raise money to buy gifts. Another idea is to find a family in need and support them for Christmas. If you’re looking for people needing help, check with local ministries or a radio program like Star 104.5 here in Omaha, and in the past we have even e-mailed churches and asked if anyone in their congregation needed money or gifts.
6. Purge and Donate
I hate clutter! The weeks leading up to Christmas or a Birthday I secretly clean out the kids’ messy toy bins. Good-bye One Armed Barbie! See ya later puzzle with 10/15 pieces! To the garbage, Random Happy Meal Toy! Anything with missing pieces, that is broken, or that I simply deem as “weird” gets thrown out, and it is sad but my kids don’t even notice. This helps remind me how much my kids do have, and how little they actually need.
7. Build Traditions
With four small children, I like to keep our traditions affordable and easy! My kids’ favorite Christmas tradition is driving around looking at lights, we use Omaha.com’s annual guide to find the best houses near us! Another easy activity I do is wrap up all our kids’ Christmas books in the previous year’s leftover wrapping paper. Every day in December they get to open another book, and I add one or two every year. The books are special to them because they only get to read them through December before they get packed away with the Christmas tree! Before our collection grew, we would just go to the library and check out a huge stack of their Holiday children’s books.
8. Focus on Food
Shopping takes second place to my personal favorite Holiday activity– eating! We love The Pioneer Woman’s Holiday Cookbook and Danielle Walker’s grain-free options in Celebrations. In December I get cold and being cold makes me hungry so we bake a lot of cookies. Then I start gaining weight, so I send my five and four-year-old to the neighbors with plates of all the goodies I need to get out of my house!
9. Change the Conversation
Constantly reminding my kids, “you can put that on your Christmas list” while we’re shopping, telling them “Santa won’t come if you are naughty” again highlights that it’s all about the gifts and feeds the culture of consumerism our family seems to be fostering. Lately I have been biting my tongue, skipping past the toy aisle, fast forwarding through commercials, and sticking those catalogs right into the recycling bin. An important conversation we circle back to this time of year is “people are more important than things.”
10. Don’t Compare
Everybody has their own way of doing Christmas and celebrating with their kids. Thankfully we’re not being graded for how we do, our kids’ well-being is not dependent on ONE day of the year, and there is so much freedom in how you approach gift giving. I often compare myself to other parents and find myself coming up short before I remember it isn’t a competition. Always remember that your kids need your presence more than any gift that comes in a box or any perfect picture you can post on Social Media!