Christmas Without the "Stuff"

First of all, I know it has been forever since I've written a post.  I apologize.  I always say I'll get better, but I never do, so this time I am not going to make you any promises.  I'm posting today and that's all that matters.  :)

We've been focusing a lot in our house on reducing the "stuff" that we've accumulated.  We still have a long way to go, but we're getting there.  Our current challenge is getting through the Christmas season without a.) undoing all we've accomplished and b.) celebrating a wonderful Christmas season that the children will look back on and enjoy.  What are your favorite memories of Christmas?  Mine involve making cookies with my mom, going on a sleigh ride, visiting my grandparents, going to see the Christmas lights and Christmas Eve church service.  There are a few toys that stick out in my memory too, but not that many.  I remember my first Nintendo.  I remember receiving a swim suit that I really wanted.  I also remember this giant bean bag chair that was wrapped in a sheet.  For the most part though, my memories involved things that we did and not the things that we received.

With that in mind, as well as our mission to reduce our family spending, we've decided that Christmas will be different this year.  Each child will receive two or three presents to open on Christmas morning.  When purchasing these gifts, we asked ourselves the following questions:  Does it encourage creativity?  Do they have something similar?  Is it educational?  Will it create a family memory?

If you're considering downsizing your children's playrooms, here are a few ideas that I've compiled for gift giving:

1.  Memberships to some sort of activity (the zoo, the children's museum, the recreation centers, etc.)
2.  Gift certificates to an activity (Frankie's Fun Park, Chuck E Cheese's, miniature golf place, bowling, etc.)
3.  Spa trip - there are many spas that have packages designed for little girls
4.  Trip - It doesn't have to be something huge.  A night's stay a town over at a nice hotel with a pool is an adventure to kids
5.  Tickets - To a play, an aquarium, a theme park, etc. - anything that pique's the child's interest
6.  Books - Be careful here as many tend to accumulate a lot of books too; however, if they are a topic that the child enjoys and you know they'll read it, it may be worth the purchase.
7.  Art supplies - Great for older children.  Inspires creativity.
8.  Family board games can create amazing memories
9.  Electronics and accessories - As with books, it's easy to have too many, but generally they do not take up much room and children get a lot of use out of them
10.  Dress up clothes - Again, creativity!

For fun, here's a list of items that I would suggest not be purchased for Christmas or birthday presents:

1.  Anything that does not come equip with an "OFF" button
2.  Something that will get stuck in the foot of the poor unsuspecting person that steps on it
3.  Stuffed animals (the poor things are loved for 10 minutes and then forgotten)
4.  Toys with a lot of parts (kids are going to lose a part - I promise)
5.  Living creatures
6.  Anything that involves an oven (easy bake, cupcake maker, bug factory, etc.) - that's just asking for a trip to the hospital.  Also, have you ever tried to eat an Easy Bake Oven cake?  *gags*

Our goal is to make this Christmas season very special for the children and to help them understand that Christmas is about Jesus and giving and not about the presents they receive.  To help redirect this focus, we're planning some fun activities.  Here are a few of the things that we're doing:

1.  The children are picking out some of their gently-used toys to donate to charity
2.  We'll make cookies together and deliver them to a fire department, police department or hospital on Christmas Eve or Day (we haven't hashed out the details yet)
3.  We'll celebrate the season of Advent and discuss the events leading up to, including and following Jesus' birth

We'll also go see the lights, attend one or more Christmas parades, and play and sing along to Christmas music.  Hopefully, with all that is going on this year, the kiddos won't even notice that their Christmas loot has shrunk dramatically. 

What are your plans for gift giving this year?  Do you have any other items to add to the lists?  I'd especially love to hear suggestions for the do not buy list.  


Candice Brevard said...

Great idea Karen!
We always only do 3-4 gifts each, but this year I have made sure, when sending out suggestions to relatives to only suggest timeless gifts, such as large Lego blocks, books, video games, and American girl accessories. But our advent activities is most cherished, well, at least by me anyways and hopefully the kids will really hold on to the memories of our crafts, story reading, bible reading, light seeing, zoo visiting, parade seeing, cookie making memories as well :)

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