Behavior & Development • Nov 05, 2015

Choosing presence over presents

Now that Halloween is over, there is a huge surge in advertising for the holiday season…ALREADY!  Our children easily fall prey to the advertising promises of those relentless toy ads. Commercials have a way of making each new toy seem bigger, better and more fun than the last. A child’s wish list can grow rapidly. As advertising and store layouts are forcing me to begin thinking about this holiday season already, it has me considering how we can have a holiday that’s more than just a long list of toys. If we took an honest assessment of what our kids currently have, I’m sure many could say that they don’t even need any more toys. Even if we, as parents, are not buying all of these toys, family and friends find it enjoyable to buy our kids toys, which means they can end up with more than they need. Really, most toys are not a good investment! They quickly lose appeal and often end up in the yard sale box.

I believe that focusing on holiday traditions and the presence of loved ones is important for our developing children. This allows a focus on the experiences and relationships. De-emphasizing the number of presents and focusing more on activities during the holiday can help both you and your child have a rich experience and lasting memories.  I can’t recall from my childhood specific toys that I received and from whom. But, I do remember our family traditions in which we participated every year. I remember the presence of family. I want my children to remember the traditions that we have and the feelings we have together as a family. We can make the holiday traditions, like decorating our home, sending out greeting cards and making cookies the cherished parts of our holiday, not the quantity of gifts our children receive.

Gifts are still very fun to give. I’m not suggesting we don’t give gifts. It’s a great feeling to see a loved one unwrap a gift that you carefully chose for them. However, I think it’s worthwhile to consider alternative gift items for kids. Children don’t actually need lots of new toys to have fun! Consider giving your kids an activity as a gift. You can wrap up tickets to a concert, sporting event, or movie. Choose a fun experience that involves spending time with the adults they love, like skating, bowling or bumper cars.  You can give your child lessons for a favorite activity, like a musical instrument or acting class. Memberships to local activities, like the zoo, Magic House or City Museum are fun gifts they can enjoy with their family for the whole year. Gifts of supplies that promote creativity and imagination are great gifts. Practical items are also worthy for considering as a gift.

This holiday season, I’m choosing to focus more on the presence of family and less on the hustle and bustle of buying too many presents. Whatever your gift giving style, I hope you make some great memories!