I love the idea of a non-toy Christmas.
This is not as bah-humbug as it might initially sound. Proponents of the non-toy Christmas aren’t saying no to presents – they’re saying yes to experiences and creating memories.
Last year the presents under our Christmas tree spilled out and around its base. My then two-and-a-half-year-old was initially ecstatic, but soon became overwhelmed and wanted to play with the presents she’d already opened rather than continue to open more. A week later, she couldn’t remember half the gifts she received or appreciate who thought to give them to her.
What if, instead of pieces of battery-operated plastic, we gave our children tickets to Science World or the Vancouver Aquarium? Music lessons, art classes, or movie passes? I’ve already purchased tickets to a concert in January by her favourite children’s musician that will make a great stocking stuffer, and plan to sign her up for a local 4Cats art studio workshop.
Of course, it’s always fun to have something tangible to unwrap and little ones may not get excited over pieces of paper. Concert tickets could come with a CD, dance lessons with ballet slippers, a flashlight with the promise of a camping trip.
I also like gifts that encourage exploration of their environment or time spent outdoors: binoculars, a telescope, magnifying glass, new sports equipment, or gardening tools for little hands. Other physical gifts that aren’t toys per se include books, family board games, and art supplies. For my daughter’s birthday last year I signed her up for a subscription to National Geographic Little Kids magazine – she is delighted when it arrives in the mail with her name on it.
Another gift idea I’ve fallen in love with is a monthly craft box subscription. This way we can look forward to each month’s mystery package and spend time together crafting while her baby brother naps (and I can spend less time on Pinterest and in dollar stores searching for supplies).
In the lead-up to Christmas Day, our home-made advent calendar will include the occasional chocolate, hair clips and temporary tattoos. But behind other doors will be slips of paper letting her know we’ll be decorating gingerbread cookies that day, going to Cloverdale’s annual Santa Parade, or joining friends at a nearby community centre for the City of Surrey’s Breakfast with Santa.
Once committed to the idea of a non-toy Christmas, it’s easier to ignore the onslaught of advertisements and coupons for toys. It also forces me to research local organizations and family events, and to be a little more creative and thoughtful.
Plus, these gifts for my child also end up being gifts for me; instead of forgotten toys collecting dust in the playroom, activities and special outings offer the promise of quality time spent together.
And isn’t spending time with loved ones what the holiday season is about?
Kristine Salzmann occasionally writes a parenting column for The Leader.