Assessing and downsizing Christmas gifting

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Teens, In The News, Media, Day Care & Education

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura and Mary received a pair of red wool mittens and a stick of peppermint candy for Christmas. Because Laura was the youngest, she got the bonus gift of a rag doll from Santa.

Kind neighbor Mr. Edwards saved Christmas in Little House on the Prairie by wading across a flooded creek to make the delivery of a tin cup, peppermint stick, heart-shaped cake sprinkled with sugar, and shiny new penny to the girls because Santa was too old and fat to cross. Every one of those items was treasured.

Now think back to the Christmas gifts you bought your kids last year. How many do they still find entertaining or treasure? How many were donated or sold in garage sales by spring?

An article at the Motley Fool is asking parents to take a hard look at Christmas presents past and not repeat wasteful and expensive buying mistakes.

The tips include:

  1. Choose toys that are open-ended. Open-ended toys (think Legos, block sets, dolls/action figures, and art supplies) allow your children to use their imagination in the pursuit of limitless fun. Each time your child plays with an open-ended toy can be an entirely different experience. So these types of toys have a much higher play value than toys that "script" the play for your child.
  2. Be critical of last year's toys. How did they fare in terms of repeat play? Were your kids done with them in a week or do they still occasionally play with them? What went wrong? It's important to figure out what works for your children so you can repeat your successes and avoid wasting money on duds.
  3. Go age-appropriate. It's tempting to ignore toys' age recommendations altogether. But sometimes the age recommendations account for what we may have forgotten: Often, a child's developmental profile varies across skill sets. Your child may be intellectually advanced but have fine or gross motor skills that are just right for his age. He may like the looks of the toy, but if his fingers aren't strong enough yet to operate the remote control, you'll have one unhappy, frustrated kid.
  4. Don't set the bar too high. Consider setting your own limits on gifts, whether it's a dollar amount you'll spend on each child or a number of gifts per child. Setting a limit will force you to approach potential purchases more critically.
  5. Spend more on traditions, less on stuff. It's easy to get sucked into thinking you have to spend a lot to make your holidays wonderful. But kids tend not to remember the things they got for Christmas; what they talk about most, long after the holiday has passed, is the fun things they did to celebrate as a family.

Another article that caught my interest addressed the shared responsibility adults have for the cheap, lead-filled toys flooding the American market. If parents (and other gift givers) concentrated on buying one good toy instead of showering children with armfuls of beautifully wrapped bargains, there wouldn't be so many available.

Paring down a Christmas shopping list to one good toy per kid might be difficult in this age of excess, but getting back to the Little House mentality would free our lives of clutter, keep our kid's wish lists in check, and be an environmental choice.

With four kids, we were forced to keep our gift buying in check long ago (1 good gift and 2 smaller items per kid) but usually there is only one item the kids really play with and the others are a waste.

Is one good gift something you've done or would consider implementing in your family?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.