I love all things Christmas. Decorations, cookies, Santa, tiny kids recreating the Nativity scene, Christmas pageants, red and green and blue and sparkles and glitter and carols and reindeer. The one thing I don’t love about this season? Gift giving. Hold onto your yule log before you yell Scrooge. I love giving gifts all year round, especially thoughtful ones, I just don’t love the pressure and stress of the holiday season and the overwhelming pull to just buy more stuff for everyone. I’m trying to be very thoughtful about my gift giving this year so that I’m not buying a random bottle of perfume for someone on Christmas Eve. Get me? And I don’t know about you, but as a parent, stuff is not something we need more of. We have stuff coming out of every closet and our car doors at school drop off. Part of me would love to mold my daughter’s little brain right off the bat not to expect gifts at Christmas, but I feel like that’s close to impossible in our culture. So, for all of you preparing to give gifts to the littles in your life (and for you parents fielding countless requests to send gift ideas), here are some things I REALLY want you to get my kid for Christmas.
1. Nothing. I know this is hot button and hard for people to get behind, but it’s not lip service on my end. And since my daughter is young, she doesn’t really understand the gift giving portion of the holiday yet at all. I gave a 10 minute synopsis on how Santa works the other day, and when I asked her what she wanted to ask him for she said snacks. One option is to talk with friends and family about a possible agreement to forego gifts. This opens the conversation to instead create experiences or traditions in lieu of gifts. What if instead of looking forward to a gift from Aunt and Uncle, your kid looks forward to hot chocolate over FaceTime every Christmas Day? Nothing doesn’t have to mean nothing, and I’ve seen some pretty huge smiles from phone calls that last just as long as the smile for a new toy.
2. State park membership. I love giving and getting memberships in general during the holiday season. In Dallas, some favorites are to the Perot Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Dallas Arboretum. But did you know there are more than 90 state parks in Texas, and a park pass provides admission to the park as well as discounts on camping and other special offers? A one year park pass is only $70! If you have a hard time not adding stuff, get the little explorer in your life a vest and put the card in one of the pockets. They can collect patches at each park and mom or dad can
sew the patches have someone sew the patches on the vest after each new park is checked off their list.
3. Donation in their name to a charity. I started using my daughter’s name when I make donations to a charity, and it feels so good when the thank you letter comes addressed to her. I keep them for her scrapbook. If you like this idea but still feel the pull to stuff, try buying a small gift times two with the instruction that one is for the child to give away. I like to buy toys for the Child Life Services program at Medical City Hospital. They have an amazing wish list, and all you have to do is drop the toys off at the front desk, no muss, no fuss. Kids stuck in the hospital deserve all the toys, so this one is a no brainer and a great lesson for the child in giving and sharing.
4. A wellness stocking. Remember when stockings were stuffed with fruit and nuts and other delicacies that weren’t accessible year round? Unfortunately, they have become receptacles for all the things we later squeeze into a drawer for a few months before finally throwing them away. And trust me, candy has overstayed it’s welcome post-Halloween in our house. Instead, for those inclined to stuff a stocking as a tradition, make a “wellness” stocking. Kid vitamins, spinning toothbrushes with favorite characters and fun flavors of toothpaste, essential oils and a diffuser, ponytail holders (seriously, where do they all go?), bath bombs, and band-aids, which never last more than a week or so in a house with children. I really love the idea of valuing health and wellness and celebrating it with a gift.
5. Movie tickets. Need a last minute kid gift? This never goes out of style. Going to the theater with kids can be so unpredictable (aka they decide mid-way through the movie that playing with the bathroom hand dryer is more exciting), so parents will always say yes to letting someone else foot the bill for the day. In Dallas, I love Look Cinemas because the “living room” seat option in some of their theaters is perfect for a fidgety toddler.
6. College fund donation with a personalized letter. The estimated cost of sending a kid to college in 2030 (almost 10 years before ours will go) is over $200K. Yes, the motorized Frozen sleigh is fun in the moment, but $300 spent a year on toys translates to roughly $3000 over 10 years. Per buyer. Make a donation to a kid’s interest bearing college fund (ask the parents if they have one!) and give the gift of a 6 pack of natural light in 2035. I kid. Seriously, though, this tradition seems boring and like it lacks emotion, but it gives this mama all the feels. You care about my kid’s future and want to help her avoid a future saddled with debt? Beautiful. Make a tradition out if it with a letter and/or pictures, some to read during the holiday season, and some to be tucked away until high school graduation.
7. A DART card and a map. Anyone else have a train obsessed toddler in their life?? Add a DART card to your child’s list. Nothing beats the excitement of watching the train pull up and boarding, and my kid seems to like it too. There are so many Dallas attractions accessible via the DART, so grab a 31 day pass and pop the card inside a cute little coin purse, and include a map with some notes on how and where to go. Bonus points all around if the giver can tag along for the adventure!
10. A month of lessons. Do the kids in your life have special hobbies and places they love to go? Has mom or dad mentioned wanting to start swim lessons, gymnastics, soccer, ballet, or tae kwon do? Dig around to find the best option with the family location and schedule, and if you want to add something tangible, throw in a pair of goggles, or some ballet shoes or cleats. Parents love to remind kids of other people’s generosity, so imagine the warm fuzzies of getting to talk on the way to every class about how Grandma made sure you had something new and fun to try!
In the end, the best gifts are the ones with thought behind them. Sometimes, yes, this is the much pined for Barbie dreamhouse or a kid’s first bicycle. But most “stuff” blurs together and we tend to remember experiences and time spent with family and friends more than anything else. So trust me when I say that what this parent wants most for her kid this Christmas is love and time, and memories that will last forever.