Monday, November 21, 2011

Want, Need, Wear, Read

Last year, when I was preparing for the Christmas season, I stumbled upon some excellent gift-giving advice on one of my favorite blogs, Simple Mom. (You can read another great post about this same topic, here.) These days, the toy catalogs make up half of the Thanksgiving newspaper and the amount of toy and junk-food commercials that are squeezed in-between children's television shows is just ridiculous. When Thing 1 started asking for every toy she saw on TV, we decided to get rid of cable.

If you want to teach your children to value more than just material objects, Christmas can be a challenging time for parents. That's why I was really happy to come across a gift-giving philosophy that was practical and easy for us to implement in our family. Not only do we use it at Christmas, but we've started using it for birthdays too. 

Each of our girls gets four - that's right, I said FOUR - main gifts for Christmas and birthdays. These are gifts from their father and I and does not include gifts from their grandparents or other family. We give them:
  • something they WANT
  • something they NEED
  • something to WEAR
  • something to READ
We don't strictly follow these categories, but we follow along the want/need/wear/read lines. For example, a friend of mine who practices the same thing got her daughter some hair bows as her "wear." It doesn't HAVE to be clothing. At Christmas, we also choose to give both of the girls a large present - sitting unwrapped - from Santa Claus. This is usually something for both of the girls to share. This year, the jolly old elf is bringing them a lot of new dress-up clothes. We also throw a few little goodies in their stockings from the old guy.

And while they still receive presents from their other family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.), we are blessed to have family that appreciate some input from us about what we'd prefer the girls to have. We are a military family and have to move around a lot. The last thing I want is for my house to become filled with lots of plastic toys that my children have grown tired of. I use a great website, Wishpot, to add things to wish-lists throughout the year and I send the list to our family when they ask for Christmas ideas. I also make it a point to go through our toys and books BEFORE Christmas each year (with the girls' help) and donate things that aren't being used anymore. It helps us make room for all the new things that will be coming into the house.

I'm not sure that we'll always be strict about the four-present rule. The other post I suggested you read (at the top of this page) was from a family that did add some other categories to their gift-giving rule and as our kids get older, I imagine this might be the case. Besides getting a handle on how many gifts we dole out each year, we also plan on involving our girls in charitable work throughout the year once they are old enough to help (3- and 2-year-olds don't tend to be the greatest laborers at charity events). Whatever your "reason for the season," I think most parents hope that their children grow up to appreciate the Christmas season for more than just presents under the tree. 

What are some other ways you're teaching simplicity and minimalism to your children?

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