What does an ‘Authentic Gift Giving’ season look like? Indigo Forest recently found the words for our vision – “The Learning Center for Authentic Living,”, and sustainable gift-giving was our topic last week at our “Natural Health Club Class.” When we recently started feeling bullied (and financially stressed) by our usually-thoughtful kids’ expectations, here are some of the ideas we started exploring:
Give experiences over stuff. One year we received a family gift of tickets to the traveling Broadway “Mary Poppins” play, allowing us to dress-up, snack in the city, and text pictures of ourselves next to the fancy gold gilt of the Theatre. A lifetime memory! Experiences could range from taking them out to eat, the elderly might especially appreciate time with you as much as the meal, to a ‘movie date night.’ I took my theater-enchanted teen to a Les Miserable showing at 10 pm on Christmas Day – it was immediate, personal, and felt ‘Very Important.’
Family adventures that bring year-long pleasures – Depending on your budget, giving a day or annual family pass to the local Children’s Museum can be a treat for cash-strapped families, especially as many museums have reciprocal admittance to other museums all over the country,stretching summer vacation fun. Our kids think that going swimming in the winter is a hoot (since it has to be indoors here in Michigan), so in the past they’ve loved presents of swimming lessons, Rec center passes, and an overnight at the near-by indoor water-park.
Family Gifts – make family gifts of larger items such as wood block sets, hammocks and board games . One Easter an Indigo Forest customer made a Basket for her entire family consisting of seeds, little shovels, and spring oriented items.
Minimize electronics & short-lived plastic toys and give toys that encourage exploring and learning – wooden toys (especially for the younger set) can become family heirlooms, and look for items that can share their value over years or lifetimes. Things like quality books, pocket knives, puzzles, craft sets, or handheld looms might hold their place longer. How about a scavenger hunt poem – one that takes the kids all over the house or property, maybe takes them to a relative with a historical family question, makes them find a gift from last year, an item to share and give, or a photo of someone they love? The list is endless – just think – “What memory do I want to create? What gift of history or love or interaction do I want them to have? Or how much time do I want them to be busy? Just kidding.
Make gifts – scented lotions, essential oil sprays, handmade items that are knit or sewn, or simple home-made food like granola in a mason jar with a bow. It’s easy to adapt Resale Shop finds for the kids’ dress-up trunk! Our boys (yes boys) gave knitted book marks years ago that are still being used, but most popular with Grandma were the felt hearts sewn by preschoolers with bright embroidery floss & stuffed with wool.
Coupons – One of THE most popular traditions at our house for years! Our coupons have included a ‘No thank you chore’, a massage for back, feet, etc (usually for bedtime), parent date, “I’ll do your dishes”, one piece of chocolate at the downtown chocolate shop, ‘have your friends over’, ‘I’ll play whatever game you want all afternoon’, laser tag with friends, movie night, house-cleaning, the stay up all night New Year’s Eve date (10 yr olds), and once I gave the 9 year enamored with avocado sushi a home ‘sushi night’ every Tuesday for 3 months! Don’t be afraid to add in rules, at our house they have to be in ‘good standing’ to go get chocolates, and give a half hour notice so we can fit in the bedtime back rubs.
One year we gave their auntie a ‘Date-a-Month’ for the coming year, which included bowling, swimming, games & chili, sledding fest, summer hike & picnic, monopoly Saturday, and downtown explore with ice cream.
Something to wear, something to read, something to play with, something they need. This just about covers it, doesn’t it? I’m trying to get up the nerve to scale back to this simple approach.
Don’t be afraid to buck the ‘Amazon List’ trend with your kids and the relatives- the swimming lessons worked because we got the relatives to each contribute the value of one lesson instead buying a ‘thing’, so the kids got a full series of classes (& we then used free Family passes each Friday), stretching the whole experience throughout the winter. Kids had fun, got safer from their gained skills, and there was nothing to store!
How do you celebrate your family, or your religious expression, in this season, and is your spirit of giving reflecting your spiritual intent, whatever that might be?