I grew up incredibly lucky, waking up to a mountain of green-and-red wrapped presents under our Christmas tree every December 25. Creeping down the stairs with my brothers, eager with anticipation, seeing the piles and thinking: this is for MEEEEEEEE! I wanted to give my children the same level of excitement and magic over the holidays that I had growing up, so for their first few years, our generous friends and family got them loads of new stuff.
But after seeing their heads spin as they flitted from one toy to another, and after stepping on too many pieces of brightly colored plastic junk, I decided it was time to try something new – if only for my organizational sanity. Around the same time that I made this decision, I read an article about the Harvard Grant Study. This study followed people for 75 years – from their college days into their 90’s – to unearth the secrets to a happy, purposeful life. One of the most amazing findings was that the only thing that matters is relationships. Inspiration struck. When the question came from aunts and uncles and grandparents about what to get the kids for Christmas (or for birthdays for that matter), why not encourage gifts of time, love, and experiences – to foster relationships? With that in mind, I put together some of my best relationship-fostering gift ideas:
1) Coupon Books: A coupon-book for a book a month, read by the gift giver (via video-chat if they live far away); a coupon-book for experiences together, like picnics or playgrounds; or a coupon-book for a commitment to have a simple conversation once a week together.
2) Memberships: Zoo membership, Butterfly Museum membership, Children’s Museum membership, tumbling or music class – each with the promise that when the giver next visits, they will go with the children.
3) Gift Certificates: To Barnes & Noble, or a make-your-own pottery place, or a favorite restaurant – so Mommy/Daddy/Gift Giver can take them on a special 1×1 date.
4) Old-Fashioned Games: Zingo, Boggle, Monopoly, Qwirkle, Suspend, Mastermind… there are a ton of smart, interactive games out there!
5) “What I Wish For You” letters: This may be the most time-intensive but emotionally rewarding idea. Imagine a little notebook that can be compiled when your children go off into the world, filled with loves notes from their family through the years about all that they see in your child, what values they wish to share, how much your children are loved.
Once you have the list of things you think your children would like – and especially if you, like me, are in charge of noting who is giving what gift to whom, here are some fabulous resources to help you stay organized:
Experiences: The SoKind Registry is an alternative gift registry that encourages gifts, experiences, time.
Things: Top Five Ways to Organize Your Holiday Gift Lists, by one of our fellow SMB contributors. Please leave your suggestions for gift ideas and ways to stay organized below!!