The following is by editor Kara Fleck.
Last week, I shared with you some of my plans for homemade gifts. I’m not convinced that at this point in my life it would be practical, or possible, for me to attempt to create a 100% handmade holiday by myself, so we balance between handmade and purchased. Regardless of whether or not the gift is made by my hand (or someone else’s), I have learned over the years to keep our gift giving philosophy simple.
Simple Gift Giving
Our Gift Giving Philosophy is based on something I heard years ago on a parenting e-list I’m a part of and it goes like this:
- something they WANT
- something they NEED
- something to WEAR
- something to READ
Over the years, to this we have added:
- something to WATCH
- something for DRESS UP
- something to LISTEN TO
- something to EAT
- something to CREATE
My children aren’t guaranteed an item in every category and, depending on their age and the year, some categories might double-up while others aren’t filled (my two year old is getting more dress-up items this year, for example) and generally the “something to watch” is a holiday movie given to everyone to share. This philosophy is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule.
However, the basic WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ is the guideline that I follow year in and year out. This simple gift giving philosophy has served me well, not just at the holidays, but for birthdays and other gift giving occasions.
Having an outline like this helps me stay organized when I am making or purchasing gifts for my children. Because I have a general idea every year of what I am looking for, I can keep my eyes open for bargains year-round and I also have a guide for my holiday crafting.
I have also found it very handy to have when grandparents and others ask me for gift ideas for the kids. I can easily refer to this list when suggesting ideas.
A list like this also helps me to keep things fairly balanced and equal between three kids as far as the number of presents and the type.
Now, simplicity is, of course, a very personal thing. And so is gift giving. Nine gifts might seem excessive to some families and spartan to others. Every family’s budget and philosophy will be different.
My point is to find a way to simplify gift giving by giving yourself an outline, a plan to follow.
So, now that I’ve shared my gift giving philosophy, are you wondering how I am filling in my outline? These are items we have purchased for our children over the years and a few things on our wish list for this year, as well.
While they know that making a wish list is not a guarantee that they will receive what they ask for, we do try to make sure each child has at least one thing they have specifically asked for and want. For example, this past year Jillian got glasses and so something on her wish list is for her American Girl doll to have a pair of glasses to match her’s.
This is traditionally socks and underwear, right? Okay, it isn’t often a wished for gift, to be certain, but we do make gifts of things that they need. Growing up, my family had a Christmas Eve tradition of new pajamas. Finding a new pair of winter pajamas is something we have carried on with our kids, too – filling an annual “need” in a fun, festive way.
It doesn’t have to be strictly practical clothing items, of course. We have discovered this summer that each child having their own set of age-appropriate binoculars would be nice to have, for example. One year everyone got flashlights and last year everyone got their own kid-sized snow shovel.
While this category can have some cross-over with the need and dress-up categories, in general what goes here is usually something specific that I have made them such as a sweater or new hats and scarves.
Though, as my oldest grows up, this year she has been making some specific fashion requests as her own personal tastes develop and I’d like to honor those, within reason.
We’re blessed to have kids who love books and reading. When it comes to books, my kids usually have some specific titles or series in mind they would like to own. I also try to keep an eye on which books I am noticing them checking out from the library over and over.
We have been renewing our subscription to Wild Animal Baby magazine for the better part of a decade now and haven’t yet had a toddler or preschooler who didn’t enjoy that year-round treat in the mailbox.
As I mentioned earlier, this is usually a gift to be shared. We add to our holiday movie collection every year and it is becoming a Christmas evening tradition to watch a movie together. This year we’re giving The Polar Express
All of my kids, from the nine year old to the two year old, love to dress up. We love play silks, wool felted crowns, vintage dresses and jackets, hats, and jewelry.
Pretend play goes on here every day and I do make most of their dress-up things myself, or purchase fun things second-hand, but the Melissa & Doug Knight Costume is on our wish list this year, as well.
Sometimes this is something to go along with our homeschool and sometimes it is something specific that has been requested. Check out contributor Jennifer Brown’s columns if you’d like some ideas for gifts of children’s music.
Notice that this category does NOT include battery operated “musical” noise making toys! A fact that sometimes has to gently be brought to a well-meaning gift giver’s attention.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. At our house, this means a special edible treat, usually chocolate, in their stockings. One year I was ultra-organized and they each had decorated sugar cookies in the shape of their initial.
In year’s past we’ve been given the family gift of flavored popcorn, caramel apples, cheese and sausage sets, and other food related gifts. In fact, one of the biggest “hits” with my kids from last year was the mug and cocoa sets they got from their grandparents. They drink out of their mugs every day and my daughter just reminded me over the weekend that it is getting to be “cocoa season.”
This category is for things like art kits, crafting supplies, and building blocks. We try to add to collections the kids already have and to encourage interests and talents we seem them developing. This year we’re going to be adding to my son’s lego collection and we’re shopping for a video camera to help encourage my nine year old’s movies that she makes with her paper dolls.
Building and Creating for Younger Kids
When my kids were toddlers we’re giving them things like stacking and nesting toys. This year, we’re purchasing this stacking rainbow tunnel for my two year old.
A few more favorites for little kids:
- Stacking Rings – I prefer wood over plastic because I believe wooden toys have a warmth and feel to them that is more pleasing to the touch. I also like that wooden stacking toys add dimension of weight with each ring.
- Nesting Bowls and Blocks – again, I prefer wood to plastic. These are fun to stack, nest, and can double as play kitchen accessories.
I implore you to make the holidays easier on yourselves, my friends. Adopting this philosophy years ago was one of the most profound ways we changed our holiday giving and it took so much pressure off of my shoulders as the person doing the bulk of the holiday planning.
Having a simple and easy to remember reference – something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read – has proven to be invaluable to me in my gift giving.
I’ll be sharing some more simple gift ideas this week, including stocking stuffer ideas and no-sew, no-knit handmade gift ideas. You should also check out Simple Mom’s list of 10 Clutter-Free Gift Ideas for Kids.
This post on my simple gift giving philosophy was brought to you by Christina Ashely Designs. Christina has been creating beautiful jewelry and keepsakes since 2006. If you’re looking to add a personal touch to your gift giving, look at her unique hand-stamped items. You can keep up with the latest news about her designs at her blog, too.
How do you keep gift giving simple?