If you have been inside any store within the past month or so, you know that the winter holidays are coming. And right after Thanksgiving, the shopping begins. Whatever you celebrate, chances are that you will be receiving or giving gifts, especially if there are kids around.
When I was a child, Christmas was big. We would celebrate at my Grandmother’s house with a house full of people and have the quintessential Italian Christmas. Of all of my childhood memories, these are among my most cherished. My sister and I would lay under the Christmas tree and eat Italian cookies while our family chattered and ate a true feast. And Christmas morning? Well, let’s just say there was no empty spaces under the tree.
Now that I’m shopping for my own child, I am finding that I am searching for a bit of change when it comes to the amount of stuff he gets. Did my sisters and I turn out spoiled? I’d like to think not. But we did have a lot of toys and we didn’t alway appreciate what we received. I remember getting some not-so-cool gifts from family members that we were probably quite rude about. Granted, kids are honest about their feelings, but I don’t want Dominik to expect a TON of awesome toys and everything he wants. My wish for him is to be thankful for the gesture of gift-giving, rather than the gift itself.
Thankfulness aside, a major motivation for not wanting the extravagant Christmas that I grew up with is that I don’t want more stuff. I’ve read several articles lately about the fact that kids just have way too many toys. Children are more likely to use their imagination and appreciate what they have when they have open ended toys and less stuff altogether. The toys that I would like Dominik to have are more expensive anyway. Plus, when they have less toys, there are less toys sitting around collecting dust or being carelessly broken.
I heard, from several sources, a little rhyme that serves as a guide for giving gifts to children: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. I’m not sure who came up with this, but it’s genius. It struck a chord with me and I really liked the idea of a simple set of guidelines for less gifts. Not only does it make it easier to figure out what to buy, it keeps costs down, and I hope it keeps the Yule season focus off of toys. So here are some suggestions, within those guidelines, to making some greener, healthier, and safer choices when shopping for holiday kids’ gifts.
Something They Want:
Ok, so this is both the easiest and the most difficult category. It’s the easiest because they just tell you what they want (I guarantee they will have lots of ideas and won’t be shy about sharing). It’s difficult if that particular choice is something you would rather they not have, especially if avoiding electronic, plastic, and character-based toys are priorities. The best way to avoid this is to limit TV and media time. Commercials and advertisements are very effective on children and they are going to want that toy that they saw eighty million commercials for. Another way to avoid this, if they are old enough to understand, is to explain to you kids why you would rather they choose something else. But to be honest, sometimes it is ok to get them that toy. If it is something they really want, one electronic, plastic, obnoxious toy probably won’t do much in the way of open-ended play. Sometimes, it’s as simple as giving them suggestions and letting the seed grow. The safe, open-ended toys that are made by safer toy companies are often quite beautiful and may spark interest. We showed some Tegu block testers to Dominik in a toy store, and he loved them. So, since he’s still to young to tell us what he wants, we are going off of what he showed interest in.
Here’s some toy companies that make safe, beautiful, and eco-friendly toys:
Something They Need:
This category is pretty open-ended. Is there something that they need? Have they outgrown their beloved bike? Do they love to pretend to cook but don’t have food for their play kitchen? And the word need is also pretty flexible. Do they absolutely need a bike or play kitchen? Probably not. But this is about giving toys and things that you would love for them to have because children do need a variety of basic toys and playthings. Items like dolls, bikes, play kitchens and accessories, a table and chairs, play animals, blocks, and stackers for babies are all what I consider to be essentials for kids. These are time-tested treasures that most children get a ton of valuable playtime from.
Here’s some companies that make eco-friendly and safe “essentials”:
Something to Wear:
It’s pretty easy to keep this category earth friendly and healthy. First, let’s take a look at those cute children’s clothes in the major retailers. They come from cotton that has been heavily sprayed with pesticides or materials that have been through who knows what kind of chemical processes (I’m looking at you, polyester). The designs are meh at best unless you really like the same 5 sayings and character on all of the clothes. Dominik has at least 2 items that say something like”Daddy’s Little Buddy” in every size. Plus, the super cute ones like dresses, jeans, and fancy jackets hinder movement. Kids need to move and play and stay warm. They do not need more chemical exposure, more character exposure, and to have their clothing constantly tripping them. But there’s a bit of a dilemma. The best option for the earth and your wallet? To buy from thrift stores and other second hand markets. Will you get all of those children’s clothing items from major retailers? Yes, but it’s about reusing, consuming less, and sending less to the landfill. The best option healthwise and to support a greener consumer market? To buy clothing made from organic and sustainable fabric. If you catch a sale, the prices are comparable. Plus, the clothing is better quality and in my opinion, softer and cuter, despite being plainer. Besides, Dominik is cute enough without “cute” sayings and characters on his shirt.
Here are some companies that make organic clothing (or just check out your local thrift store):
Something to Read:
This is my favorite category because the options are endless. There are books to cater to a child’s every interest as well as books to explain important topics you would like them to learn. For older children, it’s a great way to expand their knowledge on a subject that they are interested in, like growing gardens, learning about the Renaissance, or even just getting the latest in their favorite series. Reading is one of the most beneficial things a child can do, so whatever they love is the perfect choice.
If you would like the book to be geared towards something in particular, like the earth, here are some great ones:
Whatever you decide is best for your family, remember that years from now they probably won’t remember each toy they received as a gift. Sure, they will probably remember a few cherished ones that they really wanted. But, the memories that stick and bring joy are the ones of the actual experiences. I remember sitting with my sister one Christmas morning, watching the snow fall. Do I remember what we got for gifts? No. But I remember that watching the sun rise as the snow fell made me really believe in magic. I remember the smell of my Grandmother’s coffee brewing. I remember the early morning snuggles with my mother. Those are what will matter to kids, not what is wrapped up under a tree.