I recently reached out to ask what you are struggling with as the holidays approach. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably say it a hundred times: One major reason that I created five things is for accountability, not just for others, but for myself as I am trying to slow down and focus on what’s important right along side you. I don’t want my holidays to just pass by before I know they’re here. I want to thrive in them this year. Let’s believe together that this is the year we are going to thrive!
With the holidays approaching, someone asked me how to get through Christmas without spending all.of.the.money. This one is hard for me because gifts are my love language. I want to buy all.the.things. for all.the.people. that I love so much! I struggle because I also want every single gift to be thoughtful or homemade, and who has time for that?!
Last year for Christmas, we decided on the four gift rule for our kids. With five kids, it helps to make things more even and fair. I also usually try to make each of them something special. I know I’m already breaking my own rule, but I enjoy doing crafty things so when I can make my kids something special, it’s something I enjoy doing.
Whether they admit this or not, even more than presents, our kids want our presence. No mater how cool a toy or gift is in and of itself, getting to play with it with a Mom or Dad who made the conscious choice to make time for it makes our children feel so loved and so special, and it’s easy to do. Getting a new book is really neat, but even better getting to sit in the lap of your favorite person and hearing them read it to you. Bottom line: The gift of time is really the most valuable thing we can give our kids.
It is important for us to get family gifts that promote connection. Last year, we got the kids a couple different card games, board games, and even an active (Kinect) video game that we could play all together. It gave us things to do on Christmas day that included everyone. One year, we gave the kids giant coloring pages and crayons and we all spent time on Christmas coloring together. The kids color every day, but it was extra unique getting to color with grandma and grandpa as well (as I recall, even the uncles got in on it). It was special because everyone that came over that day sat at the table and colored together. Whatever your family enjoys doing, make sure you make that a part of your Christmas Day.
Family passes to places like museums and zoos make excellent gifts! Experiences with your family are some of the best ways to build connection. We received a zoo pass from a dear friend, and got to enjoy it throughout the year. I just took Avi there this week and he never tires of seeing all the animals. We got a Cleveland Natural History Museum pass this summer, and let me tell you about the perks – it reciprocates to so many different museums across the country, so you can build these experiences into any other family trips you might have going on anyway throughout the year. For a family of our size, it is a fantastic deal, and I highly encourage this idea for a family gift. It’s not something so fun to open on Christmas morning, but make sure to pick a day over Christmas break when you can use it together. We used our Cleveland Natural History Museum pass to get into the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and let me tell you, it is totally worth the drive!
The gifts you pick do not need to be expensive or even new! Facebook is such a great resource. Relying on community is also a great way of building community. So many people have toys laying around that their kids have grown out of or gotten bored of. It doesn’t hurt to post that you are looking for something specific, and you might be surprised at others’ generosity. One year when Asher was three, I asked if anyone had an old train table laying around. My friend Lisa was so ridiculously generous and gave us her son’s table as well as all the tracks for free! It was such a blessing. Often at Christmas time, people are looking for ways to share what they have and bless others, and you may actually be giving someone an opportunity to do so. Your post might not get those kinds of results, but someone might be able to point you in the direction of a good sale. You never know if you don’t ask!
“Relying on community is a great way of building community.”
The thrift store is also a great place to find toys for little ones. The things you find there might require a little elbow grease before they’re gift-able, but you are saving money and helping the environment with this option. I have found so many great toys at thrift stores that were practically brand new. Don’t limit yourself by thinking that your kids care if something is brand new. Five minutes after they open the gift, the packaging is gone anyways. The thrift store is also a good place to keep in mind for finding good books! I just hit the jackpot the other day and Asher will be receiving six Diary of a Wimpy kid books for a little over $5. Let me just say that the thrift store is a gold mine when it comes to white elephant gifts as well… so there’s that.
If you enjoy planning ahead and gifting something to look forward to, then let me suggest the experience of a family camp as a great gift for your family. Any time you invest time, effort, or money in your family, the return is going to be worth it. We went to a family camp at Beulah Beach in Vermilion, Ohio one year and absolutely loved it. Its a great time of refreshing and all the activities are already planned. You are encouraged to do as much or as little as you choose. As a mom I really loved this because it actually felt like a vacation- no cooking, or dishes for a week! I’m sure there are other great family camp options as well, so please let me know if you have one to recommend.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box this holiday season. With connection as your intention you really can not go wrong.