by Karen Lynn Johnson
While gifting is rewarding, around the holidays the pressure to provide can be an unenviable task. Because their interests change quickly, buying for children can be especially challenging. No parent wants to see her shopping efforts undermined by Aunt Rebecca’s awesome new clothes or cousin Austin’s cool new gadget. Our consumer-oriented society makes it extremely difficult to find thoughtful, fun, and worthwhile gifts while sticking to a budget. If you have two or more children, there’s the challenge of making sure your gifts for each child equal out. A parent doesn’t need much of an imagination to picture what will happen when one child gets noticeably “better” gifts than the other, especially after they enter elementary grades.
One solution is to scrap the whole premise of the traditional “find it, buy it, wrap it, give it” routine. It doesn’t mean you have to scrap gifting, but that the gift itself can be different. And oftentimes, considering gifting differently has benefits that exceed a reduced burden on your wallet and your schedule. Here are a couple ideas:
Give the gift of time. Wrap up a box with a Dad With Dad or a Dad With Mom certificate that includes a designated activity. Make the certificate special and unique, rather than just writing it in a holiday card. Your date could be an outing you already know your child will enjoy (like a day at the museum or the movies), or you can introduce him to something new. Check the family calendar and write in the day and time together. Including a meal as part of the date day, especially at your child’s favorite restaurant, can make the experience even more intimate and special. A Daddy or Mommy Date can be a family tradition, which will become especially important as your child gets older. When they’re teenagers, you may want to plan a weekend away, if you can make it fit their busy schedule. A date one-on-one with your child will create memories that don’t fade with time like the newest toy or electronic device. My husband gave “Date With Dad” gifts starting when our daughters were very young and they were always some of the most memorable gifts my daughters received. This idea works well for birthdays, too. Twice a year dates are even better!
Give a gift to charity in your child’s name. This one’s tough, yes. No child wants to be told that his gift this year is in the form of a Bolivian llama that he never even gets to see. This type of gifting is better to start small, accompanied with other tangible items. As your child gets older the charity gift can become more substantial. Organizations such as Heifer International are great outlets that provide livestock, seeds, or trees to families in developing countries who need them most. Let your child open a package with information and a picture, and explain how their gift, their generosity, will affect that child’s family. You could wrap up a small stuffed animal if you’re giving an animal rescue in your child’s name, or a kickball if the donation is to a fledging girls’ sport team in Afghanistan. Let them feel part of the bigger world. Decorate your “honor gift” box with an ornament from 10,000 Villages, a non-profit marketplace that serves small cottage industry in developing countries. After gifting in our daughters’ honor for many years, we were in turn given back that same honor when they gave to other organizations in our names.
‘Tis the season! Rather than stressing out in long lines to get the latest gadgets your kids don’t necessarily need, try some alternative ways of gifting instead. The good karma will follow you into the New Year.
Karen Lynn Johnson holds an MS in Music Education and has worked as a school music teacher, a private lessons teacher, and as a church musician for nearly 40 years. She’s published one novel, Torn Threads, a work of historical fiction that spans two continents and several decades. When she’s not walking the beach or experimenting in the kitchen, she’s likely traveling, reading, or soaking in theatre performances and museums. She lives with her husband of more than 30 years, splitting time between Cincinnati, Ohio and Emerald Isle, North Carolina.
Image courtesy of the author.