Christmas is the perfect time to show love and affection, share, and help the less fortunate. Christmas is the time of giving. But have you considered that you might be giving…too much? Because while all the above is true, there’s no denying that Christmas is also the time of year when consumerism peaks.
Us grownups tend to forget that children are not that hard to please or wow, we also forget that what they need the most from us is time, attention, and love. So, as a gesture of this love, parents and family traditionally shower children with presents during Christmas.
Meanwhile, you’re missing something important: you can’t create a meaningful connection with your child over a material gift. In fact, no one ever has bonded with another person over an object. People bond and form deep relationships through experiences and shared feelings. The gift itself doesn’t say much about how much you love your child, but the time you spend with them does.
Today, we’re going to discuss why you should prioritise presence over presents this Christmas. As always, we’re going to share a few ideas with you, and my personal story!
First, let’s discuss briefly the most common Christmas gift for children…toys.
Toys: why less is more
Is there such a thing as too many toys? Apparently, yes. Evidence suggests that having fewer toys around is actually more beneficial for children.
More specifically, the University of Toledo in Ohio conducted an experiment, in which one group of toddlers were given 4 toys and another one was given 16. The results indicate that “an abundance of toys present reduced the quality of toddlers’ play”. In contrast, toddlers with fewer toys engaged in longer periods of play with a single toy and found more creative ways to play.
In essence, focusing on one toy for a longer period of time promotes cognitive development because it encourages children to use their imagination, creativity and resourcefulness to enjoy the toy more. Luckily, there are great alternatives to toys!
Why we should prioritise presence over presents
You must have noticed how easily children forget about presents, no matter how much they enjoy them at first or how long they’ve been asking for them. However, if you go on a family adventure at the water park, they’ll remember it for years. They are also very likely to ask to go back again. That alone speaks volum
es about what children need and want, and it should be reason enough to prioritise presence over presents. But, there are more reasons to consider.
Healthy brain and emotional development
Children need to be seen, heard and understood to build healthy brains and their concept of self, all of which drive behaviour, emotions and thought patterns. Play, family adventures and presence are the perfect way to meet these needs in your children. When children feel loved, they additionally develop stable self-esteem and grow up to become confident and balanced individuals who engage in healthy relationships.
Children build social and interpersonal skills
Like we discussed in our previous blog, Why Sensory and Messy Play are Essential for Building Healthy Brains, through play children start to discover how human relationships work. Yes, spoiler alert, there will be many elements of play in your shared experiences. But the more time you spend engaging with them, the faster they’ll build social and interpersonal skills.
You instill the right values
If you keep getting children toys and other material gifts, you’re sending a clear, though subconscious, message that happiness is measured by how much one owns (or how much someone spends on you). Constantly granting their requests for certain gifts also teaches children that everything can be easily obtained or replaced. In other words, you’re spoiling them.
When you choose to spend quality time with them, they begin to appreciate how valuable the moments we share with our family are, whilst also discovering the preciousness and complexities of close relationships.
You create cherished memories
Building memories together as a family is the most precious gift and legacy we can leave behind for our children! Toys and other gifts don’t have a soul or a heart. Gifts are only what we make of them. So, if you want to buy some presents, buy some family games that you can all play and share together to create new memories.
Ideas for Building Christmas memories together
Christmas is indeed the most wonderful time of the year when you spend it having fun with people you love! Are you excited?
Create your own Christmas rituals
Little family traditions are always heartwarming, but all the more so during these magical days. Whatever you choose to do, try to do it every year:
- Decorate the house together
- Craft your own decorations with clay, wool or paper
- Prepare traditional sweets
- Organise a treasure hunt in the house
- Wear Christmas outfits during the holiday season
- Come up with your own Christmas story or poem
Give, give, and give some more
Christmas is primarily about giving, so now is the time to teach your children the joy of volunteering and sharing:
- Give away old clothes and toys
- Serve lunch at a nearby shelter
- Pick a charity and donate some money
Craft gifts together
How about making a hand-made gift for their best friend or the grandparents? Bake some cookies together or paint a beautiful Christmas drawing. A present made with love by their little hands will touch the recipient and make for an unforgettable gift.
Even if it’s only for a couple of days, children will enjoy a family trip surrounded by Christmas scenery. Choose a family resort where children can join organised activities or play at theme parks.
Spend a unique afternoon together
Take advantage of your vacation days to do something that you aren’t able to do often with your child. Like spending the afternoon at the beach or going to the park. Another idea is to explore a part of the city or a park you’ve never been to before and top it off with an ice cream!
Before we wrap up, I would like to share my personal story and experiences. For the last few years, I’ve made a point of favouring experiences over presents. Sure, we’ll get the boys some lego or other small gifts. But the true stars of the show are our homemade vouchers for family experiences and adventures: a visit at the zoo, going to the movies and treating themselves to choc top ice creams, joining me at the farmer’s market to pick their favourite fruit, and so on. And guess what, experience gifts are always received with great enthusiasm. I usually ask them what they’d enjoy the most before organising our holiday experiences.
There’s nothing wrong with getting your child a present or two. It would be a lie (and Santa would know) to say that you don’t enjoy receiving presents yourself. Just don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Prioritising presence over presents is what Christmas is all truly about: bringing us all together and spreading some love!