For those of us who are minimalists or make an effort to avoid over consumption the holidays can be a challenging time for us. The expectations are high from both our kids and society. We want them to have the best Christmas ever but yet we also want to keep it low key and focus on traditions and experiences over stuff.
How can we do that? How can we bring a holiday experience that is filled with connection, togetherness and still make it fun.
We have discussed this strategy in the past and it is by far one of my favorites. In our family, we incorporate this strategy with a small stocking for each child. Luckily when you have four kids the tree looks really full regardless of each child only have 4 gifts ;)
Wondering how it works? Simple.
The want is usually the easiest of the 4 categories. It's easy - purchase something your child wants. It could be the new bike they have been asking for since last year or it could be a new set of blocks. For kids younger than 2 it may be something that you want them to have, such as a stacking toy or play silk.
What is something that they truly need but you have been postponing? New socks? Underwear? What about a new pencil crayons for school? Or block crayons for your young toddler? Winter woollens for bedtime or baselayers? This category tends to lean on the more practical but can still be just a fun by spicing up your options. What about a special set of new socks? Ones that they have never seen before.
Do your best in this category not to keep adding more and more items. The idea is to purchase one item from each category. We will often fudge a little by adding socks with a pyjama set but it ends there. Otherwise you get back into the same habits as before with 29 gifts sitting under your tree.
What is something that they want or need that can be worn? A new party dress? New leggings? A cozy sweater for heading into the winter.
In our family we typically end up with pyjamas in this category since we they seem to go through pj's regularly in our home. Our Wee Woollies are the perfect addition for baby.
Options for the wear category could be:
- New winter hat & mitts
- Leggings or lounge pants
- Babylegs for the little ones (perfect for keeping those legs warm in the winter!)
- A coat or snowpants for the upcoming winter
- Shoes and boots in a new size
- Gifts cards for older children so they can choose their own outfit
With 4 kids we will often take advantage of this category to upgrade new winter gear! Find ways to make this category fun for your kids so that they look forward to their new to them piece of clothing. One year I crocheted neck warmers for all the kids - everyone loved them and talked about them the following year!
Lastly books! Is there a book that you think would be perfect for your child? One that you or they have had their eye on for a while? Now is the perfect opportunity.
Choose books that have beautiful images and stories that are well written. We like to avoid books with characters (from television or movies). The storylines are not all that original and the trends come and go.
I like to add a bonus into the holidays with the Experience category. It doesn't fit into the cute little rhyme with Want, Wear, Need, Read but it is a fabulous way to incorporate minimalism into your holidays. Experiences are a wonderful way to reduce your eco impact and to offer your children experiences of connection and fun.
Consider that your experience doesn't necessarily have to cost money! There are many activities that your children will enjoy that are free and within your local community.
Ideas for experiences: gymnastics, live theatre, sports, skating, skiiing, day with mom/dad, dinner out to their favorite restaurant, movie night at home with their pick of movie and snacks, pizza night at home, day at your favorite local outdoor centre (Little Cataraqui and Gould Lake are great examples near Kingston).
You could slide some of the accessories for these activities into the other categories as well. Let's say you choose Skating, you may want to include the skates as part of the Need category and a book about skating in the read category.
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Remember, all of these gifts can be purchased new or second hand. Many can be made at home by you or purchased by local makers. Be picky when you head out to the second hand store or to your favorite local business. Often we tend to see such good deals that we over indulge in gift buying but if you know what you are looking for and keep your game face on you will tend to spend less and choose more carefully. Just because something is a good deal doesn't mean you have to buy it! Good deals are only good deals if you needed and wanted the item.
Choosing one item per category will be the main challenge. Obviously, you can choose as many as items as you want per category but if you are looking to have a minimalist and simple holiday experience the less you gift the better! Perhaps this year since if it is your first year choosing minimalism you opt to include 2 gifts per category (to prep your kids!). The following year you take it down to one gift per category. Or maybe you want to gift 3 books in that category. These are really just guidelines to help you and your family stay on track during the holiday season. If your children are older be sure to share with them your new approach to gift buying. They may be more selective in their list if they know they will only get a few items. It also brings about important conversations about consumerism, environmental impact and financials!