This time last year I wrote a post, which, to my surprise, proved to be quite popular – ‘What if I don’t buy presents?‘. I came across it recently and it made me think. Last year Little F was 17 months in December and indeed we did not buy him presents. He was far more interested in everyday objects like plastic bottles or a bicycle pump, or things like leaves and sticks. Instead I have wrapped a BIG box in wrapping paper with a frilly bow. He shrieked with delight when he saw it and enjoyed himself immensely when opening it. Inside he found another box and inside that box was a packet of balloons. He loved it. Little F opening this present is still my favourite home-video.
So what shall we do this year – Little F will be nearly 2.5 on Christmas Day? I think this year is more about ‘how many gifts’, rather than ‘should we buy any’. Little F is now showing interest in the toys he has and his development clearly benefits from play. Most of the toys he has at the moment are inherited from his much older cousins, and there’s also some matchbox cars Daddy used to play with (sturdy stuff! and all bear a proud sign Made in England). He does have a few wooden toys I bought for him (Bajo is my favourite brand – sustainable, non-toxic and made in Poland) and he has of course been given gifts by family and friends. The only ‘toy’ he comes back to over and over again are books. This is the only thing I could call his favourite.
So what shall we get?
I like to buy big boxes of 2nd had books from eBay and scour charity shops – this way I get books at on average 50p per book. This way of buying means I have little control over what we will get. We are short on classic fairy tales – I guess it’s something people hold on to – so I might make an exception and buy some new books.
He will also be given a dress up box. I have ambitiously decided to create three costumes – mostly out of what we have at home. I hope this will become a tradition and every year I will add something to the box.
Finally, a wooden train. Something I think every child should have – it’s great for imagintaion, building, role play (with other kids around). So many parents quote it as their children’s favourite toy and it’s something Little F likes playing with when we go on playdates. I am still looking for the best and most sustainable option – unfortunately Bajo does not do trains with tracks.
All of these gifts will (hopefully) offer many years or play and enjoyment. However tempting the price, I don’t buy toys which are likely to break after a few uses. The cheaper options usually mean that product is not sustainable and whoever made it does not get paid enough to have a decent quality of life (or it might have been a child).
It seems like Little F will be getting quite a lot of gifts this year. This is partly due to his library needing replacing (he is getting bored with most of the books, as he’s had them for a few months), partly because I enjoyed making his Halloween costume and am up for a challenge of creating a dress up box and partly because I have been holding back on buying him a train for a while. There’s also the case that I am due with our second baby in mid January and I want Little F to have some new toys to keep him occupied and help with transition – fingers crossed!
After writing this post I thought ‘let’s see what others do’, so I spent some time on google and was horrified to read mumsnet thread on ‘how many presents do you buy your children on average‘. It seems 50 each is not an uncommon number!
What better example is set by Leo from Zen Habits:
Kids love getting presents (I have six kids — I should know!). I sure did when I was a kid. Are we to rob them of this? It’s a difficult question, but another side of the equation to consider is what we are teaching the kids. They don’t just participate in the opening of presents — they see all the shopping too. They are being taught to shop, and to value material goods over anything else. Imagine their lives when they’re grown — a life of shopping and debt and waste, because that’s what’s important, right? So for the joy of opening a few presents for a couple hours on Christmas day, we’re imparting on them consumerist values that will last them a lifetime.
I think, instead, this can be a great opportunity to have an open discussion with kids about buying and spending and debt. Did you receive this kind of education when you were a kid? Would you have been better off if you had? This is also a great opportunity to teach kids about giving to others, about volunteering and helping the less fortunate, about finding other ways to spend time with loved ones that don’t require shopping. My kids do want presents — but I don’t want them to think that’s what Christmas is all about. We’ve been having this discussion and we will continue to this month.
If you are not ready to give up gifts all together, here’s some great ideas for more meaningful and sustainable Christmas from Eco Gites of Lenault.
The gifts we give, or lack of them, express the philosophy we want to live by. Stopping the over consumption and unnecessary waste is something I want to teach Little F. Our kids learn best from our actions.
How many gifts will you buy your children this year? What is your attitude to Christmas shopping frenzy? I’d love to hear from you, so do leave me a comment of get in touch via Twitter (@mumbalance).
PS. All the brands I have mentioned and links I have included, are only there for your convenience. I am not being compensated in any way by the companies I have named here.