For parents concerned about conscious consumption and instilling a family culture of "less is more," the holidays can be a tricky time.
On one hand, there's a simple joy inherent in the giving and receiving of gifts. Kids learn about generosity when they carefully choose gifts for others. Plus, slowing down to appreciate what's being given delivers an important lesson on how to graciously receive.
But on the other hand, there's an undeniable cultural tendency to go overboard, which can make a harmful impact socially, economically, and environmentally.
So after two unsuccessful attempts at totally gift-free birthday parties for our son, I'm amending my approach for the holidays. This year, I'm appreciating the intention of those who want to give to him — but simply requesting mindful gifts that aren't toys.
Here's a list of my nine favorite ideas:
Gifts That Encourage Creativity
1. Ingredients for fun treats to bake
When you give all the supplies needed to make something in the kitchen, you not only promote spending time together, but you have something delicious to share when you're done!
Here are three easy recipes to offer inspiration:
Bonus: All of these treats are actually on the healthy side, but little ones will never notice because they're so tasty!
2. Materials for handmade lotion bars
For the slightly more adventurous kid, gift a kit of shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, a mason jar, and a couple of silicon muffin cups — they'll have everything they need to make a nontoxic lotion bar.
3. DIY science projects
Remember when you were in grade school and you planted a bean in a Dixie Cup to watch it grow? Upgrade that project by giving all the supplies necessary to force bulbs into a wintery indoor bloom with this DIY project.
Or keep a scientific vibe by gathering supplies to sprout a bean and helping your kid watch them grow.
Gifts That Create Experiences
4. Include them in your favorite activity.
Kids are naturally curious about the things the people they love enjoy doing. Do you like to practice yoga? Find a family-friendly yoga class you can both attend. Do you paint? Invite them to a special painting session with a canvas all their own. Play an instrument or love live music? Take them to a drum circle.
When you invite them to share something you're passionate about, they'll remember it forever.
5. Create a photography adventure.
Kids are constantly around people taking photos, and from an early age many show an interest in taking part.
So, curate a photographic adventure for the little one you love. Take them somewhere special in search of eye-catching subjects, and help them develop a sense of attention to detail and framing as you snap pictures together. Or, throw a protective case on your phone and just let them click away.
Afterward, choose a collection of your favorites and print them for display.
6. Take a trip to a children's museum.
This isn't a new idea, but it bears repeating. If there's a children's museum near you, set aside an afternoon and take them to play.
They'll love spending the time with you, and they'll have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of exhibits that they find most interesting.
7. Plan a fancy night out.
Set a date, encourage your kid to get dressed up, and go do something fancy!
For example, head to afternoon high tea and desserts. Do dinner and let them choose a meal from the regular menu and order a special drink (look for something on the cocktail menu that would be good sans alcohol). Or take them to an event they would like, especially if it isn't specifically for kids. Basically, create an opportunity for them to feel important and grown-up.
Gifts That Stir Compassion
8. Kiva gift certificate
If money or gift cards are your go-to, consider an option that fosters connection and empathy. Kiva is a nonprofit organization with the mission "to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty."
With a Kiva gift certificate, your kiddo first loans their gifted money to an entrepreneur who inspires them. When the loan is paid back, they can loan it out again or withdraw the money. It's truly a gift that keeps giving.
9. Fair trade gifts
Children are incredibly compassionate. So it's likely to make an impact if you gift say, fair trade chocolate instead of the regular fare, and explain that it's special because the people who grow it are treated fairly. Plus, they'll be really happy to receive yummy chocolate!
Of course, there will always be people who want to indulge in traditional gift choices — and luckily there are more responsible options than ever across all categories. For a growing collection of gifts that keep giving, check out this Pinterest board with ideas for everyone on your list!
Photo Credit: Stocksy