It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our home. Our tree is brightly decorated with gifts appearing under its branches. Fairy lights are twinkling and our garden is a winter wonderland with snow having silently arrived in the wee small hours this morning. Needless to say, we’re feeling very festive.
Experiencing the unique magic of Christmas with my son is a privilege I’m incredibly grateful for; the opportunity to create wonder, to stir our collective imagination and see the world anew through his eyes makes me feel like a child again. As a family we’re crafting our own traditions, savouring family time and slowing down rather than speeding up through the holiday season.
Gift giving is such a beautiful love language, yet as a parent embracing simplicity, Christmas can feel like an idealogical tug of war.
I’m conscious of the ever-increasing influence of our consumer-driven society. Children are easy targets for the trap of materialism, yet the experience of gift giving and receiving can be incredibly joyful and positive. As parents we have the power to limit the number of gifts our kids receive, so we can give them the space they need to appreciate the thoughtfulness and generosity of others. By taking an intentional approach to the type of gifts they open on Christmas morning we can also promote free play, encourage imagination and foster connection within our families.
So, here’s a dozen ideas, with no bells and whistles, no buttons and things the light up; just some simple gifts that may brighten your Christmas day and your year ahead.
1. INTER-GENERATIONAL FREE PLAY
Whenever we go to Grandma’s house our son loves playing with his dad’s decades old farmhouse. We were so excited to find Melissa and Doug’s Wooden Fold and Go Farmhouse, which is almost identical. My little man is losing himself more and more in free play; I smile from ear to ear when I overhear him creating imaginary situations and talking to his animals in his bedroom. I’m sure this will be a Christmas favourite.
2. GIGGLES, HIGH FIVES AND HAND-EYE COORDINATION
Plan Toys was founded in southern Thailand in 1981 and was the first company in the world to manufacture wooden toys from rubberwood. Concerned with environmental stewardship they believe everyone can contribute to a better world by playing sustainably. I love that they use organic rubberwood, e-zero glue, water-based dyes, recycled and recyclable materials, soy and water-based ink in their toys.
We gave our son their drum last year and this year I’m excited about the Balancing Cactus. I imagine it will be a team effort, fostering connection as we balance the brightly coloured cactus piece by piece providing laughs and high-fives along the way.
3. BED TIME SNUGGLES AND EXPANDING OUR SON’S WORLD
We LOVE Usborne! They produce incredibly high quality books with vivid, true to life and fantastical illustrations combined with fun facts. We already have their Big Book of Dinosaurs, a bed time favourite, and even as an adult I’m excited to see what comes next. I find myself constantly surprised as we open the huge fold out pages and astounded by the size and comparative scale of the creatures they bring to life. One of my passions is the ocean and everything it represents; I can’t wait to share it with our son and see what he thinks of the amazing marine animals living in her beautiful watery depths.
4. IMAGINATIVE AND SELF-DIRECTED PLAY
Our son’s favourite toys are his Schleich collections of animals and dinosaurs; if we’re away from home for an extended period, they are what he misses most! These hand-painted, life-like figures stretch his imagination and have stood the test of time. His grandma, who is infinitely more talented with a sewing machine than am I, recently made us a bunch of lovely drawstring bags to keep each “family” in – we have North American animals, African wildlife and of course, Dinosaurs.
5. PRACTICING GENEROSITY
We love giving to charities and organizations that protect the wild places we cherish and we want to show our son how important generosity is too. So, at this age a symbolic adoption of a wild animal through World Wildlife Fund seems like the perfect choice.
6. THE JOY OF EXPERIENCE
In a paper published in the Journal of Psychological Science, Thomas Gilovich and Matthew Killingsworth, demonstrated experiences provide more lasting happiness than material possessions, with the memory of experiences growing fonder over time.
We’re lucky enough to live close to some of the most beautiful Christmas lights I’ve ever seen. The canyon, suspension bridge and forest light up once a year mesmerizing young and old alike. We eagerly anticipate wandering around the enchanted forest soaking in the magic of Christmas with our little man. And as every parent of a young child knows, memberships pay for themselves in no time. So, each Christmas we purchase a membership to the park and enjoy it every season with our son.
7. CO-OPERATION OVER COMPETITION
What excites me most about the Dinosaur Escape Game is that it’s cooperative rather than competitive; players work together and if they’re successful everyone wins. The older I get the more deluded I become with the competitive nature of our society; as if being successful means we have to be better than somebody else. I love the idea of fostering collaboration, celebrating mutual success and of course, having fun with dinosaurs along the way!
8. PROBLEM-SOLVING AND FUN-FILLED FLOOR PLAY
Our family can’t get enough of puzzles. Such a simple way to connect and spend time together, while encouraging memory, problem-solving and hand eye coordination. We received this puzzle last year from Nanna and it’s still in regular use. Observing our son improve every time we repeat it reminds me how quickly he’s developing….wish I could buy something to slow down time!
9. THE GIFT OF MUSIC
We already have a drum and a harmonica but we’re one instrument down to complete our trio. This colourful, wooden xylophone seems like the perfect addition. Its finishes are non-toxic, BPA Free, Lead Free and Phthalate Free. I’m excited to make some music…and have a little dance too!
10. EMBRACING SIMPLICITY
Christmas is a time of togetherness, family and connection. But too often, in our over-scheduled and hurried modern lives Christmas represents stress, obligation and box checking. But, what if we could slow down and revel in the magic of the holidays with those we love most? Rebecca at Simple as That and Erica of Let Why Lead have taken on the challenge of asking that very question. They’ve created an email course called 12 Days to a Simpler Holiday Season to bring more stillness and cozy time to our festive season. Maybe the best gift we can give our kids is centred, present and calm parents – check it out here.
11. MINIMALIST FORT BUILDING
We recently started exploring Waldorf and came across these wonderful silks. I’m excited to build colourful forts with my little man as it snows outside, make superhero capes and play hide and seek. I love that it will take no space to store and will be light enough for my son to use on his own.
12. ONE OF OUR FAMILY’S FAVOURITE LOVE LANGUAGES
They say kids spell love, T.I.M.E. And that’s how I spell it too. There’s nothing like time with loved ones. Shared experiences. Creating moments and banking them in our children’s memories. While one love language is gift giving it’s so important to find a balance and recognize what love language resonates most with your child. Our little family thrives on relaxed, fun-filled, agenda-free, quality time together. Over Christmas, the best gift we give each other is to get away as a threesome, enjoy a hot tub in the rain and snuggle up on the wild west coast of Canada where wifi can’t follow.
Wishing you and your family a wonderfully simple and joyous festive season. I’d love to know, what traditions do your family follow? What gifts would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.