There is a scene in the movie Babe that epitomizes the materialism that kids so easily get sucked into this time of year. The grandpa makes a beautiful doll house for his granddaughter and when she opens it, she immediately has a temper tantrum, screaming “I wanted the one I saw on TV”. We see it everywhere we turn. Kids demanding every latest gadget, toy or accessory and forgetting the true meaning of the season.
I am certainly no expert on this (or really any subject pertaining to parenting), but I grew up with parents that really helped us to avoid materialism, especially during the Christmas season. Here are some of the ways they accomplished that and what my husband and I are planning on implementing for our own kiddos:
Give to Others
Growing up we didn’t have much money to buy expensive gifts, but we would grab a tag or two from our local Angel Tree and give a simple gift to a child in need. Usually it included a practical item along with something fun. Other years we would fill a shoebox and send it overseas through Operation Christmas Child.
Another way to give to others is by inviting them over to your home to share a meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but the simple act of opening your home and sharing toys is a great training opportunity for kids and can help them remember the true spirit of the season.
In all your Christmas giving (whatever form it takes), be sure to include the kids. We had fun growing up picking out small toys to give to someone in need.
Focus On Traditions, Not Gifts
A big part of materialism comes from an over-emphasis on getting. Guide your kids away from this attitude by focusing on other things. Make Christmas about tradition, family, beauty, coziness. Advent Calendars or books can be great tools for re-focusing on the Christ-child.
My favorite tradition growing up was our Christmas cookie baking day. We’d spend a whole day making dozens and dozens of our favorite cookies and then making beautiful plates of the goodies. On Christmas Eve we’d load up into our big 15 passenger van and deliver them to friends. I have such fond memories of gently falling snow, crisp temperatures, and tons of yummy snacking.
My parents focused on giving gifts that we’d actually use. Most of the time we got things that were practical. I remember gifts of pencils, drawing supplies, new journals, socks, books, clothing, etc. There was also always something a little extra and the gifts always reflected our personal style and interests. My parents avoided noisy plastic toys that we’d lose interest in quickly.
Some people avoid Christmas altogether in an effort to avoid the materialism associated with the season. Perhaps the lack of finances during my growing up years was a blessing and shielded us from it. But for me Christmas is so much more than getting a gift. It’s a time to be cozy and comfortable. A time when strangers actually take time to see each other as fellow human beings rather than people in their way. It’s a time for candles and cookies and lights and love and carols and movies.
But really, who am I kidding? It’s a time for new socks!
Let me know what your tips are to avoid materialism? How do you make this season more about the Christ-child and less about the gifts?