Why This Is Our New Gift-Giving Tradition
We’ll try to continue to give as few new presents as possible. For my daughter’s upcoming fourth birthday, we’ll try a book swap, in which every kid brings a book to trade. It sounds better than up to 15 or more presents all at once, since the protocol seems to be to invite all the kids in my daughter’s preschool. It also avoids the awkwardness of a “no gifts” policy, which we’ve also tried. But it’s hard for people not to bring presents to a birthday party.
Honestly, I don’t think that my daughter will mind. She’s pretty indifferent about gifts. I’m sure this will change, but we’re appreciating it for now.
We’re not strict “no toys” people. They have a huge developmental role to play when it comes to imagination, escapism and fun. I just don’t think it’s necessary to have tons of them, seeing as my daughter can play with whatever is around and use her imagination to fill in the blanks. All she needs for a picnic is a burp cloth for the ground covering, some stuffed animals for company and imaginary food.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by turning down a gift. So we usually welcome the gift, integrating it into our lives as best we can. We do, however, censor toys we feel aren’t necessary: For example, I never gave her a cell phone gifted from a relative–I figure she’ll have enough electronic gadgets later on.
What This Means for the Future
I know her peers will be a huge influence on how she views materialism and consumerism, and hopefully we, as her family, will have influence as well. She’ll probably observe after a while that my husband and I aren’t huge gifters–we don’t exchange for birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas.
So far, my daughter hasn’t really asked for things. She even laughs at that Berenstein Bears book, “The Gimmies,” in which two kid bears throw temper tantrums because they don’t get the toys they want.
She seems good at self-regulating, but when she starts asking for things, we’ll need to provide limits. One option is an allowance, in which we’d make clear that she needs to cover what she wants for the week, and probably require her to save a certain amount and give it to charity.
A lot of our extended family is on board, too. My mother suggested giving animals through Heifer International for Christmas, which I thought was a great idea. My husband and I showed our daughter the catalog, and explained that not every kid in the world has a grocery store to go to when they want more to eat. She had fun picking out a goat that will provide milk, cheese and yogurt for a family.
Gift-giving may never be the same–and that’s a good thing.
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Shirley Park is a mom of two young children, who she hopes will appreciate the toys they have!