… to recycle, donate and support local businesses!
Seriously, do most* of us really need any more stuff?
This is the time of year when everyone is asking kids “what do you want for Christmas?” or “what is Santa bringing you this year?”. Typically, my kids answer very matter-of-factly with any specific items that we are missing or that need replacing, such as new toothbrushes, mittens or markers. And if any of these items are received on Christmas morning, my kids will be over the moon with joy. This is not because we are scroogey parents or because they have been bad kids, rather, during the holiday season (and all seasons, really), we talk to our kids about how special it is to spend time with family. And we talk about the fact that there are many *people (both adults and children) who don’t have a warm home, a full dinner table, good health and/or a loving family (let alone a shiny Christmas tree heaped with gifts).
Kids get it. And as much as adults love to spoil kids with gifts, the things that have been most memorable for our kids have been loving childhood experiences: a visit to the local farm with an uncle, a puppet show with Oma, sleepovers (translation = babysitting, which doubles as a gift for parents, too… win-win!) — just spending time with friends and relatives over the holidays and throughout the year.
Instead of buying made in China battery-powered action figures or the latest electronic device, here are some ‘un-gift’ ideas that will make kids smile and have a positive impact on your local community – and the planet:
- tickets to a local show or kids theatre (check out Rag & Bone)
- cooking / crafting classes
- soap making workshop (try Zoe’s Corner – so much fun for both adults and kids!)
- a season of activity/sport (e.g. swimming, martial arts, gymnastics)
- outings to museums, trampoline park, etc.
- locally made clothing and crafts – scarves, slippers, unique dresses and even custom leather shoes (check out the Ottawa vendors on Handmade Harvest and Etsy)
These types of gifts don’t even need to cost anything! Free outings and play dates are just as exciting – visit a farm, go sledding, head to the library, or invite them over for an indoor camp-out complete with hot cocoa!
And while most of the above items are geared towards pre-schoolers and younger kids, the same principles apply to ‘un-gifts’ for older kids and adults. Here are a few ideas:
- gift basket of locally crafted foods (maple syrup, chocolates, jams, pies) or products (soaps, candles, lotions) – check out Ottawa Valley Gift Baskets or Givopoly
- cooking classes, like Urban Element / soap or other crafting workshops
- dance / rock climbing / trampoline classes or outings
- gift certificate to a local restaurant, theatre performance or comedy show
- a donation in their name to a favourite charity (e.g. Habitat for Humanity Gift from the Heart, local animal sanctuary like Penny Lane)
- local wines or spirits (check out North of 7 Distillery or Domaine Perrault offers vineyard tours and tastings)
- homemade items like jam, brittle, cookies (in fancy labelled jars and boxes, of course)
I know many people feel they need to give something tangible in order to be memorable, but kids are so much more creative, adaptable and optimistic than we are as adults. One year, Opa jokingly put a black coal-like rock in my daughter’s stocking and rather than disappointment, she looked intrigued. When she was told it was a “magic moon rock” she was elated (and is now obsessed with collecting rocks…)
Here’s a chance to be creative: if your gift seems like nothing but a gift certificate for down the road (i.e. a piece of paper), make a little booklet or card with illustrated images (or collages cut from magazines) of the activity(ies)!
Again, these ideas are not out of cheapness, laziness or because I couldn’t find any lumps of coal. My kids (and I) would be thrilled to receive any of these fabulous and sustainable gifts.
Don’t forget to pass on or donate any toys, clothes and other useful items your household no longer needs 🙂
Merry Christmas – Joyeux Noël – Feliz Navidad – Boas Festas – Froehliche Weihnachten – Prieci’gus Ziemsve’tkus un Laimi’gu Jauno Gadu – Happy Hanukkah – God Jul – Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to All!!!