Second alternate post title I considered: kids don't need so many toys!
Third alternate title: how I want to approach gift giving at Christmas
Really, all the titles would have been appropriate. The main idea I want to share about today is captured in each of the above titles (as well as the one I ultimately chose). The way we (as a family) approach gift giving really lays a foundation for raising kids without the chaos of too many toys & too much stuff.
Don't be fooled: this idea isn't original. I've read numerous blogs by families who take a similar approach (here's one good example & here's another). Some of them may have slightly different motives, or a varied method to their madness, but it's the same basic thought.
The reasons we want to avoid too much stuff (especially toys!) are multifaceted, but here are a few:
1. We want to raise Charlotte, and any other children we may have some day, to recognize the difference between want and need, and to appreciate the value of quality time, creativity, imagination, and a love for the outdoors. We also want to instill gratitude in our children... we want them to learn to be thankful for each gift they receive; I know from experience that receiving too much makes it very hard to be truly thankful. Excess is distracting and quite stressful.
2. Our culture worships excess. But we worship Jesus and we want our home and our life to reflect this truth. Plus, excess is unnecessary and unhealthy.
3. Nine times out of ten, Charlotte would choose to play with something else, rather than an actual toy: Watches, boxes, cups, wallets, keys, etc.
4. Selfishly, I don't like having toys strewn all over the place. It's hard to keep our home neat and tidy, which adds stress to my day. I recognize that kids and messes often go hand in hand, and I'm learning to get used to that, but if I can limit the chaos and disorder, then I'd really like to.
5. It's simply too expensive to buy gift after gift after gift. ESPECIALLY considering how quickly kids tend to move on from one toy to the next (great post on the subject here!).
SO, this Christmas, Charlotte is going to get four gifts from us.
Something she wants (we'll decide for her this year since she's too young to tell us!), something she needs, something to wear, and something to read.
Here are her gifts: a wooden toy camera and a new lift-the-flap book. She'll get the new water bottle I bought earlier this fall as the thing she needs. She already has the thing to wear (because they came in the mail last week and I couldn't wait to open them!): a beautiful set of handmade headbands from Little Hip Squeaks.
One thing we may add is some kind of experience gift. It was awesome to have a zoo membership this year and we've considered giving other things of this kind: seeing a show downtown, a trip away to a new place, children's museum membership, pool passes, etc.
P.S. For birthdays, we may decide to do one big gift (maybe something awesome/hand made like this play kitchen!), or a few small gifts, or something entirely different. I think we'll approach it similar to the way we approach Christmas, though, keeping in mind the values that we want to teach our kids.
P.S.S. Here are some high quality toy makers I really love & will do my best to support in the future. They make the coolest things: Hape, Bannor Toys, Melissa & Doug, Plan, Haba Toys, and Alex Toys.
P.S.S.S. Please look at this beautiful child. Who needs toys when there are leaves and grass to enjoy?!