For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 NIV
Last week I promised a list of Non-Toy Christmas ideas. I’m here to deliver. This is by no means a complete list and I must admit, most ideas are borrowed from friends and family. But here’s my list for meaningful gifts that are not stuff-ful.
One more comment before I get to the list: if you feel the need to give a toy then go ahead and give it! How about a small $10 Lego set, a match box car, stickers (always a favorite at our house), a small doll/figurine of a favorite character- you choose. My kids are as excited with one small gift, as they are with a large gift. I’m not saying it’s bad to give toys, but let’s stretch our horizons and consider giving something precious: memories, time, financial support…
Date: Give the gift of your time. Make this as expensive (a movie, dinner at a restaurant) or inexpensive (play date with you) as you want. Introduce a child to some of your interests (how about an afternoon baking with Grandma?). And there is always the grand-poobah of date gifts: the sleepover. The point is to give the gift of your time, build memories, and relationships*.
The Choose-A-Date: Stealing this idea from a sister-in-law, she did ‘the date’ gift in grand style. The gift was a picture frame that said “Choose a date” at the top. Then there were two options for where they would go, where they would eat dinner, and where they would eat dessert. The child got to choose. And at the bottom it said they would take a picture on their date, and then the picture would go in this frame (bonus points for heartwarming cuteness).
Operation Christmas Child: This is a chance to help your kids experience the joy in giving and talk with them about children around the world who have so little. O.C.C. usually collect gifts in mid to late November, so you have to be on the ball to participate. If you haven’t heard of it, just do a web search. Operation Christmas Child is done by Samaritan’s Purse and they have plenty of material to make the event more meaningful for you and your child.
Sports/Activities: Sports fees seem to increase every year, and then you have equipment you need to buy too… But what child doesn’t benefit from participating in athletics, cooking classes, theater, or even calligraphy (my mom put me in calligraphy class as a child. I was the youngest person in the class, by… oh, about twenty years!). If you want to make it more “gift like” give a soccer ball with money for soccer lessons. Talk to the parents ahead of time, to match family need with child interests.
Memberships: A great family gift is a membership to a local zoo, museum, or other attractions. You are giving mom’s a chance to take kids somewhere educational/fun and kids a place to learn/create/explore. Again, if you want the “gift like” appearance, give a zoo membership with a big stuffed animal.
Homemade gifts: What!? Ok. Don’t go out and buy a sewing machine if you’ve never used one and try to make a ballgown for your granddaughter. BUT, if you have a talent, make something for them. Wood working? Knitting? Sewing? Cooking? These are the gifts that hold sentimental value and retain their value. My husband has a little wooden car his grandfather made for him. It has his name painted on it, and our children play with it. So much more precious than any Hotwheels car we’ve ever received. My mom can sew- she’s made everything from pillowcases (actually a big hit when they have the kids’ favorite characters on them, and this is a pretty simple sewing project) to an Elsa gown.
The Practical Gift: Oh dear! Don’t say it! But YES!!! It’s what mothers everywhere want! Give them beach towels, school supplies, backpacks, sleeping bags, shoes, goggles, and even underwear! If you think they don’t want these gifts, you are mistaken. My daughter just asked for Elsa underpants for Christmas. She didn’t care what they were, she saw them, they had her favorite character on them, she wanted them. Of course… if she were a bit older that would be an embarrassing present to open in front of everyone. So be reasonable, but also- dare to be practical!!
Sentimental gifts: A friend recently showed me a bible with writing in it. Her mother had the idea to buy a bible when her grandchildren were born, and then she would read it, pray with it, and write notes in it for years, before finally giving it to the child when they reached a certain age. Did your heart just melt a bit? Mine did. Another idea I saw someone give was an “affirmation jar.” They had decorated a mason jar to look really cute, and filled it with notes containing thoughts about that person, and prayers they’ve said for them. You are creative. Can you think of something along these lines? Would it bless someone? A child you know?
Tickets: Is this like a date? But tickets to plays or sporting events would be awesome! You could give them to the family, or you could set a date and go along. I still remember dressing up and going downtown to a special dinner and play as a young child. I don’t remember the play or the food. I just remember my grandpa, and how I felt like such a “big girl.” I also remember the time we got tickets to see a basketball game, and we were so far up in the nosebleed section that I thought we were watching ants running around! But again- there I remember all the laughter, and Grandpa.
Games: Giving a game is pretty close to a toy… but I always forget about games. Kids love games. Family games are the best. Also educational games. My son learned his consonants from Consonant Bingo! And our family still talks about some of the charades games we played at holiday get togethers.
Recipes: Give family recipes to a child. Put it in a cute cookbook. A friend gave me a recipe book for my wedding, it was in a simple photo book. She paired hand written note cards with some really ridiculous pictures of us. (Give the gift with a baking date?) Or give them a recipe + the ingredients?
Ok, this list is getting long. So now we have hit the rapid fire portion of our list:
- Give a girl a ‘big girl date‘- manicures, and tea?
- Have an artsy child? Project bin full of art supplies.
- $ towards college– they will thank you later, trust me, they will!
- Seasonal items/outdoor items– sleds, skates, snowpants, boots, umbrellas, beach towels…
- A watch! Do you know how few kids can tell time? Also, watches are cool. Especially if they have dragons.
- Calendar– my kids are always checking the calendar, they like to keep track of what is going on too.
- BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS!
- Subscriptions! The gift that keeps showing up every month!
- Learning tools/objects. Kids think learning is fun, until someone tells them otherwise. Don’t be that someone!
And on and on the list could go… But I hope that will get you thinking. Gift giving and generosity- these are good things! At Christmas time, we are reminded of God’s generosity and His greatest gift to us – Jesus Christ!
May your Christmas season be filled with joy, love, peace, hope, and meaning**. May your Christmas not be stuff full, but heart full. And may your hearts overflow with the love of Christ as you give to others. In Jesus name, Amen!!
*We recently gave a date as a gift to our niece, and she reminded me about it. And I do believe she was hinting that she would like to get another date this year. A sleepover.
**Do yourself a favor- get a devotional this Christmas season. If you need direction, I highly recommend The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp.