Redefining Christmas Spirit

Last year I wrote about one of my family’s holiday gift-giving traditions and wanted to revisit the idea this year before we get into the swing of the holidays.

It is easy for the holidays to become about what presents will be waiting under the tree on Christmas morning. One way that Kate and I refocus our kids’ attention on what the season is about is by doing the following exercise:

A few weeks before Christmas, we remind our kids that this holiday is about giving, not getting. Plenty of kids don’t have any gifts to open on Christmas morning. In that spirit, we head up to the playroom and then have our kids pick out toys that they would like to donate to kids less fortunate.

The first few years we did this the kids had a tendency to select toys that were either broken or missing pieces (it’s okay, we realized this is a big ask). With some gentle encouraging, they started to pick out toys that they had outgrown or don’t play with as much anymore. This year we started extra early and were surprised by how well it went! Just a few years of practice and the kids have already gotten the hang of it – our youngest, Clint, especially. Watching Susie and Abby enthusiastically go through their toys made it much easier for him when he finally got to participate.

Giving away these toys clears out space and also reminds them how lucky they are to have a family that loves them and is able to give them gifts. Every time we do this exercise I love seeing how into it the kids get once they realize how much enjoyment other kids will get from what they are able to give.

Once they have finished picking out toys, we pack everything up in a box and all go down to our local Goodwill. Of course there are plenty of places that you can donate depending on your preference (churches, shelters, or other local organizations). Make sure you have the kids participate in this final step so they understand where their toys are going.

I have heard other variations on this tradition, for example, choosing one toy on Christmas morning to donate or participating in a gift drive at your local shelter or hospital. One family I know “adopts” a specific family through a Christmas drive and takes care of all that family’s Christmas shopping. They head to the store with their kids and only presents for the “adopted” family go into the cart. It’s an easy way to highlight that this whole experience is for someone else.

Whatever you choose, make sure your kids understand why they’re giving their toys away. This isn’t a punishment. Christmas is about giving and this is an easy and fun way they can participate!

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