November 29, 2012

Christmas Gifts that TEACH as they entertain.

I analyze and evaluate everything that I do in life. Christmas is no exception.  Materialism disgusts me even as it sucks me in; gratitude pours from my soul even as want creeps into my vision.  I love Christmas, because i love to give gifts.  Oh how i seek for the proper perspective when choosing what i'm going to spend my money on and what i'm going to introduce my children to.

Every day I recognize how lucky my children are.  Unlike the millions that live in poverty each day, my children are fed, they are sheltered, they have a mother and father who love them and they know their Father in Heaven.  My children have so much.  Why do I even need to buy more?  The answer is, i don't.  I tend to think of my children as investments.  I tend to think of Christmas as a time to ponder what gifts i could give them that could help them become all that God intends them to be.  I love the tradition of the wise men.  I believe that they gave gifts that they thought would be helpful.  I also want to be a wise giver.

Every dollar that I spend is sacred.  I am the steward for what enters into my home.  If i do not want my children to waste their time, then i will not spend my money on things that will promote waste.  THERE IS SO MUCH GOOD IN THIS WORLD!!

We live in a day and age where our children can be ANYTHING.  Our children can learn to play any instrument, they can learn any language.  They have access to a myriad of books and skills and hobbies and people.  Our children have incredible access to tools and machines and technology.  They can do so many things with their time.  They can be anything they want to be.  It is overwhelming the opportunities that we have on the earth at this moment.

I feel this sacred stewardship to KNOW my children and to DIRECT them.  I try to buy gifts that achieve a goal I am trying to promote. What message am i sending to my children when I gift them a house full of toys?  I hope we spend more time helping our children become than we do having them look through catalogs designed by marketing professionals to lure children in and asking them to write lists and lists of things they WANT.  I do love reading letters to Santa, but I'm not a big fan of teaching my children to write long lists of wants to Santa and wake up Christmas morning to all their dreams coming true.  Blah.  I love Santa, I love Christmas morning, but I hate the gimme's.  Christmas can be magical even when it is not extremely materialistic.  (Honestly, Christmas at my house is still pretty materialistic.)

Is our job as parents to entertain our children or to provide them with opportunities to grow?  Sometimes my mind is boggled by the effort we put forth teaching ourselves and our children how to NUMB OUT.  Life is not about being entertained.  Life is about LEARNING and GROWING.  We can enjoy the time we are spending becoming something better.  I know we can.

We all love to give meaningful gifts.  I like to think more about what I want my children to DO more than I like to think about what I want my children to GET.
I want my children to love good music and develop their gifts and talents.
I want my children to be exposed to art and to learn to create.
I want my children to be smart, to read, to love learning.
I want my children to be scientific, to be active, and to have fun together.
I do not want to fill my home or my children with so many distractions that they are never bored, never have time to think, and are constantly entertained.

Christmas is a great time to choose what things I want to bring into the world my husband and I are creating for our children.  It is a time to be WISE with the gifts we give. Please, do not decide what you will get your children by the advertisements you see on TV or as you walk down the isles of the stores.  THINK ABOUT YOUR CHILD.  You will know what is best for YOUR child.  Our children are all different and there are so many possibilities!  Santa's bag is HUGE!!  Give gifts that are REAL for Christmas this year.

Here are some ideas... my list is messy and full of typos.  Sorry.

-- The Gift of Music.
Oh, there are so many things I would love to give my children musically.  (I wish I could buy Anna a harp this year.  Wouldn't it be amazing to wake up to a harp on Christmas morning?)  There is so much good music in the world!!  Please, consider giving your child a REAL guitar before you buy an updated Rock Band toy.  Consider ways that you can promote real, good music in your home.

[Note to grandparents-- As I advocate a gift of music, I am not advocating electric, musical toys.  They are annoying.  I do love wee sing cds for the car, but please grandparents, before you buy an electronic toy imagine it playing 80 times in a row in your home.]

I wanted a Bose Radio this year and I wanted to download more classical music for my children to listen to.   I also want more recommendations for "happy" music that can help me set the tome in my home. There is so much good music in the world.  I want more in my home.  

Piano Music- Have you walked through a music store?  It is full of fun music.  Your children will LOVE the instruments they play more if you fill your home with music they want to play.  I'm sure we can always expand our collection.
Here are some of the books I found on the top of my piano as i was typing this...
Something for the Boys by Dan Coates (Harry Potter, Star wars, etc.)
Viva La Vida by Coldplay (they colored a shirt onto the naked lady on the front of it.)
A Gift of Love by Marvin Goldstein
Christmas by Dan Coates
Storm Mountain by W.T. Skye Garcia
Contemporary Disney, 50 Songs, piano/vocal/guitar
I Can Play Primary Songs, by piano kids
Rachmaninoff the World Loves by The Willis Music Company
Jon Schmidt, New Age Classical Piano Solos Volume II

-- The Gift of Art.
My kids are always making things.  Every year we gift art supplies.
I love to give my kids BLANK BOOKS from, and empty canvases from Michaels.
I love to give them paper and new crayons.
The Klutz Paper Airplane Book is one of our all time favorites.
We love any Klutz kit and have gifted many.
Oragami paper and oragami books!  So fun.  (Just get some fun paper and write some youtube links!)
We love calligraphy pens and calligraphy books.
New paints and brushes.
A frame to frame some of their art.
Go to a Hobby Shop and look at the advanced paint by number kits.  They are so fun!!

My kids doodle a lot, I think they are ready to learn more than smiley face scribbles.  Did you know that most schools no longer teach ART?!!  This year we have invested in some real sketch pads, some charcoal pencils, and some great art books.  (I checked out some of the books from the library to see if my kids would like them and they have been drawing non-stop.)
Here are some of our favorites...
Draw 50... by Lee J. Ames  (Lee Ames is great!)
Kids Draw Animals by Christopher Hart
Cartoon Cute Animals by Christopher Hart
Just search "How to Draw" books and you'll find a lot of fun ones!

--The Gift of Craft.
I can't talk too openly about specific gifts this year, i'm never sure who will read this, but we LOVE to give gifts of possibility!
A tool kit full of tools and a pile of wood.
A sewing kit full of sewing stuff, fabric, patterns, yarn, crochet hooks, knitting needles... and possibilities.
A fishing kit with a pole.
A cross-stitch kit or a pillowcase to embroider.
Fabric to make a quilt or a rotary cutter and a gift card to JoAnn's.
A box of glitter and glue and wooden letters and felt.
Beads and wire and stuff to make jewelry.
Really-- what you are giving is a gift of TIME.
There are SO many possibilities!!

--The Gift of Knowledge.
Books!!!  Can you imagine life in the olden days when only the most wealthy owned books?  Can you imagine?
Children who do not want books for Christmas are children who have not found the right books.
We own so many books that I don't even know where to begin.

We bought the beautiful set of Laura Ingalls Wilder Books last year and have read the whole series aloud this year.  I love them.  (Note, you can not buy them as a set... you have to buy each one individually.)  We love to buy the kids beautiful leather books or hardback series.  Books that are not classics, we tend to let them check out from the library.  I don't mind if they read junk books, but i will not spend my money on them.

The boys love to read and reread the Lord of the Rings Series, and the Inheritance series by Chistopher Paolini.  Even my younger girls are trying to get through The Hobbit before the movie comes out.
My little girls love animal books, like The Great Animal Search.
I love the classics learn to read books, like See Jane Run, and The Curious George Collection, and Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Little Bear.
I love Go Dog Go, My Nest is Best and Old Hat, New Hat.
Old Hat, New Hat is probably my favorite book ever!!
What?  You don't think Old Hat, New Hat is an example of a completely edifying Christmas present?
bah humbug.
Old Hat New Hat
Well, that and Bears in the Night.  Love that one too!
The Great Brain is a fun younger boy series.
I love Children's poetry and Mother Goose Rhymes.
There is nothing like a beautiful book of Mother Goose Rhymes.
And, don't you love the real Grim's Fairytales?  They are fun and gruesome!
Aesop's fables.
Any book that teaches virtues.
Sigh.  i love good books.
The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America's Most Trusted Cooking Magazine
One of our FAVORITE things to give is a cookbook!
Last year we gave Jakob, the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook.  This really is the best cookbook out there.  I love it.  It EXPLAINS each recipe, so it is teaching you WHY not just telling you how.  I love it.  So does Jakob, he is a great little chef.  Wouldn't a cookbook and a new apron and even a set of mixing bowls be a fun gift to give one of your children?  i love Christmas!!

--The Gift of Science.
I love snap circuit electronic kits.
Microscopes, telescopes, model airplanes, rocket, rock collecting, coin collecting, magnets, robots...
Just walk into one of those weird, crowded hobby shops... you'll discover a whole new world!!
We love to give learning gifts.

--The Gift of Exercise.
So many fun things to do outdoors.  Warm gloves, a new hat, a bike helmet.
We love to gift sleds and bikes and skates and all my kids love this bike that i got for my six year old.
i love wrapping up a new basketball or soccer ball with a new exercise outfit.  A pedometer would be fun for a child who runs or a new water bottle.

--The Gift of Family.
Most of the games and toys i buy are bought with the idea of "Family" or togetherness.  I like blocks and trains and i love legos-- because they promote unity.  We have a huge closet full of games to play.  A new deck of cards or some dice are always fun stocking stuffers.
I especially love games that help combine young and old.  (I think Legos do that very well.)
Last year we got a foosball table and a ping pong table.
I loved getting my older boys a nice chess set or buying a family set of nice dominoes.

Yes, my children have toys and they get new pajamas and clothes for Christmas.  But, i have to ask myself how I am spending my money?  (I wrote this in first person, but really it is never just me deciding... it is Todd and I together... with input from our children and with thoughtful, prayerful pondering.)  Am i buying them things of no worth or am i investing in things that will help them be the people they can become.  We can help them be their best selves.

Christmas is about so much more than what our children WANT... it is about what they can BECOME!!  Christmas gifts can help our children become what they are destined to become.  They will become what they are exposed to.  Any time we spend money, we should be doing it with an eye single to the glory of God.
Matthew 6 says is well...
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Christmas is a great time to expose your family to goodness!!
It takes time and thought, but it is so fun to be a purposeful parent.
I hope we can all use our money WISEly this season!!
i love Christmas!


Johnson Family said...

I love this post. We fully agree. Last year my husband had been unemployed for a few months so we had talked to our kids (oldest was 8 at the time) about having an especially thoughtFUL Christmas - where they especially thought of things they needed and not just wanted. We also had the kid pick names and they each gave and received just ONE gift. They were to really spend time thinking about that one person as they decided on a gift for them. They did so great and despite the fact christmas morning did not create a sprawl of gifts and toys, they were all delighted and went on and on about how they thought it had been the best Christmas ever. It was.
This year i just delivered our seventh child and I'm happy to use that as an "excuse" for another simple, thoughtful Christmas season. Everyone is on board. :)

The Wife said...

Thanks for this post -- it helped me think outside the box. Inspired by your list I made a list of possible gifts for our children that are very different than the things the hubs and I have discussed thus far for our kids and weren't really excited about. I can't wait to share my list with my husband. Thanks for the inspiration!

Aimee said...

Oh thank you for this post. My husband and I have been talking about how we didn't want to give our kids (especially our oldest) more video games like they put on their Christmas list.
This is exactly what I needed to read this morning.
I so appreciate your insight and thoughts on this topic.
Thank you for the inspiration!

Leah said...

I love this post Jen. I'm "pinning" it ;) love you!

Evaly said...

Thanks for sharing this. Great ideas and I love your perspective. We are tired of junk toys that end up in the trash soon after Christmas! This year we have really gone for quality, timeless items that will be cherished. There may be less but it will be better.

Shannon said...

I LOVE Old Hat, New Hat. In fact I need to buy a new copy. Have you ever read or do you have the Sneetches? Love that one too. I am new to your blog, but I love it! Thank you so much for your insight on so many things. You make me want to do and be better. My brother and his wife used to live in Philomath. I don't know how many wards you have there; you may have known them.

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