FTC Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.*
‘Tis the season for crowded malls, UPS and FedEx deliveries, and an influx of you-must-buy-this-thing-right-now commercials. Are you tired of all the accumulating stuff in your life? Are you looking to get in the holiday spirit but avoid the buy-buy-buy this year? Well, we here at My Little Poppies have some suggestions for you, as part of the December 2014 Hoagies Blog Hop! Here is our list of holiday gift ideas without the buy buy buy!
Give a book:
Whenever I buy a book (and I buy books like some girls buy shoes), I always smile and think of my beloved Great Aunt Blanche. Aunt Blanche used to raise her index finger in the air and say, “Money spent on a book is never wasted!” She and her sister, my Aunt Ruth, always came bearing books when they visited. I loved the books that they selected for me; they had clearly put a great deal of thought into their choices.
To this day, books are my favorite gift to give and my favorite to receive, particularly when they include an inscription. My little poppies enjoy writing their own inscriptions to cousins and friends!
The gift of a book does not have to be an expensive one, particularly if you “go green” and purchase a used copy. What book lover doesn’t appreciate an older, well-loved book? For added personalization, why not make a bookmark to go along with your gift? This is a wonderful way to include young children in your gift-giving. One year for Christmas, Leo made bookmarks for each member of our family. He cut them out himself, decorated them, wrote each individual’s name on it, and then together we laminated them and added ribbon. Alternatively, you could make one yourself. My friend Jessica, a fellow bibliophile, just made me a beautiful cloth bookmark that is elasticized so you do not lose your page. Genius! And, so thoughtful.
The gift of words:
There is nothing like a handwritten letter. In this age of texts, emails, Twitter, and Facebook, no one takes the time to thoughtfully write anything anymore. Everything is done in short, clipped bursts, without forethought. Show someone in your life how much you care for them by sending them an actual, old-fashioned, snail-mail letter. Remember how exciting it was to get mail when you were a kid? It can still happen!
Alternatively, you could write down a favorite memory, a short story, or a poem to share with a loved one. You could list all the many things you love about that person, or describe something special they did for you one time, or write about why you are grateful for the individual. Presented beautifully, this could be one of those “I’ll always remember when I received…” gifts.
Along these lines, one of the best gifts I ever pulled off was for Schizz’s 40th birthday. I sent letters to all the loved ones in his life, in addition to those friends spread far and wide that he never gets to see. In each letter, I asked that the friend or family member write a birthday blurb to Schizz, or to include a favorite memory. I included a stamped postcard and I told Schizz he couldn’t touch our mailbox for the two weeks leading up to his birthday. I had some difficulty getting addresses for everyone, so in those cases I sent e-mails and printed the responses. I saved all messages received and gifted them to him in a beautifully wrapped box. The wishes, memories, jokes, and-in some cases- drawings, were absolute treasures to behold. It will be tough to ever top that gift, let me tell you!
Handmade gifts from children:
Our children love to make gifts for loved ones. In the past we have made the following: play dough; silly putty; bath salts; soap; book marks; paintings; poems; ornaments made from saltdough, model magic, or popsicle sticks; short stories; decorated frames; painted mugs and dishes; hand painted t-shirts, aprons, and oven mitts; hand painted treasure boxes; heart-shaped crayons, among many others. One needs only to head over to Pinterest to get some great ideas.
Handmade gifts for children:
You do not have to buy this year’s hottest item order to make your kiddos happy, you need to tune in to what they are really excited about and then get creative. Right now, my little poppies are obsessed with all things fairy, tinkering/making, books, and art. This year, if everyone remains healthy, I am hoping to make a fairy house kit (or some other fairy-related gift) and a maker/tinkering kit.
One of our favorite things to do is to take the kids to the dollar store to buy gifts for family members. Before we go, we discuss gift giving and spending. It is a great lesson in life skills, independence, thoughtful giving, spending, and manners (“Say thank you to the clerk!”). The kids love shopping and checking out independently, and our family members enjoy receiving these gifts, although sometimes they are random. For example, on my last birthday Seuss bought me a gigantic plastic rat that squeaks.
When my side of our extended family gets together to celebrate the holidays, we do a Yankee Swap instead of traditional gift giving. We have a spending cap (usually between $10 and $20), and folks typically gift something wildly silly (like this, this, and this) or something practical like a gift card for gas or coffee. The swap usually leaves us with tear-streaked faces and sore bellies from laughing so hard.
Make a scrap book or photo album:
Wait! Wait! This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, especially if you have children to add their innate creativity to the project. You could make a photo album or book, either using an online site (there are oodles of sales this time of year), or by hand. In this day of digital photographs, the photo album is a lost art form. There is something very special about viewing photos the old fashioned way. To make it extra special, include mementos saved from years past, photographs, quotes, and write down special memories. This year, Leo is giving his grandparents a very special grandparent journal, you can read about it here.
The gift of music:
Remember your old mix tapes from the 90s, and how you treasured those things? There is something very personal and special about choosing music for someone. It is so easy to burn music onto a blank CD or, better still, put photos to music on a DVD. When Schizz turned forty, the kids and I made him a DVD filled with music and photos from his forty wonderful years. We called it “Lordy, Lordy, Daddy is FORTY!” The kids refer to this DVD as “The Daddy Movie” and they still watch it, years later!
Forgo the gifts altogether:
Why not cut back significantly, or forgo the gifts entirely? Adopt a local child in need, or an entire family, and give to them this Christmas. There are tons of organizations that will help you accomplish this and if you are having trouble finding one, contact a local parish and they can connect you.
Donate to soup kitchens, shelters, transitional housing, new mothers in need of assistance, foster care organizations, Toys for Tots, nursing homes, hospice care, children’s hospitals, and/or our troops overseas. However, please remember that these organizations need your assistance year round and not just when your family is conducting a 25-Days-of-Giving-Campaign. We try to be cognizant to spread out our giving throughout the year, not just in December. Instead of delivering cookies and other goodies to the police station and fire department right now, when everyone else is doing it, why not do it in February, or May, or August? Better yet, when it gets chilly, instead of delivering tons of stuff to the already overrun office, grab a cup of coffee for that officer working a long detail outside.
If you are reluctant, or if you think your family will be reluctant, to cutting back entirely, why not make small changes? Several years ago, when all the “big kids” had kids of their own, we decided to forgo gifts for the grownups in our family. The aunts and uncles no longer give gifts to one another but instead we focus on the children. It cut back on unnecessary gifts and stress and focused on the joy of childhood and the magic of the season. An easy way to start making small changes is to start with donations. Before Christmas and birthdays, my little poppies and I work together to create a donation pile of toys and games that someone would use and appreciate more than us. We started this tradition years ago, and now it is so ingrained that my children will often find a toy and bring it to me, saying, “I just found this and we never use it. Someone else might love it. Can we donate it?”
Finally, as long as you give from the heart, it doesn’t really matter! This year, on my 36th birthday, I received a rock collection in a hand made envelope from Leo. And, do you know what? I loved it and I still have it.
Whatever you choose, all of us here at My Little Poppies wish you a very happy holiday season!
It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.
This post was part of the December 2014 Hoagies’ Gifted Education Blog Hop. Please click the link below to keep on hopping!
*FTC Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Basically, if you click on these links and make a purchase, I will receive small commission (we’re talking cents, not dollars). I would never endorse a product for a few cents. We recommend what we love here, folks.
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, GeekMom, and many others. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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