Give and Take - Teaching Your Child about the Real Spirit of the Holidays

Tomorrow the holidays will officially be upon us. Tomorrow, some will celebrate Christmas Eve with family and possibly some gifts will be exchanged. Tomorrow, some will celebrate the first day of Hanukkah by lighting the first candle on the Menorah and receiving the first day of presents. I will be celebrating by eating Chinese food with some best friends per our normal tradition. However you celebrate the holidays or whatever traditions you uphold, I wanted to share two new great traditions that you can start TODAY (!!!!) in order to teach your child about the true meaning of the holidays - thinking of others and the spirit of giving.

Another one of our traditions? Taking a picture with the statue outside of the Chinese restaurant every Christmas Eve and trying to nail the same expression as it. I'd say we're getting better.....

Let's be honest - your child has too much crap. I know it and deep down, you know it too. I've been to A LOT of homes and I can confidently say that in 95% of them, there are WAY to many toys. Cheap, plastic, half broken, discarded toys. These are toys that the kids desperately wanted. These are toys the kids NEEDED. These are toys that were played with for several hours before being thrown into a toy basket, broken and discarded, never to be thought of again. I mourn for these toys. In a *WANT* culture, surrounded by ads of bright plastic and ads with high production value that can't be replicated in the average household, I don't blame the kids. I'll be kind and say that I partially blame the parents AND the toy producers but know that I'm being kind in saying that. I will recognize that in the holiday season, it's incredibly difficult to monitor the amount of junk...aka toys....your child receives. If you know me, you know that I HATE excess waste, excess junk, and stupid plastic toys. And if you know me, you'd also know that my mother does not share that feeling. So while my baby registry has about 7 wooden and eco friendly toys on it, come the birth of my baby, I fully intend to be receiving toys that I don't want and that my child doesn't need from family members. So below are two excellent traditions that you can start with your kids to rid your house of sad toys, make room for new ones, and most importantly teach your child about what it means to give. Both these traditions can be done with children as young as 2 and as old never has a cutoff point so if you want to get in on the action as well, make it a family affair!

HOLIDAY CLEANUP AND DONATIONS// This one is pretty simple. Today or tomorrow, tell your kids that your doing a roundup of all the toys they currently have that they don't play with. Teach them the importance of recycling by responsibly recycling and discarding broken plastic toys. Teach them about giving to those less fortunate by making a pile of gently used toys that, while your children don't play with them anymore, some children don't have any toys and would gladly take them, use them, and love them. If your child is having a hard time with this, explain that Santa or the Hanukkah Fairy or whomever is giving them holiday presents this year CAN'T give them new toys if theres no room for them! Sit them down and explain to them about how lucky they are that they have such good fortune in their lives that they were able to receive all these toys but that some kids have none. Ask them how they would feel if tomorrow they woke up and there were no presents waiting for them? That's how some kids feel. Then ask them how they feel when they DO have presents waiting for them? When they squeal with joy, explain to them how awesome it would be if THEY could make someone feel that way! Have an honest conversation and try to explain what it means to give to others who have less. Don't push your child into a massive cleanup the first year. Start slowly and next year, they'll remember and it'll be easier. It's important that you also take your child with you when you donate their toys. Find a Women and Children's center, a foster home, or even the nearest Goodwill all with a simple Google Search. I prefer to donate to a domestic abuse shelter during the holidays and in about 5 minutes you can find and contact one in order to donate. Please remember though to NOT publish any addresses online since these shelters take extra precautions to ensure the safety of the women and children they are protecting! By taking your child and having THEM make the drop-off, your allowing them to FEEL how giving feels. Make sure to give them a high five or a hug and tell them how not only are you proud of them but they should be proud of themselves for bringing happiness to other kids - something that the holidays are all about!

                                                                A tree made out of shopping carts....*SIGH*

                                                               A tree made out of shopping carts....*SIGH*

GIVE ONE AWAY// This is a tradition that I'm most excited to start with my own child once they're old enough. It's a pretty simple idea - once all the presents are unwrapped but BEFORE they're ripped open to play with, your child must choose one of their new presents to donate. (I can already hear the gasps). Before you think I'm a holiday monster, hear me out! Giving away old toys they no longer play with is amazing but let's be real - most of those toys, your kid didn't care about anyways. It's an entirely different and much more special concept to give away a toy that they still desire. Make sure that you explain this new tradition BEFORE gifts become unwrapped and make sure that you give a friendly reminder during the unwrapping that they should keep in mind which item they would like to donate. You might think that the younger kids would have a hard time with this but I've seen kids as young as 2 happily give away new toys. The older children, the kids who are already ensnared in our Want Society are most likely going to be the ones that have the issues. You can help ease this idea by reading a note from Santa or the Hanukkah Fairy that explains that they've included a toy to be given away by your child and why and how your child now gets to be Santa or the HF for a special kid. You can even throw in a ringer toy but you might be surprised as to what your child ends up choosing. Then you can take this item to your place of worship (many often have donation bins out all holiday season) or to your donation center of choice. As with the Holiday Cleanup toys, make sure it's your child that's making the drop off and continue to praise them throughout the day or include their kind actions in a toast at dinner that evening. 

I plan to uphold these two traditions for when my baby comes and hopefully they in turn pass them along to their kids. Holidays have unfortunately turned into a "Who has more toys" and "But I wanted THAT toy, not this one!" and it totally grosses me out. Most children I see these days are consumed in this culture of receiving without giving and it's such a sad sight to see. THINGS are not what make any season, much less the holiday season, yet this is what is given the most emphasis. Making a list of demands for gifts, going to see Santa so you can tell him what you want, sneaking in to find presents all the while their mountain of "old" toys lays sad and forgotten. We, as adults and parents, need to bring back those gifts that can't be wrapped - love, humility, and kindness and now is the perfect time to start!