1. Make gifts for the kids. Although we make things for other family members, we have yet to create and give a homemade gift to one of the kids (I did make tutus like I mentioned in a previous post but that was for their birthdays so it doesn't count!). I had plans to do just that this year but with the introduction of homeschooling into our home, the past 3 months have been a whirlwind of busyness and I just never found the time to get things underway! Thankfully, the ideas I had are ones that will be just as good for the girls next year so this suggestion is being put back on the shelf for now. To be honest, I'm not sure that this is in any way a money saver. In fact, I personally would tend to spend more on supplies in the long run. It's the love and thought thats put into making something for your child, as well as the uniqueness of the item, that appeals to me!
2. Gifts of charity. This is something we are planning on doing this year. I won't say exactly what as I am sure that there are family members reading but basically, its the perfect thing to give to someone who has everything - something to someone who has nothing! Here are some examples: Gifts of Compassion and Advent Conspriacy. I'm sure there are lots of other options out there but those are 2 of my favorites. The Advent Conspiracy promo video is fantastic at putting things in perspective and says all that I could ever want to say about giving in this way at Christmas:
3. Taking from that video - the idea of giving presence. I think it is a beautiful concept and one that will hit home more with your kids than simply giving money to a good cause. Its spending time with people or helping out in ways that mean you are right in there, getting your hands dirty. For example, I take the girls to the seniors home that my Mom works at for a vist every year. We bake cookies or bring candy to share. The people at the home are so overjoyed to see children. It is so adorable to see the expressions on their faces when the kids enter the room. I will also add that this is very intimidating for kids so I don't push anything. If they want to be in my arms the whole time, thats ok. But usually by the end Piper is bouncing around like her usual self and its a good lesson in being around people that are different from you.
Other ideas that I would like to someday try:
-go to the SPCA to drop off needed supplies and spend some time with the animals. I think its important to cultivate kindness to animals in your kids especially when you have none at home. Plus this is something very much at their level. Snuggling a kitty or petting a dog is very do-able (not to mention enjoyable) for a 3 and 1 year old!
-help out at a soup kitchen in the community. I realize this is something that will have to wait until they are a tad bit older but I can't wait. I think showing your kids that there is need locally and that they can help can be impacting on their young lives. Have you ever taken your child to something like this? If so, I'd like to hear about your experience and any advice you have to offer!
-go carolling and collect for the food bank. My kids will rarely sing for me let alone a neighbor so this too will have to wait. I like that it involves an old tradition with the results of helping out your community! An alternative for younger children could be taking a special trip to the grocery store and letting them help pick out items to put in the food bank bin at the store.
Any other ideas in this department? I'd love to hear about them!
Another goal of mine is to be concerned about giving 'presence' all the time, not just Christmas. I know far too often I get wrapped up in our busy lives and forget about the needs of those around us!
4. Teach the kids to give their own things. Now at first sight, this one may seem cruel. Ask the children to give up their own precious toys?! Well, if you're like me, every year before Christmas I do a bit of a 'clean out' in their rooms. Of course, everything goes to good will and they never miss it! Then recently I had a friend come over with her kids. They gave my girls each a present, ones from their own stash of things at home. I thought it was an awesome idea. Isn't that really the true way to give? Something of your very own? Something that may cost you something? I think its a wonderful life lesson. Not that I'd ever force my daughters to give away their prized possessions...I don't think thats a lesson most people are ready for let alone a 3 year old...but I do think if you make it fun by letting them pick the item, wrap it up and give it, it might just be a worthwhile activity!
Thats all I've got on the subject for this year! I'm sure some of you are breathing a sigh of relief but hopefully I have presented some things worth adding to your family's traditions! In conclucion, I'd like to recommend a book that I've found very useful in the challenge of creating new traditions for my family: "Treasuring God in our Traditions" by Noel Piper.