It’s so fun to see our kids’ excitement when they’re opening gifts. But it’s oh-so beautiful to see our kids delight as they GIVE gifts. Here are some simple ways to help your kids get excited about giving.
When I was growing up, my parents really wanted us to fully experience the joy of GIVING at Christmastime. So from the time we were very young, they encouraged us to do jobs around the house to earn money and purchased all our own Christmas gifts. And some of my favorite holiday memories are centered on the gifts I was able to give to family members and the thoughtful gifts I received from siblings.
I’ll never forget one year when my sister gave me a very unexpected and generous gift. Whenever we were shopping with my mom, I’d been loudly admiring a little wind-up doll that played a beautiful song. I’d already requested something different from Santa. I knew my parents would only be buying me clothes. So I figured it was worth letting my siblings know about my interest in the doll, even though it cost $20 which was way out of the range of what my siblings could afford. I was so surprised and delighted to find that doll in the lovingly-wrapped box my sister handed me on Christmas! But I think that she might have been even more delighted than me when she saw how happy I was.
With our own children, my husband and I have carried on this tradition. As a mom, some of my all-time favorite moments have happened as I’ve watched my children’s excitement as they’ve carefully picked out gifts for their siblings, barricaded themselves into a secret spot to wrap those gifts, and then watched with great anticipation as their gifts were opened and appreciated.
Here are some simple steps to help you set you give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season:
1. Work with your children to figure out a Christmas present budget. When my children were little, I found that it worked best to have them simply work towards a dollar per family member and buy their gifts at the dollar store where everything is conveniently the same price. As kids get older, you may want to look online or check out what’s available at stores to help them get a sense of what types of gifts would be available in different price ranges. Setting a Christmas budget and shopping around for the best prices on gifts is a great and simple step towards teaching our kids real-life economic principles. Of course the budget needs to be somewhat flexible. I’ve loved seeing my children occasionally dip into the funds they were saving for something for themselves or team up with another sibling to buy a perfect gift that costs more than they’d planned to spend.
2. Help children think through what family members might want. As we talk through what to get for each sibling and drop hints about what we might want, we can help our children develop observation skills and learn the art of choosing gifts that show that they are in tune with their siblings’ interests and needs.
3. Set up a way for your children to earn their Christmas budget. If you already have a money/economic system in your home, great, use that (and maybe add in some extra opportunities to do extra work and make extra money). If you don’t already have a working system, now’s a great time to get your kids going on working, earning and saving. For younger children, you can make a simple chart with a square for every $.25 or $.50 they’ll need to get up to the overall amount they plan to earn and create a list of “money jobs” they can do around the house to check off each square on their chart (Watch this video to see my twins explain how they learn money toward specific things using a chart: Learning About Earning).
4. Help children purchase/prepare gifts. Set up a little “date” with each child to go to the store and get their gifts or a time to get together and choose gifts to order online. Alternately, go to the store together and have people go in different directions and avoid each other as they pick out gifts (this can be a fun challenge and a great family activity!). Set up a “wrapping station” in a tucked-away area of your house where there are plenty of boxes, wrapping paper, bows and tape so kids can wrap their gifts. Let them wrap their gifts any which way they can or spend time to teach them how to wrap in a traditional manner – the important thing is that kids are putting effort into making the gift attractive as part of their demonstration of love for their family members.
5. Set aside a special time on Christmas or even Christmas Eve for the kids to give out their gifts. This way, your children’s thoughtful gifts will not be overshadowed by grander ones. After all the hoopla of stockings and Santa gifts on Christmas morning, we eat a special Christmas breakfast and then spend an hour or two having each child give out their gifts, one at a time. We make a big deal of every gift and ensure that every giver gets a great hug and thank you from the receiver plus praise from us for their thoughtfulness.
Big Kids and Adult Kids: Our children are now highschoolers and college students and it’s been great to see how this tradition has evoloved. They’ve now opted to draw names and they get a nice gift for the person whose name they drew (the amount they spend on this special gift has increased each year – it started at $20 then moved up year by year as they got jobs and started earning more money. This year they decided to do a $40-50 price range for their special sibling gift. In addition to giving something nice to the sibling whose name they drew, they also purchase something small ($3-5) for their other siblings (their favorite cereal or candy, something they’ve noticed that sibling needs – like windshield wiper fluid, you name it). They also give a gift to me and to my husband, Jared (sometimes it’s an inexpensive gift they’ve noticed we need – nice pens, new hot pads, a fun mug, etc. and often it’s a nice letter or “coupons” for things they will do for us – 10-minute shoulder massage, making a favorite treat for us, doing extra chores, etc.),
One of my favorite parts of Christmas is still seeing the kids give their gifts. All the years of giving gifts to each other have led to strong and beautiful gift-giving moments each Christmas. The expressions of excitement as they give and receive are still heartfelt and heartwarming and there are always hugs – even between kids who aren’t generally on the best of terms at the time.
We wish you all the best as you strive to give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season!
QUESTION: Do your kids give gifts during the holidays? Do they budget, use their own earned money, and/or pick out the gifts they’d like to give? What works in your family?
CHALLENGE: Come up with a way to give your kids more “ownership” when it comes to earning, picking out and giving gifts this holiday season.