Meaningful Gifts You Actually Want to Give Your Children
When we think about what we want our children to have, it isn’t things. It’s all intangible-- things you can’t buy in stores and wrap in boxes. In fact, it’s the ability to know that happiness doesn’t come from things.
But that’s not practical around the holidays. It’s tradition and expectation to give gifts. And I’m all about tradition.
That’s why my gift guide this year starts with the values and skills we want to instill in our children and then recommends gifts to buy that support those values and skills. Because you can’t buy and wrap what you really want to give your children, I hope this is the next best thing.
So what is it that you really want your children to have?
Do you want your children to know the importance of love and kindness?
Love makes the world go ‘round, and one of the most important things we teach our children is to love. We shower them with kisses and let them see us love and care for others. The best way to “give” this gift to our children is to let them be part of giving and caring for others. Here are some ideas of how to help them be part of giving and showing love at the holidays:
Have your child take part in making a list of people to surprise with a gift.
Make gifts and cards for others, especially homemade nature gifts like this branch mobile with preserved leaves.
Help your child give gifts and cards to those who are not expected to return the favor, such as through Toys for Tots, your local nursing home, or an animal shelter.
Make kindness rocks with your children to use as stocking stuffers. Use this tutorial!
When they receive gifts, make sure they look the gift-giver in the eye and say thank you, offering a hug if appropriate. This is one way we show others we care about them, not just the gifts they gave us.
Do you want to nurture your children’s curiosity about the world?
We want our children to love learning. We want to build their awareness and interest in the world, and we want them to thirst for knowledge. For children to grow into active, knowledgeable, and contributing citizens and family-members, they must wonder and then seek out the answers to their questions. Here’s what you can buy to nurture their curiosity:
Books- Take notice of the little things that interest them and purchase books that teach about those topics. Try these specially curated nature books!
Tools to explore the world, like a magnifying glass, binoculars, telescope, or a microscope
Magazine subscriptions, such as National Geographic or Click
Monthly subscription boxes like Wonderkin or Little Global Citizens
A special experience of visiting a planetarium, a whale watch, or a “behind-the-scenes” tour
A membership to the children’s museum, zoo, nature center, or aquarium
Do you want your children to develop their creativity?
The pride of making something with your own hands and brain is undeniably motivating and builds confidence. We know that many of the jobs our children will hold as adults do not even exist yet, but we do know that the careers of the future will involve creativity and problem-solving! If you want your children to develop their creativity and creative problem-solving, here are a few ideas:
Open-ended crafts and toys like clay, beads, paint, craft sticks, cooking supplies, or blocks
Construction tools, for real-life building or for play
Natural Earth Paint, eco-friendly paint for kids
Experiences like cooking together, art lessons, or a visit to Boda Borg (in Boston and abroad, ages 7 and up)
Do you want to give your children the gift of time to play?
We know “play is the work of children” and that many children are over-scheduled and stressed at young ages. It seems like what children really need is for us to schedule in time for our children to be children, to tinker and imagine on their own and to engage with others in play. If this is what you want for your children, here are some recommendations:
Time for nature play by joining Free Forest School (Free) or Tinkergarten ($$)
A special trip to an adventure playground, like play:ground NYC or the Hands-On-Nature Anarchy Zone in Ithaca, NY
A membership to a local spot with a great open-ended nature playground, like many Audubon Society locations near us
Passes to a summer family club that offers boating, nature walks, art projects, and time for playing in the sand, like Hale’s Summer Club
Do you want to give your children the gift of laughter?
Laughter relieves stress. It makes the mundane seem fun. Laughter enables children to delight in the joy around them, and it is a great way to bond with friends and family. If you want your children to grow their senses of humor, here are some ideas:
Books that make you all laugh, like these books recommended on Read Brightly and basically anything by Mo Willems or Jef Czekaj
Board games that you can play joyfully as a family, such as Apples to Apples or Telestrations
Experiences like amusement parks, water parks, and comedy shows.
Do you want your children to be active outside?
A healthy child is an active child! The CDC recommends 60 minutes of vigorous activity for children each day. If you want your children to grow their interest in being active outdoors, here are some recommendations:
A bike, trike, balance bike, or scooter (Check out this list of reviews from Mountain Mom and Tots or this one from Tales of a Mountain Mama)
Balls and sports equipment
A great sled or skis (Check out this piece from Brave Ski Mom about fitting your child's ski equipment!)
Playground set or dome climber
Outdoor play clothes and outerwear to encourage all-weather outdoor play, such as the hat and rain boots pictured below from Jan and Jul/Twinklebelle (Use code wikebaby1019 for 10% off and free shipping!)
A vacation to a National Park, like Rocky Mountain National Park or Acadia National Park
A visit to a ropes course (like TreeTop Adventures near Boston), zip lining, an outdoor rock climbing class, ice skating lessons, or a ski trip
The things we want to give our children aren’t things at all. They include love, kindness, curiosity, creativity, time to play, the joy of laughter and the interest in being active. You can't wrap them up in a nice box with a bow, but the gift choices you make can encourage these values and skills!
What other unwrappable gifts do you wish to give your children, and how will you fit them in a box this year?
Check out these other outdoor-inspired gift guides!
The Brave Ski Mom- The Best Gifts for Skiers
Outdoor Families Magazine- The Best Outdoor Gifts of 2018 | Editor’s Choice
Rockies Family Adventures- A Holiday Gift Guide for Active Kids (with giveaways)
Hiking in My Flipflops- The Best Adventure-Inspired Gifts for Outdoorsy People
Tales of a Mountain Mama- Outdoor Family Gift Guide - 2018
Traveling Mel- The Best Gifts for Travelers
Born to Be Adventurous- Ethical Gifts for the Outdoor Family (+ Giveaway)
Mountain Mom and Tots- Gift Guide for Ski Families
Nomads with a Purpose- Gift Guide for Adventure Travelers and Outdoor Lovers
Play Outside Guide- Holiday Gift Guide for Lovers of the Outdoors
Wilder Child- 2018 Ultimate DIY, Handmade Guide for Your Wild Child!
Bring the Kids- The Gift Guide For Everyone On Your List 2018