Whether it's parents giving gifts to children or children learning how to give to others, presents are a Christmas tradition that many families choose to observe. Here are some ideas for how to handle this special seasonal activity:
Wrapping With Purpose
With brown paper and craft supplies before us, I ask my girls these questions:
- Why do we give and receive presents at Christmas?
- Who were the Magi, and what did they bring to the baby King?
- How is Jesus the greatest gift the world has ever received?
Then we design wrapping paper that visually reflects our answers. Our decorations include pictures, words, phrases and Bible verses. Christmas wrapping paper has become a way to teach my children about giving and a new avenue for my family to spread the Gospel.
The Night Before Christmas . . .
On Christmas Eve, our three children each open one present. The present contains a new pair of pajamas, a Christmas book inscribed with the date, and a handwritten note from both my husband and me. In the note we write what we appreciate about that child and the dreams we have for him or her for the upcoming year. Our children look forward to this treasured tradition every Christmas.
Gift Giving and Siblings
My husband and I always thought giving our children the freedom to choose gifts for their siblings was the right approach, but we changed our minds the year our 12-year-old gave his younger brothers matching 98-cent rubber mallets — with price stickers still attached. The younger boys had spent around $10 each on their big brother and were hurt by his thoughtlessness. Over the years, those mallets have become a family joke and found their way back under the tree more than once. At the time, though, we needed an intervention.
We tasked the boys with learning about each other, specifically focusing on the following categories: favorite activities, dearest possessions and "most important." We left "most important" open-ended for individual interpretation. It generated some interesting insights.
We then had the boys list their observations and write one paragraph describing what they liked most about that brother. When their projects (and subsequent whining) were done, we thanked the boys and put their "reports" away, thinking we would pull them out as necessary.
There was never a need. The act of getting to know what was important to one another caused a shift from "me-based" buying to "you-based" giving. Learning these things firsthand somehow gave them a desire to please each other with their gifts, and that has made all the difference.
— Karen Klasi
When my 8-year-old daughter, Annabelle, wanted to give Christmas presents to her entire second-grade class, I admired her generous spirit. But given our tight finances, saying yes to even dollar-store gifts for 21 kids seemed unachievable. Before I could squelch her generosity, she began gathering an assortment of items we had at home. Her creativity shone as she selected unused or gently used gifts, from unopened sticky notes and still-bagged kids meal toys to Mason jars of a classmate's favorite candy. She had a reason behind every choice, including a teddy bear she'd bought for herself but decided to give to a boy whose father was serving in the military overseas. My favorite was the VBS Bible she chose for a boy who didn't have one.
As we filled a grocery sack full of brightly wrapped treasures that evening, I realized we'd both learned an important lesson about generosity: We always have enough to give, especially when we don't approach giving with unrealistic expectations.
— Lindsey Brackett
Choosing Gifts for Tweens
Last Christmas, I struggled with what to give my tween. She was a girl tottering between childhood and adulthood, between wanting to play with toys and wanting to be grown-up. I didn’t want her to leave childhood behind so quickly, so I purchased a whimsical toy — an advanced LEGO set I thought she’d enjoy. I also wanted to recognize the fact that she was growing up, so I looked for a gift that reflected her adult side. I wanted to acknowledge her emerging emotions and her changing interests, so I purchased a set of wood-carving tools. I reminded my daughter of her ability to see things that others can’t, and encouraged her to express that through her creativity. The first thing she carved was an owl’s face from a thick stick. A touch of childhood and a dash of adulthood equaled one special Christmas celebration.
Because I enjoyed shopping for my four children, I often went overboard at Christmas. Presents spilled out from under the tree — even before gifts from the grandparents arrived! My husband and I realized we were encouraging our kids to have unrealistic expectations. So we implemented the "three-gift rule" (not counting small stocking stuffers) in the spirit of the three gifts from the Magi.
That first Christmas was difficult. Are my kids missing out? I wondered as friends and relatives shared excitement about all the toys they bought. But I learned to appreciate the simplicity of the idea. It provides a limit and prevents me from buying on impulse. We're more thoughtful about choosing gifts, and the post-Christmas clutter is manageable. Most important, the three-gift rule reminds our family that Christmas is much more than shiny gadgets and sparkly bows.
One year, I overheard my daughter telling an incredulous young friend that she only got three presents. "I got more than I could count," he said. I braced for a "No fair!" from my daughter. Instead, she replied, "I think it's kinda cool. It makes me feel like baby Jesus." Is there any greater gift I could give my children?
— Vanessa Peters
Christmas Workshop for Kids
"Do you remember what you got from Jimmy last year for Christmas?" I asked my son DJ.
"No, but I made him the rubber-band gun and a target," he replied.
"I made Baby Joanie a mobile with pink butterflies," his sister Rachel volunteered. Her hands fluttered like the paper butterflies hanging from the wire.
Every year, I organize a Christmas workshop for each of the children. I Google simple crafts that each child could make with minimal help. Last Christmas, even my 2-year-old, Josh, participated, coloring paper twirlers and putting stickers on barrettes. I also recorded a skit the children performed as a gift for their dad.
Come Christmas morning, the children love to give their gifts and explain how each was made. The cardboard basketball hoop, giraffe puppet, flipbook, foam bathtub race car and fabric heart-shaped box may not last forever, but the memories of giving from the heart will last a lifetime.
— Jennifer Garrett
Sibling Gift Idea
To teach their daughters about the value of giving gifts, Molly and Brad helped their 9-year-old, Reilly, create a surprise for her younger sister.
Reilly often read books to 7-year-old Calley, sometimes subbing for Mom or Dad at bedtime. So the idea of making an audio book for her story-loving sister seemed perfect. After selecting seven stories from among Calley’s favorites, Reilly read them out loud into a recording device, using different voices for each character.
Christmas morning, she barely contained her excitement as Calley opened the gift and shrieked with delight.
— Cathy Elliott