I don’t know if it’s because we’ve always lived in relatively small spaces. Maybe it’s because we have 3 kids close in age all of the same gender. But at some point along our parenting path we decided that we simply didn’t need any more stuff.
I’ve always been a minimalist when it comes to decor, I’ve worked on it in the clothing realm and there’s something that just makes me so happy when I have an empty shelf here and there.
We never want to live beyond our means, in fact, we want to live below our means, because giving and helping are things we always want to be able to say yes to. This means not spending a bunch of money on knick knacks or fast fashion. It also means not wanting to clutter up our kids rooms and lives with all of the things that they may think they need.
Spoiler alert for parents with littles: They don’t need all of the things. They’ll never play with all of the things. Most of the things will be fun for about 3 days and then forgotten.
Add that up with the whole landfill debacle and we’ve decided that most often when we give gifts to our children it’s going to be in the form of an experience over toys. Turns out, when we do this, they can even remember from year to year what they received as a gift. If you want to be disheartened as a parent, simply ask your child what that awesome thing was that you got them for their birthday last year. Odds are, they have no clue!
It is sometimes hard to come up with various age appropriate experiences but we’ve managed to find a number of good ones along the way.
Some of our favourites when they were little were trips to a zoo in another city, maybe one bigger or better than our local one, excursions like Science World or even the Waterslides which we don’t just do as a norm. When you’re a family of 5 these things can cost well over $100.00 for a day and so we make them special and give them as gifts.
We’ve also gifted nights in a hotel, which they think is super fun (think pool, morning cartoons, extravagant breakfast – all out of the norms for us!), concert tickets to a band that they’re into, or tickets to a play. We usually save the play for a Christmas gift because it’s a fun thing to do together over the holidays.
One year for Christmas we nixed presents altogether (except for the hoodie/sock/book combo which are really necessities) and went on a snowboarding vacation. Another birthday we gifted hockey or baseball tickets.
All of these add up to be fun family times that our kids value, appreciate, and talk of often. I assure you, they never talk about how exciting it was to get that video game 5 years ago or that monster truck that time. Those things are sitting buried at the bottom of a closet somewhere and long forgotten. But the memory of the time spent together through experiences are something they drawn on time and again.
If you’re worried your kids will miss the stuff – they might at first. But when you make the event extra fun, choose something you know they’ll love and talk about it for months after, they’ll soon realize the value of it too.