Giving has many benefits. Studies have shown that people who give more to others – in both time and resources – experience greater satisfaction in life. When it comes to gifting children during birthdays and holidays, Kelsie-Marie Offenwanger, child and adolescent psychologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System, says presents are a privilege and parents should feel comfortable with the gifts they choose.
“Play is essential when it comes to a child’s development, so I would never discourage playing with toys, but I try not to make toys the focus of what children are receiving,” she said. “A question we can ask ourselves when deciding what gifts to give might include – would these toys better their lives and create memories?'”
Gifting and your child
As Offenwanger said, parents know best when it comes to their children. She encourages families to engage in a discussion about their children’s interests and holiday wishes. This can be a great mealtime conversation, where parents can be actively involved and can share their wishes, too.
“Conversations facilitated by parents that are focused on nontangible objects, such as social, emotional and health wishes can help children reframe their thinking,” Offenwanger said. “For example, a goal to spend more time together as a family or wishing for more moments of laughter can be discussed. Then the family can brainstorm how that might be accomplished.”
Here are a few gift ideas for kids that can keep children happy and healthy.
- An activity tracker or step tracker with monster feet – Kids can walk around the backyard on these monster feet finding their balance. In addition, when the weather is too rough, these are fun for everyone inside.
- A “five senses toy” – This can include something to smell (lotion), something to hear (new songs to download), something to taste (favorite dessert, bonus points for a dessert to make together), something to see (a book), something to touch (new winter gloves).
- Subscription boxes – This gift keeps on giving. Depending on your child, you can subscribe to an activity box with varying gear or one that promotes a fun craft each month. Subscription boxes can introduce families to a world of robotics, experiments, baking, art and more.
- Favorite restaurant gift cards with a new set of pajamas. Families can go out to get a treat together and have the meal in their pajamas. Tickets to an event like a local hockey game, class for making succulents or family paint night. This can be a great way to make new memories together.
- Gift cards to a movie with a few treats. Sign-up for classes at the YMCA, sports lessons or camp.
- A gift certificate for books, like “How To Train Your Dragon,” a wonderful series that promotes behavior management, emotional functioning and social relationships.
- Give kitchen tools, cookbook, recipe cards or ingredients. As a family, you can make anything from cookies to play dough.
- A sleeping bag, cool flash flight and sleepover coupon(s). These can be used for going to a family member’s, friend’s house or having a friend stay over.
- Make a photo album of memories from the year and share why you loved that moment.
- An all-time family gift idea would be to take a day or weekend family vacation.
Encourage children to give, too.
In one study, people who gave to others tend to score much higher on feelings of joy and contentment than individuals who did not give to others. Offenwanger suggests getting your children involved in the giving as well.
During the holiday season, you can have Santa (or parents) bring a big bag the week before the big day. Your family fills it with toys and leaves the bag for him. Tell your children “that night, ‘Santa’ comes back and takes them home. His elves fix the toys up and delivers them to children all over the world.” Instead of the week before, you also could do the 12 days of giving by placing an item/toy in a bin for each of the 12 days.
The items in each scenario can be donated to a local charity. “It’s a great way to make room for new items, declutter and give back” Offenwanger said.