The beginning of Advent is only a few weeks away and many of us are already buying gifts and trying to figure out how to cut back on the rampant consumerism that sweeps through the season. Helping kids to enjoy the blessing of giving rather than receiving at Christmas is a huge challenge. The list below is adapted from one that I found in Parent Map.
Support Kids of the World: Helping your children understand that other kids don’t have the privileges they do and need their help can be an enjoyable experience. Supporting children through organizations like World Vision, Compassion or VIVA UK is one way to both educate and give back at Christmas.
Buy a livelihood for families. Gifts that provide a livelihood for those who struggle with hunger and poverty can be particularly meaningful as they empower children and make them realize we can all make a difference in this world. World Concern and Heifer Project are just a couple of the organizations that now provide opportunities for the giving of livestock – from chickens to cattle. Tearfund UK has a program where you buy a gift voucher and then the recipient decides what they will give. This might be more fun for some kids.
Donate a Bedtime story. Many families have few or no age-appropriate books in their home and kids miss out on the important literacy building ritual of bedtime stories. First Book is a non profit that works to distribute new books to low income families in schools in the U.S. and Canada.
Hold a Make Something Party. Some years ago Adbusters started a Buy Nothing Day campaign to counteract the Black Friday shopping frenzy of North American Culture. A group in Southern California started a Make Something Day instead.. I love the positive spin on this. Organize a party where your kids can help make gifts for underprivileged kids in your communities. There is something very special about a gift that has been handcrafted. I can guarantee that the recipient will hold onto it for years to come.
Make a Loan, help a family. This is a great suggestion for older kids that you not only want to encourage to give but who you also want to learn about investing and financial responsibility. KIVA and Hope International are two of the many Christian organization that facilitate micro-lending.
Shed a Light on a Brighter Future. One Million Lights is a non profit that aims to provide sustainable, usable lights to homes without electricity in developing countries through a buy one give one model. Buy solar-charged lanterns and you keep one and a family in need gets the other – a brilliant (pardon the pun) idea.
Give Hope for Tomorrow: Plant a Tree, Buy a Stove. In Plant with A Purpose’ alternative gift catalogue, a tree only costs $1 and a fuel efficient stove is $30. I think that this type of gift can be a wonderful educational tool to help children understand the consequences of environmental degradation. Again the fact that we can actually do something to change the situation can be very empowering for young people.
Invite International Students Over for Christmas. There are lots of international students who do not have anywhere to go for Christmas. Consider inviting some over on either Christmas eve or Christmas day. Contact your local college or university to find out how to extend this invitation. We have done this for the last couple of years. It has become a real highlight of the Christmas season for us. At the same time get your kids to read up on Christmas traditions from around the world as suggested above.
Go Fairtrade or locally produced with all your purchases. A growing number of organizations provide fair traded gift items. Ten Thousand Villages is one one that we have frequented for years. Another possibility is One World Futbol’s smart soccer ball requires no pumping and never goes flat. Each time you purchase one another is donated to a community in need. Or for those that live in the Seattle area take you kids on a tour of Theos Chocolates and end by purchasing gifts for all the family.
Protect the World’s Animals. You might like to adopt an animal at your local zoo or contribute to an animal shelter or participate in one of the World Wild Life’s projects. One of my standard Christmas gifts is National Wildlife Federation’s monthly magazines – Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. It is an award winning educational magazine that provides entertainment and instruction throughout the year.
Memories for the New Year. Gift each other with a memory book or video. Reflect on the previous year and capture children’s memories that can become part of your family and church story.
Christmas Gifts that Won’t Break provides weekly Advent reading, looks at spiritual gifts that bring hope, peace, joy, and love to family, community, and world and challenges people to rethink the gifts they ask for and give during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Truceteachers.org has an excellent guide with ideas for toy buying during the Christmas season. Some of their suggestions are be thoughtful, plan a family experience together like going for a hike, a bike ride, or helping out a neighbor and be creative.
Believe it or not kids enjoy gifts their family or friends have made far more than expensive store bought ones so here are a few things to think about.
Only give gifts of home made toys and or crafts, or those that are locally made.
Give toys away at Christmas rather than accumulating more.
Host a toy exchange with friends.
And if you are still not sure what to do check out Momastery – Mastering the Mom.
This is part of a series on Christmas/Advent resources. You can check out the other lists on activities for kids, worship ideas, blue Christmas celebration and more on our Church Calendar Resource page