A Montessorian Takes a Quick Look at Holiday Gifting – by Karen Holt
Black Fridays, Small Business Saturdays, Cyber Mondays – what’s a parent to do? The rush is on, and when does it stop? Not until you drop… the day after Christmas when all the boxes and wrapping paper have been thrown away, the toys that had missing pieces have been trashed, and the stuffed animal that accidentally got chewed up by the pet dog has been swallowed.
However, it is hard to break the expectation. Our children (mine did too) expect there to be a lot under the tree when they rush into the room on Christmas morning. How can we make the transition to a more ecologically, mentally, and spiritually sound holiday season when the hype seems to get worse every year?
Here are two favorite material suggestions for both boys and girls:
- Wooden blocks – all shapes and sizes that can grow in complexity year after year (which also can be preserved to hand down to your children. Imagine your grandchildren still playing with the same set of blocks as their parents once did — talk about a gift that keeps on giving!)
- Legos – Today, there are seemingly endless sets available.
The key for toys with many pieces is to do what Montessori teachers do in the classroom: find containers to house them in and control the chaos.
While on the topic, in every Montessori home of young children there should be two or three bookshelves where toys can be rotated on and off to maintain interest and order. However, avoid toy boxes at all costs! It’s easy to simply toss toys into a box come pick-up time but this creates inherent disorder and a general disregard for organization.
And of course, don’t dismiss the value of the gift of memories made as a family. Just wait until your college-age children come home for the holidays. They will ask you to make their favorite meatloaf, play the same holiday music they have year after year, sometimes even read their favorite holiday story — all of which are immaterial yet will be worth so much to them in the future.
Gifts don’t have to be extravagant to create great memories — you can still simply wrap a box that contains tickets to the Peace Center, the Biltmore House, or an ice skating rink downtown. You could gift boxes that contain a puzzle to be put together, a day hiking trip for the family on the Blue Ridge, or a cooking day with Grandma. How about a whole-family visit to an animal shelter to help with exercise, care, cleaning cages, etc. (First prerequisite understood: no animals allowed to come home!)
Keep it simple; value the time spent together as a family, not the money spent that might haunt you come January.
Not my quote, though I wish I had said it: “Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.”