All across the blogging world, articles are being written gift-buying strategies, ideas for gifts, the perfect gifts for your kids etc. Many of these posts will be sponsored by some of the companies trying to sell you the gifts, many more are simply attempts to provide ideas for presents.
My 12-year-old son has unopened presents from Christmas five years ago
I’ll let you into a secret. My 12-year-old son has unopened presents from Christmas five years ago. Five years ago he was an only child, and I’d recently divorced his mother. It’s possible that I was buying him gifts as an attempt to compensate for my absence, but in any event that was the last year I went mad with Christmas present buying.
I now have a 4-year-old son as well, so it’s become even more important to my wife and I that we live in a house that’s free from clutter with shared spaces that all of us can use.
During the day, the kids are encouraged to play in the lounge – although we have a one in one out policy on toys downstairs. If our youngest wants to play with lego, then the previous toy needs to be tidied up and put back in his room.
Before they go to bed, all toys go back to the kid’s rooms. In this way, the lounge is fit for adults once the kids are asleep.
Our 4-year-old has limited toy storage space (four storage boxes), so if he wants new toys he needs to decide which ones he’s grown out of before he can get some new ones.
This time of year really highlights a few minimalist truths and we have put some thoughts together on how to combat them.
1 – Experiences trump possessions every time.
Think about the best moments in your life. Go on. Actually, spend a minute reviewing the most important or amazing experiences you’ve been through. I’ll wait.
Done? Right, how many of those amazing memories were bound up in a possession or an object?
It’s about the small experiences that make it feel like Christmas
Christmas for us isn’t just about the morning and the mountain of presents. My wife is a Christmas nut and loves to dedicate a huge portion of December to all things festive. However, it’s not about the “stuff”. It’s about the small experiences that make it feel like Christmas. Hot chocolate by the log fire, her homemade gingerbread lattes (which our four year old also loves – without the espresso shot obviously), choosing the Christmas tree.
All of these moments can become the experience of Christmas. The day is one thing but the anticipation and the memories of the season are what we want our children to remember.
This year our son is eager to go ice skating and it is moments like that which can really make Christmas magical without buying a stack of gifts to create that perfect Instagram morning photo. Here are our top five experiences for kids to get into the festive spirit:
- Local ice skating – find a local rink (outdoor ones are my favourite) and get all snuggled up in gloves and scarves for a few spins around the ice.
- Create a signature hot drink to enjoy in December – we love to use the Monin Gingerbread Syrup to add to hot frothy milk for our little one.
- Spend a day doing Christmas baking for gifts – we have a fab Gingerbread recipe which is great fun for the kids to do. We use them as gifts for his nursery friends on the last day of term
- Make a charity box – there are a number of ways to do this but one of my favourites is to do a reverse advent calendar. Every day in December you add a toy or a piece of clothing to a box to be given at Christmas to a less fortunate family
- Make your Christmas pudding – our son has helped with the annual Christmas pudding bake for the past two years and is excited to join in again this year.
2 – Kids don’t care about presents.
Well, of course they do. They say they want the latest transformer or a new iPad, and it’s true they do really want these things. But project yourself forward a couple of weeks after Christmas. How many of the gifts they begged for are now being played with?
How long before these gifts get forgotten or discarded?
There will be a couple – probably the main present – that will become the toy of the year for your child, but how about the rest? How about all the ‘stocking fillers’ and gifts from well-meaning relatives? How long before these gifts get forgotten or discarded?
We still get our kids gifts for Christmas, of course we do. However, we think very carefully about every gift we do get. It’s hard not to lavish gifts on your children but there is a lot of options out there that will stand the test of time rather than just being a plastic piece of crap that will be forgotten. The other thing we try to include with our gift choices is how that toy or gift will become a memory. With this in mind we tend to choose things we can do with our children or that they can use their imaginations for. Here are our firm favourites for gift ideas:
- Lego – we love lego in our house. It’s not cheap and so we think carefully about what pieces the boys might benefit from (baseboards are always a hit!). Lego also do a great range of prices and kits so there’s always something to suit the boys changing wishes.
- Outdoor gifts – firelighting kits, tools, den building gear… our boys are outdoorsy. For my four-year old’s birthday we got him a firelighting kit (which he is only allowed under my watchful eye) but he loves it.
- Board games – playing board games is a great way to connect with your kids on their level. It is also a way to reduce screen times in the evening. A big bowl of popcorn and a board game is a lovely way to spend a Christmas evening.
- Essentials – half the time kids just love unwrapping things. By adding a few essentials to the Christmas morning sack you can “add to the pile” without it being unnecessary. New toothbrushes or stationary for school are great ways to fill stockings for example.
- Favourite treats – Our kids love chocolate and they don’t have it very often so Christmas is a great way to treat them with a few nice little edible treats.
3 – Minimalism isn’t about living in a white box
My wife “themes” our Christmases – yes, you read that right. Last year it was a Fairisle theme, the year before I believe it was tartan and I think there was even a dalliance with black and gold. However, as we embrace minimalism more this year we are having to assess what we buy and fill our home with over Christmas.
It’s easy to go mad buying junk
We live in a beautiful cosy house which comes alive in the winter and so decorating to us fills us with great joy. The trouble is it’s easy to go mad buying junk to create that picture perfect living room. This year my wife is trying a new approach and going au natural… yay for me!
Here are my wife’s top five ideas for natural decoration:
- Scour the local area for holly sprigs and fir branches – get permission from landowners before you take anything though. Try local farms as a first port of call.
- Use dried fruit for garlands – here’s a lovely little ‘How to’ – https://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/home-garden/craft-hobbies/crafting/make-a-dried-orange-christmas-garland
- Use twigs! – Twigs are a fun way to make decorations and a lovely way to get the kids involved. Here are a few ideas – https://rainydaymum.co.uk/twig-crafts-christmas/
- Scented pinecones – all kids love collecting things in the woods. In early autumn it’s conkers, then it’s sweet chestnuts for roasting. When it gets cold we like to head out to the woods to fill a bag with pinecones. This year we are turning them into lovely scented pinecones. I am going to try this technique – https://feltmagnet.com/crafts/How-to-Make-Scented-Pine-Cones
- Centrepieces – Use larger logs to make centrepieces or candle holders to give your home a rustic and cosy feel
So there you have it – our tips and ideas for a more minimal Christmas this year.