Maintaining Minimalism and Mindfulness for Littles at Christmas!

Maintaining Minimalism and Mindfulness for Littles at Christmas!

When it comes to gift-giving in our home, whether it be a birthday or Christmas, we like to stay in alignment with the philosophies we practice surrounding minimalism, having mindfulness and focused-attention, as well as gratitude. This means that when we’re wanting to gift things to our children, we really try to make sure that it’s a pleasant experience for them in both the short and long term. 

As new, first time parents, we were so excited to give our child everything. To see him so happy, experiencing things for the first time and having all the excitement that comes from receiving and exploring new things! We noticed though, that when too many things were given, it really had the opposite effect of what we were hoping for. Or at least, the positive effects were more short lived than we had anticipated. And there’s a few different reasons for that. 

The first is that it was actually very overly stimulating and overwhelming for our little one. And not to my surprise, because even for me, after thirty plus years of having big Christmas celebrations, it's often too much for me to handle as well! The world is a new, exciting place all it’s own for these very young people, so I’ve found that in our daily practices and life experiences, keeping it simple and focused on the moment, without adding too much in addition, is fun and exciting enough for our little ones. So, I realized I needed to apply that same perspective to the way we navigated holidays and gift giving as well. If I want to provide a really beautiful, happy experience for them, I needed to make sure I wasn’t creating an OVERLY stimulating experience for them. 

Another big thing we noticed when we were providing a larger quantity of items, was that it really took away from the experience and enjoyment of each individual item. The reaction was less, the time spent with it was shorter and the overall sense of appreciation seemed to be diminished. It became a thing of, “what’s next?!” Understandably so, but not the goal. 

And it wasn’t surprising to me, because as I’ve learned so much about this in regards to everyday life and especially regarding toys and play areas, I've really seen the benefits of 'having less' played out in our life. When our children’s spaces are more filled with things or we take them somewhere where there’s so much to check out, it’s like a mad dash through the experience. Hopping from one thing to another, never fully engaging or being present and mindful in the moment. Which then leads to overstimulation, dysregulation and an overall sense of exhaustion.

Which again, I get! I think of it like spending the day at the mall. There’s so much to look at, you’ve seen a million things and if you have splurged on many items, you almost forget what you’ve gotten and have less of an appreciation for your new items, nevermind the exhaustion you feel from the experience in general! On the other hand, when you make a trip to a special, specific store and you know its the only one you’re hitting that day, you tend to navigate the experience a little more thoughtfully. Maybe you only pick out one or a few items and you’re much more excited about each of them. It’s a slower, more engaged and enjoyed experience and when you get home with your new things, you typically take better care of them, feel more joy about them and don’t feel overwhelmed by what you’ve experienced. 

That is what I really want for my little ones on holidays. Do I wish it could go on and on and never end and see their little faces lighting up and playing joyfully the entire day? Of course. But, it’s not typically the reality and we’ve found that for us, that dream is better achieved with less. 

So, last Christmas, we decided to give less and I can truly say it was one of the best days of my life. I felt so much joy and my home was filled with laughter and peace. 

Here’s what I did:

I did end up having a larger amount of items for our kids. I loved shopping for new exciting things I knew they’d love, but we also had gifts from loved ones for them. Which made for a significant stockpile of presents! I put out their big ticket items, the ones they’d see upon waking that were a bigger deal or just even larger in size, one for each child. They had their stocking, which my husband likes to save for after gift opening - per tradition, and which I also like because it saves a little something for when they feel the weight of it being over, which sort of helps soften the blow! I put out the gifts from the one or few loved ones who we would want to update later that day and thank them for, and then maybe one or a few more items from us that I knew they would be thrilled about.

I tried to be strategic about this, but of course there are no hard and fast rules. For example, last year our son was gifted this little robot from his cousins that I knew he would freak over. It was going to be such a big deal to him that I decided to save it for the days following Christmas. You know those days where no one knows what day it is or what life is anymore and it’s just spent indulging in food and new things?! I knew that if I saved it for a day when the excitement of other things was waning, he would be able to dedicate more attention and appreciation towards this very special thing. It was a great decision, because the excitement of Christmas morning alone, despite what he received, would have surely overshadowed his pure joy and love for this one item. 

That's essentially my strategy for gift giving, at least at the young age that my little ones are. Less is more and that receiving over the long term is more enjoyable all around than a 'one and done' experience. 

With anything that I have decided not to give around the time of the holiday, (because I also want to avoid a pattern where they start thinking that every day comes with something new to receive) I include those items in our toy rotation. It's a special basket that I can pull new things from whenever I want to introduce a new item and bring a little more joy to an otherwise ordinary day. I’ve also used “back stock” items like this for other people to give our children. Like if they’re not interested in spending time with a sitter, I can pull something out and let the person give it to them as a friendly gesture to encourage the relationship and interaction. Or maybe grandparents are in town and I have a fun new puzzle they’ve never done that I can bring out in order to give them something to do. 

Anyways, I hope this has been helpful or at least interesting to you, as you navigate gift giving in your home! Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below, it’s always so nice to hear feedback from friends!

Happy gift giving!!

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