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A Parent's Guide to Conscious Christmas Lists

The Christmas season brings with it so many marketing ploys that try to convince us that we need to give our kids everything (or else we aren't good parents). From matching family pajama photo shoots to Hallmark movies, from social media staged homes to the marketing onslaught of ads, commercials, flyers, and window storefronts--how do you deal? It can be overwhelming, to say the least. So, this year I've decided to cut through all the noise and help my kids learn to control their own consumerism urges--you know because this friend has this, and that friend just got that for her birthday, and this daycare buddy brought this new toy he just got last week--like, STOP. I don't want to raise little consumerism addicts--I just don't. It's not good for our planet and it stresses me out when our house is full of clutter. Plus, kids don't need 136,394 toys in order to be happy. I've actually noticed that my own kids play together SO MUCH BETTER when their toys are weeded out and organized. So, for our mental health and the betterment of our planet, I came up with a few new ideas to implement this year when it comes to Christmas shopping. As children, it is really hard to like Christmas for any other reason than the fact that they get presents. That's normal, and it is okay, but it is not what Christmas is truly about. Regardless of if you are religious or not, Christmas is about family, connecting with others, giving, being generous, showing others you care, and helping those who are less fortunate. It is not about who can buy the most crap for their kids--over half of which they don't even care about, and about 75% of which will be forgotten about before the new year. No, thank you. General rules of thumb I've implemented with our kids:

  • From September to December, if they want something, they can add it to their Christmas list. I'm not buying them anything unless they outgrow their clothes or blow a hole in their ski pants...oh, and books (I always buy books). This has been extremely beneficial to them because it is delayed gratification--they just have to wait. Yes, delayed gratification can be hard for everyone, which is why it must be practiced. One of the great benefits of it is that it helps you learn if you actually care about something, if you just thought you needed it, or you had a feeling you were trying to fix by blowing some money. Interesting when you think about it, isn't it?

  • The best gifts are often those that are made from the heart or given with purpose. For example, last year we used old crib sheets (that we had sewn initially) to make minky blankets for our kids. They have been used every single day for the past 11 months. That fabric may have cost us $50 seven years ago before we used them for crib sheets that went through two children. The material was in great condition, so we made them huge blankets without spending an extra dime and they have been well-loved ever since.

Gifts don't have to be expensive in order for them to have value to kids--that is, unless you've already taught your kids that. I'm sure you've seen how babies and young kids have just as much fun playing with the boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbons as they do with the actual gifts. *Remember this.*

When it comes to all of the things they "think" they want, I want my kids to actually stop and reflect. Do I really like this? Do I need it? Is it going to benefit me and help me grow? What is the point of just buying things for the sake of spending money? That is not a good habit to instill in children. The way to help them with this, I've found, is they don't get to make a Christmas list that is a mile long. This year, when we started talking about Christmas lists, I stated our guidelines. They get to pick an item or two for each category. This means, we get some choice in what they get and also have ideas to send to our family members. I've also made it clear that just because it's on their list, doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to get that item. This way, once they have their lists made, they have quality items that they will use, enjoy, and appreciate! Here are the categories for their Christmas lists: 1) Activity Item: meaning it helps your kids be active and get exercise. Here are some ideas: Does your child need a bike, a scooter, skates, helmet, rollerblades, or a soccer ball? Maybe a sleigh, a gymnastics suit, new runners, or a hockey net? Swim goggles, second-hand skis, balls, water balloons, snow colour spray, and the list goes on. These activity items are fun, get your kid active, and sometimes even get them outside. 2) Learning Item: this covers anything that helps your kids learn or feeds their curiosity, even if it is a toy. This can include puzzles, map books, coding games, science kits, music items, abacus, Learning Resource toys, sorting toys, building items (Lego, K'Nex, Magformers, etc), role-playing items like play food, play tools 3) Books: I want to know what my kids want to read to keep them engaged and to feed their own love of reading. Clearly, reading is super important in our house. We read 3 books per night to each kid (sometimes more), so having good quality reading material that feeds their minds and helps them learn is a big deal to us. We also like using our local library to check books out. If we find a book we really love, then we will buy it to support the author. Typically, I let the kids look through the Scholastic book order form, or else we cruise through a bookstore so that we can actually preview the book before adding it to a list. There's nothing worse than buying a book that just isn't up to par. (Inner Compass Books make GREAT Christmas gifts for the young minds in your life!) 4) Creativity & Imagination Item: Anything that feeds creativity and imagination. This category is great because it gives your kids something to do, and you can often get in on the fun with them! Open-ended creativity items are great because they allow the child to explore without limits. This can include: markers, craft supplies, clay, play sand kits, sensory kits, art kits, playdough, costumes, instruments, Some more close-ended items are: activity books, sticker books, clothing design books, water paint books, stamps, doodle boards, etc. (All of these items are great for in the car as well!) Then, there are also the bath bomb making kits, rock painting sets, friendship bracelets supplies, jewelry making kits, etc. These types of items can be great for making for friends. 5) Clothing: While clothing might be boring for some kids at the time, most kids appreciate having clothes to wear that they like. Yes, it is practical, but it doesn't have to be boring. Get a shirt with a favourite character, cool new shoes, a new hair bow, special socks, new underwear or boots your child has been asking for--the possibilities are endless. Christmas pyjamas are always a crowd favourite around our house. 6) Games: This is something that we can play together as a family. It helps the kids learn how to take turns, be good sports, practice their listening skills, and learn how to interact with other people in a kind way. 7) Toys: Obviously, in the spirit of Christmas, kids want to ask for toys. And that is totally okay. I let my kids pick two or three toys.

Other great ideas that are not THINGS: *These are what I love to give for ideas to my parents* 1) Experiences: Concerts, movie tickets, ski tickets, etc.

2) Memberships: to play centres, trampoline parks, climbing walls, gymnastics drop-ins, swimming drop-ins,

3) Gift Certificates: Let your child choose.

4) Lessons: Lessons are a great gift. This can include anything like swimming lessons, skating lessons, singing lessons, art classes, volleyball camp, ski lessons, etc.

Troubleshooting: When my kids' lists are growing too long, or my daughter shows me 4 items in the store that she wants all within the span of 30 seconds, I ask her which of those things is the most important to her. Which will play with the most and for the longest? Getting her to connect and reflect (even at the age of 6) helps her weed through her emotions and pick the item that really excites her the most--not just because her friends have it.

Once your kids have their lists done, then you have some good quality ideas to share with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings. Obviously, they aren't going to get all of the items on their lists, that that is totally okay.

*NOTE: Please don't buy them everything on their list!*

Some Christmas Shopping Rules of Thumb:

1) Don't buy things you don't need. Pick a few quality items and keep it simple. Prioritize the things your kids actually need--bigger baseball glove, new runners, or longer pants

2) Don't let Santa give the best gift.

3) Don't go into debt--it's truly not worth it.

4) You don't need to spend a lot to give a good, well-meaning gift.

5) If you're tight on the finances, make a gift! It often is more cost-effective to put together something fun to gift.

6) Don't buy something just because it's on sale.

Well, there you have it. What Christmas list tips do you have to share with me?

I'll be back with more Christmas tips for helping your kids gift to the special people in their lives.

Check out our LOCAL Black Friday deals on until November 29th on Inner Compass Books at


About the Author:

Kristin Pierce loves chai lattes, inspirational quotes, hunting down incredible kids books, and writing in rhyme. She is an award-winning children's book author, self-awareness educator, and momma of two who is on a mission to spread empowering and inspiring messages about following your passion, thinking outside-the-box, and believing in your big dreams. She is the author of Your Inner Compass That Could, Mayva O'Meere, Creationeer, Magnus O'Meere, Mind Pioneer, and Hazel Mist, Hypnotist (coming 2020).

Find us on Facebook & Instagram @InnerCompassBooks or check out our FREE Parent & Teacher Learning Resource that is full of FUN printable activities for your children.

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