Forget a toy, give your kids something greater the next time you’re planning a gift.
We’ve all become guilty of it: filling our lives with more than we can take. We’re a culture of consumerism and we found this insatiable need to buy more, more and even more on top of that. But then starts the pitfall and realizing we have nowhere for all this more to go. And then the longing for less stuff because we found that the more we had, the more it took away from what we truly want—time, money, peace, fulfillment.
Just like the rest of us in the era of Marie Kondo and tidying up, I was looking for that life-changing magic that would make my days feel a little more organized. I couldn’t take all the things we accumulated over time, from the toys that didn’t get played with to the random stuff that always found a new hiding place around the house. We had unfortunately inherited too much, and I feared that there were lessons we missed teaching our children with all that we kept (and kept receiving).
More than anything, I wanted my kids to value not just their things, but everything. To enjoy the things they currently have and not have a constant need to want more. For their imagination and what they could do with less—not the creativity they lost when playing with a toy designed to do only one thing. And to learn from each other, branch out, play and make friends without the ease of an inanimate object.
So leading up to my son’s birthday, I decided to politely ask for no physical gifts in one simple sentence on his invitation.
“The best gift you could give is one-on-one time with your kids.”
My son had just started elementary school, so all that limitless time for playdates had come to a screeching halt. His friends had all but one gone to different schools, and the one that stayed, was in a different class. Play time during the day was limited to recess, and the hours after school let out seemed to suddenly vanish to bedtime. The monotony of weekday commitments made getting together harder and harder to coordinate for everyone. I decided then and there I wanted him to have something more as he entered a new year – lasting memories with the friends he had in his life now, because even that I knew would change.
We simply suggested instead of gifting a toy, give him a unique experience together of your choosing. And that present became more than just for him—but for the child choosing what to do. Each child designed something unique to them, that they wanted to enjoy with my little boy one-on-one. And he got to open each “gift” with delight, not knowing where they’d be going or what they’d be doing, but simply knowing it’d be together and fun. He was already elated at the prospect without ever having even gone on these adventures. There was so much more to do and each at its own distinct time!
The excitement leading up to scheduling each only built up the momentum a toy would’ve left behind. They spoke about their “date” together with anticipation, as the days on the calendar rolled by. Each gift was special to that child and each came from a place of love. It was heartwarming to see the joys they each picked out just for him, delivered in so many different ways. From picnics in the park to visiting a new play place where memories were made that won’t soon disappear, he was gifted the best thing he could—togetherness.
And little did we know, we were being gifted that, too. We got to live through each of these experiences, as we accompanied him on each adventure. We got to see his friendships blossom with the friend of choice on that date. We also got to have time to connect with their families, which was near impossible to do in a big playdate setting, but welcoming when it was just two.
Ever true to our word, we made sure to practice what we preached and gifted him our own gift of experience. We made a special day to do something he especially loved—no toys, just time. And the experience—the fully immersed time together that was gifted in celebration of another year of life—was was worth far more than any toy on the market. It was priceless.
And those toys he didn’t get? They lost their luster, he spoke of them no more. Instead we accomplished instilling in him exactly what we had set out to do. The lessons of valuing everything—what he had and who he had in his life. Imagination and dreaming up anything with them. And making memories and building a friendship over owning something more.
Yes, we all yearn for more, but more time together has become invaluable in an era where life seems to rush by. If you’re wondering what you can gift a child who seems to have everything, trust me, this is it. Gift them with experience, a special time with just you is worth far more than anything you could pick off a shelf.
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