I’m all set to sit down and write out my Holiday Gift Guide for 2015. My curated list of what’s hot, what’s not, what kids (and parents) are loving right now. I’m certainly prepared for it…I’ve received countless material on the latest toys and trinkets, reviewed some pretty amazing toys and did some pretty substantial playing, too. Everywhere I look – social media, snail mail, my email inbox (to name just a few) I’ll catch a glimpse of someone else’s gift guide: “Top Toys For Toddlers This Year” “What Your Kid Needs, Now” “Santa’s Best List” “Our Most Popular Toys Of The Season” and so on. It’s making me dizzy. This year I’m not going to add on to that. This year I’d like to instead provide my top 5 truly unique gifting opportunities, none of which have to do with toys.
In truth I’ve been struggling a bit lately with the concept of Christmas with my kids. The constant asking for things and being good just to get. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the excitement Christmas brings. I love the kids faces lighting up when believing in the magic. I would never ever take that away from them. But it’s a long month leading up to the main event and it’s hard to keep little ones grounded. Among all of the catalog searches, TV ads, shopping center excursions and holiday parties, I’ve been trying to sprinkle in a message or two about what Christmas is truly about. We rounded up toys we no longer use in the basement and gave them to charity. We went to Walmart and bought a gift anonymously for a child in need. The kids have even been helping me select gifts for people in their lives that are close to them. These are the types of things that make me feel a little more grounded and I hope it rubs off on them, too. Here are 5 things you won’t find on Amazon this Holiday season, each one tied up with a little educational bow.
- A Destination
Every year for Christmas my parents fly us down to Florida to be with them. There are no toys waiting for the kids when we get there. Instead there are two loving and adoring grandparents that want to be present in their grandkid’s lives during the holidays. What better way to teach your kids about family then to be with them this holiday season?
- An Experience
When I was in high school I got one of the leads in our school play, “Once Upon A Mattress.” For Christmas that year my Dad took me to Broadway to see it live before I performed it on stage. It’s one of the best non-tangible gifts I’ve ever received. Sarah Jessica Parker starred as the lead before Sex And The City was even a thing. This year my Mother In Law took my 4 year old daughter to see Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. They got a treat after and chatted about their favorite parts. We also took her to the Nutcracker. She started ballet this year and saw where practicing an art can really take you. This type of education will live on long after a toy is forgotten or given away.
- A Charity
I was having difficulty one year figuring out what to get my Dad for Christmas. He always told us not to spend our money on him. I thought back to all of the trips he took us on and played “Tour Guide Joe.” In particular our trip to Yellowstone Park was one of my favorites. He has always been an avid environmentalist. That year I donated money to a National park in his honor. My sisters also picked charities that reflected some of their favorite family trips and we put a book together with a description of each one along with our favorite memories. We all learned that it feels good to do good, while helping to preserve the land that we loved for another family to enjoy.
- A Skill
You know those ballet, swimming, art, gymnastics, music, soccer lessons you take your kids to every week? Those are gifts. You’re giving your child a skill, the ability to listen to direction, and socialization. Those lessons are not mandatory. They are paid for both monetarily and in time. Make sure your child knows this; wrap up a piece of paper that says “I love to watch you dance. Here are 10 more classes.” Appreciation is a learned skill, too.
- A College Education
No, really – you can give the gift of an actual college education. Every year both sets of grandparents and even great grandparents put money towards our kids 529 college savings plan. Anyone can do this as a new feature this year – friends, family, you name it. When our kids walk down the aisle to get their college degree, we’ll get to tell them it was made possible by a lot of different people who always believed in them. That may be the greatest gift of all…
I’ve partnered with Fidelity & MEFA for this post in support of the U.Fund 529 College Savings Plan. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.