As the holiday season approached, my husband and I experienced more than the usual anxiety. It wasn’t a matter of what to buy, for us, it was important to consider what not to buy and the many reasons why:
We wanted to avoid the crush of gifts that create an association in a child’s mind that the holiday is all about her and what she gets. Our little family has some solid traditions in sharing meals and occasions with friends and family and we wanted that focus to continue since that is the most important part of celebrations for us.
Additionally, with 90 percent of toys coming to our country from China, and 82 percent of the toy recalls involving these imported items, every new bit of inexpensive plastic is as much of a concern as it is a gift.
Beyond the hazards, many toys now have little educational or imaginative play experience, the focus is on the acquisition of the toy, of having the latest movie character item, and all the associated collectible merchandise. Merchandise inevitably headed for the landfill. Fostering this kind of consumerism in our children isn’t acceptable to me as a parent.
Not only do many of these licensed toys introduce young people to fashion and consumerism before they have developed critical judgment, but we as parents give them the stuff too early. And so much of it is junk.
Despite our efforts, presents will come anyway. We chose the most durable, lasting items of value and bought one or two of these instead of many. Friends and family filled in with plenty more. We have toys — enough that I trip over them daily. Funny thing, my child spends more time with books and outdoor activities than anything else.
Our child’s birthday arrives before the abundance of Christmas presents has faded. While we plan on one well-thought-out gift from us, we decided to do something different with her birthday celebration. There will be cake and food, there will be lots of friends, and there will be a fantastic indoor gymnastics session filled with trampolines and tumbling and bouncing. There will not be any presents from friends. Instead, we are going to encourage the other parents to place a lightly used or new book in a box for donations to the National Center for Family Literacy.
This new approach to kids’ parties is growing, according to an article in the New York Times. Some parents will be surprised by it. Some will bring gifts anyway. And perhaps, some will be inspired to do the same thing .
As for my child, I don’t think she’ll miss out on anything. She’ll be too busy having fun with her friends.
[This post was written by Beth Bader.]