Susan Bearman has been searching for ways to teach her kids the
importance of giving during what she calls the "I want" holiday
season. Over the years, she has done everything from making
homemade crafts to organizing group excursions to the dollar store
in search of items like fly swatters and bath salts. Ultimately,
the Evanston mom of four says, "I want my kids to understand that
it is as important to learn to give as to receive."
During the holiday season, all parents share a common objective:
How do we teach our kids the importance of giving? Experienced
recipients know that the best gifts come from the heart (it may be
a cliché, but it's true).
This year, rather than take your kids shopping to buy trinkets
for one another, encourage them to get creative with their gift
giving. Here are a few ideas for sibling gift exchanges that focus
more on sentiment than money spent.
Gifts don't have to be elaborate or perfect-just thoughtful. To
come up with a creative gift idea, focus on the gift-giver's skills
and the recipient's likes and interests.
Make "coupon books" redeemable for everything from help with
household chores to at-home pedicures or even a special trip to the
ice cream store to pick up a cone. Frame a picture of the siblings
together in a wooden frame from a craft store and embellish with
personal touches. Go through family photos and put together an
album of favorites. Write an original poem or song. Surprise a
sibling by washing her bike and filling the tires so it is ready to
ride come spring. Burn a CD of big brother's top 10 favorite songs.
The artistically inclined could paint portraits of their siblings.
Even younger kids can get involved with simple projects like
creating homemade jewelry out of string, poster paints and uncooked
pasta in various shapes.
Follow a family tradition (or start your own)
If you have a cherished gift-giving tradition among your sibling
group, pass that idea down to your kids. Ada Vaughan of Lombard
grew up in a family of five siblings. Last year, her brother was
undergoing treatment for cancer during the holiday season. In lieu
of buying gifts, her family pooled the money they would have spent
on presents and gave it to her brother. They still wanted to do
some sort of gift exchange and came up with a creative idea that
didn't cost a dime.
Vaughan and her sister decorated a small box for each member of
the family with wrapping paper and ribbon. Everyone received a set
of index cards and was instructed to write a note to each member of
the family. On Christmas, the whole family opened their individual
boxes of handwritten notes from all of the relatives.
"Everyone loved it. I keep the box on my dresser and still look at
it from time to time," says Vaughan, who definitely plans to
continue this tradition with her own family. Even though her
daughter is only 2, she says, "I want
to teach her at an early age that it is important to give
thoughtful gifts during the holidays."
If your family doesn't have a specific gift-giving tradition,
let this year be the start of one. For example, family members
could simply write each other notes and tuck them into stockings to
be read on Christmas morning.
Rather than buy individual items for each member of the family,
kids can instead choose a gift the whole group can experience
together. For example, plan a day of sledding and hot chocolate.
Make an invitation for each family member with all of the
Bearman recalls a group gift her whole family loved. "One year,
all of the kids pitched in to buy a game for the family. They
wrapped it up and we all opened it together one night of Hanukkah,"
Give a gift to a charity or organization in a sibling's name.
This is a great way to demonstrate the importance of making
charitable contributions during the holiday season. For example, if
your teenage daughter loves animals and volunteers at the local
shelter, her sibling could make a donation to the shelter or a
national organization that advocates for animal rights. Similarly,
if your son's baseball team is trying to raise funds for new
equipment, a donation to the cause would make a great present.
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