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This may be the year to rethink holiday gift-giving

Around this time each year, a post starts popping up on Facebook in which a parent pleads for a “no toys, just experiences” holiday season. The post (attributed to different people throughout the years) highlights how their children ask for a toy for Christmas, play with it for a few days after they get it, and then it collects dust in favor of the latest app or game until it’s quietly donated the next Christmas. 

The post goes on to suggest heart-felt ways to give their children “experiences” as gifts. Take them to a craft class for an afternoon, schedule a movie date, or if you’re far away, give a gift certificate for lessons or a museum membership. The point being that the recipients will make wonderful memories and have quality time with loved ones. 

Sounds great, right? The reason for the season and all.  

I see plenty of parents reshare it, all but begging for others to take up the idea because they’re overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” their kids have. Heck, I’ve shared it too. My kids don’t watch network TV and aren’t bombarded by toy ads, so they really don’t ask for a lot of toys anyway. Sophie’s Christmas was made last year when she got a school jacket – it was the one thing she’d begged for. She literally screamed with joy when she opened it. 

But then there’s the comments… 

“How selfish of parents to not want their children to have the magical thrill of opening lots of gifts!”  

“You can’t tell someone what kind of gifts to give your children; you take away the joy of giving with all these restrictions!”  

“Maybe if you weren’t so lazy and disorganized, all these toys wouldn’t bother you.” 

(I honestly don’t get the horror people express over the “no toys” concept. Especially when so many complain about the commercialization of the holidays.) 

I’m still going to toss the suggestion out there, but it’s actually for the gift-givers’ benefit this year. Toy manufacturers have already warned about shortages at the holidays, the supply chain is struggling and the shipping delays of last year are likely to manifest again. Giving non-physical gifts could actually save a lot of stress and worry. Here are a few other ideas: 

  • Gift cards. I know some generations feel like giving gift cards lacks thought, but there’s no time limit on using them, and they don’t have to be spent all at once. Also, some schools and organizations sell gift cards as fundraisers, so you can help others through your gift-giving. 
  • Patronize local businesses. You’re more likely to find more unique items, you don’t have to worry about how long shipping will take (or cost), and you’re bringing a little holiday cheer to people in your hometown by buying from them.  
  • Give one “large” item, or a joint gift of a bigger item for all the kids or family. There’s still a lot of “wow” in a big gift such as sporting equipment or an outdoor item, and it’s also helpful if you’re on a limited budget or have a lot of people to buy for. A big family gift of something they really want or need, will definitely be appreciated, even if it’s the one thing under the tree. Some people give the gift of a trip in this way., 
  • Stamps and stationery or postcard-making kits. Everyone likes getting fun mail, and this is a gift that can be enjoyed throughout the year. You might even want to start them off with the first letter or card. As you write back and forth, you can ask questions to give them writing prompts for a return letter. 
  • Magazine subscriptions or subscription boxes. This is another gift that keeps on giving. My daughters love getting mail, and they got a Little Passports U.S. state facts subscription from Santa last year. The initial kit with a field guide and map arrived before Christmas, so that was the gift under the tree, and every month they get a new workbook with facts about two states. 

So don’t get mad at those parents asking for non-toy gifts this year. You might save yourself some stress this season as well. 

Jen Deinlein
Jen Deinlein is a self-professed “Jen of all trades and master of none.” She’s a SAHM to 8- and 5-year-old daughters, a freelance writer (you can also see her work in CPBJ) and head cheerleading coach at Penn State Mont Alto. She and her family live in Guilford Township, Franklin County, with a golf course in the backyard where they frequently rescue lost golf balls. You can reach Jen on Instagram: @groovypq; Twitter: @jlbd77 or by email: [email protected].

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