Non-toy gift ideas
2020 has been different on so many levels and will continue to be until the very end. What are the holidays going to be like for your family this year? Social gatherings are prohibited until further notice. Parties with extended family are out of the question… How are you going to fill the gap that prevents you from being with the people you love? I know we will try to keep the spirit and the magic of the holidays alive with time spent together, games, puzzles, crafts, outdoor activities, videoconferences with loved ones, etc. What about gift giving? Are you going to spoil your kids with toys to make up for the sadness, disappointment and anxiety brought on by the pandemic? Or will you focus on gifting non-toy alternatives and reinforcing the importance of relationships?
I read an article in a recent National Geographic newsletter that really resonated with me. I found this excerpt particularly interesting:
And though many families might be spending plenty on kid-centric gifts this year—perhaps out of misplaced guilt for 2020 or just to alleviate quarantine boredom—the pandemic can also inspire children to be less materialistic. “Parents might say, ‘Nice things are nice, but when it comes down to it, the most important thing in your happiness will always be your relationships,’” says child psychologist Lisa Damour.
Rachel Buchholz, KIDS AND FAMILY Editor in Chief, National Geographic
Ever since our kids were little, my husband and I have tried to teach them that even though toys are great to have, they are not the only thing worth receiving or giving. We’ve always insisted on including experiences and other gifts that encourage family time and relationships, are educational, practical, or help develop creativity and imagination. I’ve actually often seen them play with ‘mommy made’ crafts or their own creations for longer periods of time than with store bought toys!
If you know your kids will get more than their fill of toys this holiday season and are looking for last minute non-toy gift ideas, here are a few suggestions you might be interested in.
A family experience every month
Last year, we were inspired by this Adventure Box. My kids received the Edmonton Attractions Pass from their grandparents, aunt and uncle who live in Quebec. Each month, they picked an envelope holding a family admission to one of the attractions. Because of the distance, our relatives could not be involved in the adventures. We made sure to document our family experiences and send them photos after each visit. This proved to be an awesome gift for a few months. Then, the pandemic forced many of the attractions to close or change their services so we still have some tickets left. Thankfully, all 2020 passes have been extended through December 31, 2021. We have another year to enjoy the attractions!
There are 13 attractions to choose from, including the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Edmonton Valley Zoo, Jurassic Forest, Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm, Telus World of Science, Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and more popular destinations.
The 2021 Edmonton Attractions Pass is not available yet so you probably won’t be able to gift it this Christmas. Instead, you could come up with your own monthly activities as described in the article mentioned above.
A coupon book
Alternatively, you could print out your kid’s own coupon book. While searching for ideas for my children, I stumbled upon a great article that describes the idea and gives examples. The coupons can be for one-on-one outings, special choices, alone time with someone of their choice… You can also download a free printable coupon book on their website.
Non-toy gift idea with a sentimental value
Since I’m a photographer, I have thousands of photos of my children and our family life. My son came up with his own non-toy gift ideas this year. He said he would love to have some photo frames to hang up on his bedroom walls. Since I’m an expert procrastinator, I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time. Now would be the perfect occasion to get it done! The plan would be to get my son to pick some of his favourite photos, have them printed, frame them and hang them up. What a great way to decorate his room and remind him daily of how awesome he is and that he truly belongs to this loving family!
If I decide to go ahead with this idea, I will wrap some frames and we’ll do the rest together after Christmas. This will give us a bonus one-on-one activity to do!
Gifts for parents and siblings
While receiving gifts is fun, we also want our children to experience the joy of gifting. We want them to think about what makes a good gift and what makes it appreciated by the person receiving it. It doesn’t have to be complicated and doesn’t need to involve money.
One thing I never received from my children when they were younger was a list of questions for them to answer about me. My husband received one on Father’s Day when they were in kindergarten. I have to admit I was a little jealous! Why hadn’t the teachers thought about doing the same for moms?
I asked my kids to do it for me about a year ago, but sadly, that never happened. And then at the beginning of the quarantine, my son was cleaning his room and stumbled upon the unfilled questionnaire. He completed and handed it to me while I was working. It was such a heartwarming and unexpected gift! I loved reading all of his answers and I will hold on to them forever. Now I just hope my daughter will do the same this Christmas!
If you would like your kids to answer questions about you, they can be as simple as:
- What is something mom always says to you?
- What makes mom happy?
- What is mom’s favourite food?
Here is a list of questions you can print out. If you want more, just do a quick Google search for “Questions for kids to answer about mom” (or dad). You will find tons!
Encourage your children to give presents to develop their generosity. Help them think about what would please each person. Once they have an idea, they can start making their gift with the help of a parent or older sibling if needed. They can do drawings, paintings, decorations, polymer clay sculptures, crafts… They can also write a poem or a short story—and if they can’t write, the helper can do it for them!
Combining the experience with the sentimental value
Working on my photography business made me realize that I’m rarely in our family photos. I’ll be honest with you—I cheated and got my Christmas present ahead of time this year! I got myself and my family a documentary family photography session for 2021. It’s about time I experience what it feels like to be on the other side of the camera for hours! I want to be a part of my family’s memories. I want photos of myself interacting with my kids. I want them to see how loved they are and everything my husband and I do for them! I want to hang photos of our life on our walls!
I’m a documentary family photographer and I would de delighted to do the same for you. You deserve to be seen and remembered for everything you do. Your kids need to see how wonderful and unique they are! If you are one of those people who have everything and don’t need anything, this is for you! I now offer eGift Cards that can be redeemed for family photography sessions and products like wall art, books and story boxes. A documentary family photography session is a great family experience in itself and the resulting photographs have a high sentimental value.
This year, more than ever, we all need other people’s company. Now is the time to give or receive the gift of togetherness, relationships and love. When people ask you what present you want, tell them to buy you a Marie-Pierre Photography eGift Card. Or buy a card for someone you know who’s been dreaming about having their own family life documented. Everyone can then treat themselves to photos they’ll love and cherish forever!
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I'm Marie-Pierre, an easygoing mother of two and a documentary family photographer. I believe we can all learn and grow from other people's experiences. Real life stories help us relate to each other, open our minds and feel better about ourselves.
this blog is a collection of featured client stories, tips, and articles on various family related topics. I hope you will find some inspiration!