So begins the experience of the holiday season for many children — and we’re asking them, “What would you like for Christmas?”.
We encourage our kids to wish for things during the holiday season. Most children will wish for tangible stuff – things to play with, sleep with, wear, read, or craft with. Some children will wish for an extraordinary event to happen, such as to be adopted, have a parent return home for Christmas, or have a loved one recover from a serious illness. And others like my four-year-old, will wish for a trip to the moon and a real pet dinosaur!
I always look forward to discovering what our children hope to receive for Christmas. They already have most of what they want and more than they need. It has been a joy to see how their wish list has changed over the last few years — on our journey to own less and live with more intention. I stopped buying them so much stuff and I set limits. After all, how could I give my kids so much stuff while scratching my head at their inability to take care of it with constant disdain and discontent?
The question we were asking our kids?
“What would you like for Christmas?”
With this question they’d list everything they could think of. Every item on their list was a toy — something they already had too much of! They asked for everything they saw in commercials plus all the toys their friends already had! I don’t think toys are inherently bad, but how many toys can my children truly enjoy? How many things do they need to thrive, grow, and play? The answer, a lot less than we think!
The question we are asking our kids now.
For Christmas, what is:
- One they want.
- An item they need.
- Something to do.
- Something to wear.
Setting healthy expectations, choosing quality over quantity, and giving experiences in place of tangible objects has been a pivotal step toward pursuing what matters most to us. Still there comes a time when you’ve cleared enough stuff to bring in something more meaningful — to take it a step further. For us, that means something to cultivate more joy in our hearts and less junk in our homes this holiday season. If you want to simplify and shift the holiday expectations in your home, this is the other question to ask your kids this holiday season.
The other question we’re asking.
“What are 20 things you can give during the holiday season?”. It’s The 20 Thing Christmas Wish List. My kids make a list of 20 things they can give to neighbors, family, friends and strangers throughout the month of December. They think about things they can make, do or say that will make a positive impact in another person’s life.
Here are some things my four kids listed to give this holiday season.
- Give hugs
- Give home cooked bread
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Donate to the local food pantry
- Give a personal drawing
- Give a paper airplane
- Offer grace
- Give a pencil to a classmate
- Donate money
- Help a neighbor with yard work.
- Give lots of smiles
- Write an extra letter to our sponsored child.
- Build a fort (present from older siblings to younger ones)
- Send a card to a deployed military member through Holidays for Heroes.
- Leave a thank you note for our sanitation workers or mail carrier.
- Offer compliments
- Give a handmade friendship bracelet.
- Give homemade chapstick
- Help fold laundry
- Donate toys
- Donate clothes
As the month goes by, my kids enjoy checking off ways they’ve been able to give. It helps them use their gifts, talents, and resources to lift another up. My hope is that my kids know they’re unique with beautiful talents, resources, and gifts to share — that they can lead by example the way to giving. And that the joy in having more than enough can be found in giving it away.
By asking our kids a different question we can watch their hearts and minds shift from a focus of what they can get to what they can give. When our children know they have something of value to share, I believe they are more able to find — and share! — the joy of a healthy and loving community.
For other ways to instill giving in your children consider The Thankful Thread Challenge or volunteer as a family in your community.