A Minimalist Christmas: help your child survive the season

by andrewodom on November 28, 2011 · 8 comments


I think it is fair to say that since the birth of our beautiful daughter we have moved from a minimalist family to a simple living family. Minimalist was when we could pack all our true belongings into a Kelty and hit the road in less than an hour. Now we have to pack our bags, make sure the diaper bag is stocked, fold up the pack ‘n play (a tiny house bedroom, in my opinion), grab the breast pump, and put together a small bag like the Sprig! It has been a small adjustment, but a truly wonderful one.

But now that S’bucks has switched to the red cups (doesn’t that mean it is Christmastime???? I jest. I jest.) and Nat King Cole has taken over the airwaves new challenges have arisen.

Yes, our baby is just over two months old. But it has proven in multiple studies that in this critical growth and development stage children are prone to marketing just like their older siblings. And we all know Target will stop at nothing to #occupyyourchild. Consumerism is at its peak this time of year and as mindful parents we have to be on our guard more than ever! We should be thinking less about reaching for our credit cards and more about how we can invest in our children and our families be it financially or otherwise. So how?

Growing up, we were taught about Santa (as a character for the season) as well as about the birth of Jesus. We were given presents from family members, Santa, friends, etc. And while there were 5 of us in the house my pop worked extra hard and pulled extra hours to see to it we had a magical Christmas. What I realize now though is that all of those hours he spent away from us were the very things I wanted for that magic morning. I wanted to have my pop around. He may as well have been Santa ’cause we sure didn’t see him during the holidays. Experiences matter, my friends. In the long run, gifts do not. Sentiment? Yes. Wiggle-Me Bambi doll? No!

Our first challenge this holiday has been explaining (and sometimes re-explaining) that we are teaching our daughter about experience and life and emotion rather than commercialism. It has also bee difficult getting family to understand that we simply don’t have a lot of room in our bungalow and that at 2 months old she simply doesn’t need anything. But in all this conversation and practice there are three tools that may help immensely.

1. Decide in advance how the holiday season will be spent.

If you and your family are going to celebrate a minimalist Christmas how do you want to celebrate? Do you want to decorate and watch a holiday movie each night? Do you want to go visit family? Do you want to be more traditional as well develop new traditions? It is totally up to you and if you have older children you will want to explain to them and even solicit their opinions. This holiday you should sincerely take the emphasis off the gift wagon and instead focus on the peace, love, and goodwill to men, that the holiday is built around.

The past two years Crystal and I have taken to making donations to charities in the name of our gift-receiver. We try and match a charity with their personality or even ask another family member what their favorite charity is. Then we make a donation in their name, make a gift certificate or “tag” in Photoshop, print it out, and give it to them on Christmas. It has proved a very touching gift thus far.

2. Clue in the family.

There is no good way to do this. There is not even a black or white way to do it. Where there are children, there will inevitably be the notion to give gifts. It is like bread and butter. Your child is the bread and your parents (the grandparents) want nothing more than to smother, smother, smother. Before December 1st even have a sit down with your parents (at least!) and explain to them how you feel. Let them know that your baby has everything he/she needs and that you don’t have room for things that won’t be of use or simply won’t be played with. Give them ideas for is they MUST spend money on their grandchildren. Suggest an investment (like silver or gold) or talk to them about making something special for your child. Because my momma is in a different state for all of her grandchildren she has really gotten into the recordable storybooks. She loves that she can read to them each night without even being there.

3. Make a list of what you truly need.

Some people are going to buy gifts no matter what you say. To help those folks out really come up with a list of needs that will also help you out. For your baby you may want to think about their age and clothes size in the next six months. Perhaps an outfit for that season would be a good gift. They certainly are small enough to store virtually anywhere. Or maybe you and your spouse could use a nice night out with FREE babysitting. That is a fantastic gift from local family members; time as a couple. If your children are older you will want to help them with a list. You would be surprised, I think, at how in tune they are to their wants -vs- needs.

I hope this helps this holiday season. It is in no way a How-To guide or even a thorough list of how to proceed. But it is a start and one that will help you and your family (especially your baby) begin life with a heart for the holidays rather than a charge card for the stores!

  • Sue from Ky.

    You are really young to be thinking the way you do.I admire your ability to live the way you are trying to live.I am caught in a rut of keeping too much “stuff”.I know it is a type of sickness, but the less you have to fill your home and keep track of, the more free your mind is to use for living a more wholesome and satisfying life.Good luck as you”feel your way” with your plan.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you so much for your vote of support Sue. I do appreciate it. I wish you the best in managing your “stuff”. Keep to it!

      • Mcndaisy

        I like your minamalist Christmas ideas.  Gift cards are always a great idea so people can buy what they need,  or just send money! Who doesn’t like to receive money and the sender doesn’t have to fight the Holiday traffic. Christmas should be more about spending time with family!

  • Mary Anthony

    I have had this same problem with my kids. Of course they want toys, but I try to steer folks into getting them something they’ll use and enjoy for a while. Magazine subscriptions (ex: BabyBug, High Five) are a great suggestions as they get to enjoy it anew every month and don’t get tired of it like they do books . My kids (7 yo boys, 4 yo girl) also really enjoy art supplies (googly eyes, fancy paper, paint, pipecleaners, etc) with which to express themselves. I sometimes give the products away to family as “fridge art”; I’m always surprised how much the recipients appreciate it. I’ve also discovered that once they really enjoy a toy it’s nice to suggest “expansion packs” (that must be how we have thousands of Legos). 
    I had one grandma give us a cookie mix with cutters. I was skeptical about it, but now we have a lovely tradition of making and decorating cookies together. It takes us a whole afternoon but they LOVE it. We take a plate to the firehouse and the police officers to thank them for keeping us safe.My iron-clad rule to the family: nothing that requires batteries. The more the toy works, the less the kid does. My three honor roll, creative, gifted, inquisitive, polite children certainly don’t seem to hurt for not having a Wii. And I don’t have to store extra batteries.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Awesome testimony Mary. Thank you for sharing. I especially like that y’all take cookies to your EMS and Police. My father was a career a firefighter so that means a lot to me and I know would have meant a lot to him and his fellow firefighters.

  • Dawn

    Last year my DD was 4mo old this time of year and we decided to ask for things she needs.  We put the word out about her sizes for clothing and certain family members got her books instead of clothes.  That is pretty much what she got last year since she was so little and we were so adament about not getting her much.  When it came to her birthday we sent out her invites with a lsit of ideas and sizes ont he back of it.  This year we are asking for clothing in the next size since we do not have room for anymore in her current size as well as toys we know she likes (problem solving toys and musical toys).  That way people who want to get her something can get her things that will be used.  Other than that I go through her things after the gift giving time is over and get rid of toys or clothes she no longer wears or plays with (like the Hokey Pokey Elmo-she likes it but rarely plays with it). 

    Of course, for us we have the added issue of food restrictions and have had to ask people to not get her any food unless they okay it through us first. Good luck!!

  • KatKent

    Well, I was a minimalist and didn’t know it! Thirty years ago I was pregnant, due in December. Hubby and I decided that we would tell friends and relatives that we didn’t want anything for Christmas, and that we would not be spending money on gifts because of the baby. We got each other a 35mm camera for about $100, a video recorder would have been nice, but they were brand-new on the market and cost nearly a couple grand.
    When baby got older, we participated in a 2 y/o play group, with a lot of kids, and their older siblings. So, at the birthday party, instead of birthday gifts, I asked that folks bring a new unwrapped toy that we would donate to Toys for Tots. That started a tradition for us – the kids had lots of fun playing party games, eating cake and ice cream. They weren’t focused on stuff, and we all liked the idea of giving to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have had Christmas presents.
    Hardest thing was getting my dad not to get extravagant Christmas gifts for his grandchild. It took a few years, and I can still remember how uncomfortable Dad was with my repeated requests. I finally had to pull the “I’m his Mom and know what’s best for us, so I wish you would respect how we’re trying to raise him” card … which worked, but upset both of us (but we got over it).

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