When we started out on our journey to minimalism, my focus was to get RID of stuff. But, it didn't take long before Christmas was staring me in the face. In years past, I had my Christmas shopping started-and nearly complete-before Black Friday, but this year I have been kinda avoiding it. I don't like how it brings out the 'I wants' in everyone! But, while I'd really like to postpone the celebration for about another year or so, it will be here soon, and I want it to be nice!
One thing that has been very important as I have been removing items from our home was to be very purposeful about what I kept and even more purposeful when buying new things. This mindset has spilled over into my Christmas shopping. So, these were the questions I asked myself while determining my children's Christmas list (in this order).
1. What do they need? Thankfully, there were only a couple of things I could come up with that the children needed. One needs underwear, Explorer needs a booster seat. Both went on the list.
2. What do they truly play with? You may have to watch your kids for a day, but many times that question is a no brainer. In Charger's case, he likes legos and Thomas trains. He'd play with them all day every day if I let him (and sometimes I do!). Mini Cooper loves the legos, too. She also likes her Dora dollhouse. Mustang? Well, honestly, her only loves are movies and books. She would tell you she plays with everything, but she doesn't.
3. Could the favorite toy be expanded? Adding more types of toys is not likely to change the ones they play with. It will require you to get more creative about storage, and just mean more toys to keep track of all the pieces. Focus on the ones they love and get more of them (if it makes sense).
4. And on the subject of pieces...Charger loves legos. That's great because if you loose the legos, you can just go GET MORE. Unless it is a very specific lego build set (which do exist) you can easily get your hands on replacement pieces. Many toys are not so easily replaced. Does the toy have a lot of little pieces that can easily be lost? I suggest finding another toy. I had picked up a Trio building set this summer to give as a gift to Charger, but I realized it was a new building set that wouldn't go with ours...sold it instead of giving it.
5. Remember that gifts do not have to be toys. Books, movies, clothing, and experiences all make great gifts.
6. No junk. Now, this is a subjective statement. But, in years past I have headed off to a $1 discount store to load up on stocking stuffers. We have also headed to the same said store to allow the kids to pick out items for each other. We have been disappointed in the quality of nearly everything we got there. That's not the only place to get junk, either. If it doesn't end up being a favorite, is it something you would donate to the thrift store? Something you could sell at a yard sale? If you wouldn't donate it, it's not worth owning. Avoid little junkie items, even if it means you just get one thing. It's not about quantity.
7. Do you have the space? TRUE space for the item to look nice and not clutter anything else up? This includes little pieces. Mini Cooper loves her Dora dollhouse, but buying more stuff for the dollhouse would mean a bigger storage bin, or getting rid of other pieces. I'd rather not buy something that will make me buy something else, unless it is the true favorite.
8. Avoid starting new 'collect all the pieces' sets unless you are done with the last one. And, if you really don't want to buy the next item for your last set...get rid of the other one. For example, Charger decided to part with his big 'Cars' stuff because he wanted to focus on his Bob the Builder guys instead.
9. When you have a clear picture of your child's needs and habits, and figure out what you are willing to have in your home, THEN ask what your child wants for Christmas. If you know he likes legos and he asks for legos, then there is a good chance he will LIKE the gift and PLAY with the gift. If your daughter plays with dolls all the time and asks for a walking, talking dinosaur, she probably WON'T play with it and it will go to the thrift store the next year, dusty from not being played with (yes I speak from experience). This should help you fend off the advertisers for the 'biggest and best new thing' and find something your children will really enjoy.
And, when you can't figure out what to get them? Just get a marshmallow shooter. Who doesn't want one of those? (and I'm sorry if you think this negates my no junk statement, looking forward to an afternoon of marshmallow wars!)