Now that December is rolling along it’s time for parents to start thinking about the holidays, which means equal amounts of excitement and stress around the joy of giving. As responsible parents, we want to give our children things that will bring them joy, but we may also have different attitudes surrounding materialism and over-consumption, which can make us a little anxious and conflicted about the gifts we do end up choosing.
I was thinking about past holidays with my family the other day and three main things stuck out. One, I recall my son always being more interested in the boxes that his toys came in rather than the actual contents. Second, I recall my oldest daughter getting through the opening of her own gifts and then ending up playing with her own art set that she already had been playing with for a while. Finally, I remembered my youngest daughter playing happily with a present she had opened, while others were telling her she needed to stop playing and open the rest of her gifts.
These experiences, as well as those of my clients who are parents of gifted (whose children are often “bored by normal toys”) have helped me to realize that kids respond well to quality over quantity, depth over breadth, and things that they are interested in. Our kids like to explore and create rather than just read a set of predetermined directions - so why not just give that to them? Some examples may include annual museum passes, an overnight family adventure, art and science materials, books, the gift of letting them choose an outing of their choice and so on.
Use this season of giving as a way to bring excitement, exploration, learning, and adventure to your family in the year to come. When you think of presents as a way to enrich your child’s life and support his or her creativity rather than just appeasing a desire to have “stuff”, you are giving them the lifelong lesson that creative expression, mental engagement and learning can be meaningful and really fun.
Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of Summit Center, which provides educational and psychological assessments, consultations, and treatment for children, their parents, and families. Summit Center works with all kids, including those who are highly gifted and those with learning disabilities.