5 Ways to Make The Holidays Less About Stuff (with your kids!)

I’m so excited to finally sit down and write this post! If you follow me on Instagram, you know that it’s become my mission to ensure that our holiday season is a mix of tradition, friends, family and giving back for my children. Blame it on my own mother who did the same, the fact that my babes have more than they need or the fact that ultimately, I’m trying to raise good humans, but whatever the driving force may be, making the holidays into something more than a few weeks of stuff has become part of our little family’s tradition – and I love it. 

4 Ways to Teach Your Preschooler To Give Back This Holiday Season
1. Read About It
Is there anything like a bedtime story to encourage a new lesson? I put together a list of 7 of books geared toward toddlers and preschoolers that focus on thinking of others first. Be sure to save this one for future use – most of these books are perfect for year-round and not just holiday themed, so you’ll get traction out of them! 
7 books that teach preschoolers about giving
Thanksgiving Is For Giving Thanks
How to be thankful during Thanksgiving and all year long
Llama Llama Time To Share
A story about a llama who learns how to give to others
Horton Hears A Who
A classic and favorite in our house that teaches compassion and kindness
I See Kindness Everywhere
Teaches how to notice other people’s kind actions and to show gratitude 
Clifford’s Good Deeds
The Big Red Dog practices selflessness as he goes out of his to do good deeds for others
Sharing Time
Introduces toddlers to the concepts of taking turns, sharing and playing with others
For reference, both Sharing Time and How Kind! are geared for ages 2-3 while the rest are perfect for kid’s ages 4-5. 
3. Santa Sacks
One of the questions I am asked most often is to talk about how and why we use our Santa Sacks! So here’s the deal, my children are just incredibly blessed and have a playroom full of toys – most of which they don’t play with. We do ask that our families skip the gifting of toys and instead gift experiences, but of course, the stuff piles up (mostly thanks to my Dollar Aisle habit). With that said, I searched for a way to teach our children the value of their things and finally found a Santa Sack that says “Dear Santa, I’ve outgrown these toys, please share them with other good girls and boys”. I made sure to steer clear of sacks that referenced broken or old toys, because I didn’t want my son to consider it a throw away process, but a giving one.

Last year, when Gray was 3, we presented the sack on Christmas Eve Day at told him that all children leave toys for Santa to take back to his workshop and share with other little boys and girls. He was thrilled and filled that bag right up. Now that he’s a bit older, we’ve already started talking to him about how some children don’t have as many toys as he does and how every Christmas we will choose toys to send to other boys and girls who would love to play with him. He has asked if he can clear out his sister’s things but once we cleared that up (she has her own sack to fill!), he was completely on board. 
Our tradition is to fill and leave our Santa Sacks on the fireplace with Santa’s cookies on Christmas Eve and Santa picks them up when he visits our home. I take the toys and hide them in our shed until I can sneak off to donate the toys – the sack is left empty on the fireplace with a note from Santa, thanking Gray for having such a giving heart. 
I am often asked if I worry about Gray donating certain toys or how I let him choose and quite honestly, he can donate what he chooses and it’s even more special to me if he chooses a toy he’s played with quite often because he is choosing to gift something important to him to another child. As long as he is donating his own stuff (and not baby sisters), he has free reign. 
4. List It Carefully 
This may be a bit controversial, but we don’t encourage our children to make a list for Santa. We tell them they may ask Santa for 3 things when we visit him in person and we don’t sit down to list/write it out. For us, that process makes the focus on what they are getting and not on what they are giving. We don’t pull out catalogues or magazine and circle our wish list items and we ensure to remind them that Santa is working hard to surprise them and all of the other children with thoughtful gifts. There really isn’t a need for a long wish list, so we skip it!  
5. Make It
Each year, Gray and I work together to make a hand crafted gift for his Teachers. Last year we made stove pot simmering goodness and this year we’ll be tapping into his love for Great British Bake Off and whipping up Cinnamon Rolls. As parents, we participate in the class gift to show our appreciation, but nothing compares to Gray’s pride as he gives his teachers the gifts he made them. I make sure that we talk about how important it is to give our time to a handmade gift and explain that we are making our gifts with love. He “signs” his name to each gift and truthfully, I love the quality time we get to spend together on our gift making days. 
I love fostering their little hearts in this way and slowly integrating more traditions that focus on the time we spend together and the needs of others for the holiday season – if you have an amazing tradition that you do with your kids to shift the focus away from the stuff, tell me in the comments!