This time of year things can really amp up a bit – with social events and sing-alongs and school pageants and classroom projects and gift giving and decorating and well, you get the idea; it’s busy right now. Even if it’s good busy, (which I hope for all of you that it is!) it’s still busy and definitely takes some serious intention. And planning. And ideas! For how to keep things feeling the way you want them to feel.

While I do love the giving spirit that is prevalent this time of year, I don’t love the feeling of obligatory getting that seems to want to dominate. Being aware of that is our first step towards making it work for us. When we know what we don’t want, it’s easier to focus in on what we do want. And from that knowing, and from the web, and from trial and error over the years, we came to this…5 ways we make gift giving work in our house…

  1. Experience. Rather than a thing, we  focus on an idea. A special class or outing, a trip to the movies, a book of coupons for visits to the bakery or the ice cream shop or a one-on-one date to the cafe or some other such outing where the prize is the process.
  2. Consumables. Perhaps this comes from having a big family now and coming from a big family, but having your very own box of protein bars or a special treat or your own box of Mac and Cheese or some other food that we would never have in house otherwise?  That you can eat when you want and that you don’t have to share if you don’t want to but you can if you want? That’s heaven for a kid in a house with 5 other people. You can eat if fast, or make it last. It’s up to you and you are in charge of that little food domain.
  3. Want/Need/Wear/Read I saw this on the Simple Kids blog and I don’t know whether they made it up or whether they got the idea from someone else but I think it’s brilliant. I love the parameters it sets and I love the simplicity of it and the fact that it’s all sort of covered – desires are met, needs are met, a fun garment can be purchased that might not be otherwise, and a book to read, which provides an instantaneous activity! It all takes care of that feeling many of us parents get when we put the gifts out and think, “Oh my! That’s not enough!”
  4. Presence. It sounds cliche I know, but truly, what if accompanying the presents there was also presence. Phones would be turned off, screens could be pushed away, distractions could be eliminated or at least minimized which is sometimes all you can do with this many people in a house, and we could greet our children with our full present selves. We could play the games they want to play, and engage in a way that felt like a gift in itself. Something I know we can’t always do with all that needs to be done in a day, but on this day, in this season, that seems like it could really bring about the feeling we’re all truly seeking.
  5. Group gift that is also an activity. Something like a board game for the family or a big giant puzzle or an art supply of some beautiful variety that is given to the group for the group and that instantly inspires some fun family time.

In our house we’re going for the feeling of satisfaction and we are well aware that feeling comes not from a thing but from our approach. (and quite often this time of year we need to remind ourselves of that!!) It is not about getting more, but about making sure that what we bring in are the things that bring us more of the feelings we want.

What are some ways you make it work in your house? What’s your favorite gift to give? Or get? What’s the feeling you’re going for this holiday season? And how do you make sure you get there?

If you want a quick and easy way to figure out how to get more of what you DO want this holiday, check out our Slow Family Holiday workbook.