The holidays are literally right around the corner and my emails are bombarded with all of the Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and “biggest” sales of the year. My Instagram feed is filled with brands sharing their amazing deals and influencers sharing gift ideas for so and so on your shopping list. With all the pressure of having a “perfect” holiday season, it can become very overwhelming trying to figure out what exactly to get everyone on your shopping list. Always remember that you do not need to buy anything to have a magical Christmas.
Growing up, my family always instilled the value of giving rather than receiving. Whether it’s donating items to a shelter or volunteering at our church, giving back to our community is what makes our holidays extra special. When it comes to gifting a physical object, I always keep in mind if the gift is purposeful — meaning, is it practical or can it be used in multiple ways?
Intentional Christmas is all about being mindful of your time, energy, and money to do nice things for others.
Consider creating a $20 bag of goods for a person in need (toiletries, canned goods, etc) versus buying a $20 toy that a child won’t play with for longer than a week.
Perhaps spending an hour playing a board game with your family rather than spending an hour shopping for distant relatives.
Or donate toys and clothes no longer being used to a shelter instead of tossing them out in the trash.
Being intentional during the holidays will teach children that Christmas is not all about the presents; it’s about doing nice things for others and being grateful for the things that they already have.
Ways to be intentional this holiday season
Three of my favorite ways to have an intentional Christmas is donating time, toys & clothes, and supplies.
There are lots of churches, shelters, and centers who will spend a day or two to create X amount of gift bags for the homeless or people in need. In the past, I have volunteered at local shelters to feed the homeless during the holidays; at a center, on behalf of a bank, to create crates of food deliveries for the elderly and women shelters; and at church to create meal bags. You can also volunteer at holiday festivals and events, such as hosting an arts and crafts station for kids, serving hot cocoa to attendees, or setting up/taking down decorations.
If you have any gently-used, like-new, or unopened toys and clothes, donate them to a local charity or shelter. I always send my clothes to family in the Philippines, and will donate toys to local moms. I’m a part of a few Facebook groups for my city, so I’m able to connect with local moms and give them the toys that Auggie has outgrown.
Every year, for as long as I can remember, I create a kindness bag filled with toiletries, snacks, and water to give out to the homeless. I keep extras in my car so as I carry on with my day, I’ll give out a kindness bag to someone who asks for spare change or is holding a sign for a donation. A few of the items I include are: travel size toothbrush + toothpaste, bar of soap, individually wrapped utensils, canned food, chapstick, and a granola bar. You can easily pick up items from The 99c Store or The Dollar Tree, but I prefer to buy them in bulk at Costco so I can create many bags.
Adopt A Letter with Operation Santa
Have you ever mailed a letter to Santa, and wondered where did that letter go?
If you didn’t know, the USPS actually has a program called, Operation Santa, where you can adopt a letter!
The post office sorts through thousands of letters to Santa, then posts them online. You can read the letters to see what a child is asking for, then you can “adopt the letter” and send that child their wish gift! You can also adopt an entire family’s letters to gift them all of their wishlists. The packages are delivered from “the North Pole” to spread the holiday cheer, and both parties’ information are kept private and secure.
I’ve been reading and adopting letters since college and can’t wait for Auggie to be old enough to help me pick out future letters to adopt! I’d love for him to write a note back to the children as if he’s one of Santa’s elves wishing them an extra merry Christmas.
The 4 Gift Rule
If you haven’t heard of the “4 Gift Rule”, it’s essentially gifting someone 4 specific items:
- Something they want
- Something they need
- Something to wear
- Something to read
Just remember that when you pick out an item, you are being purposeful with the gift. Are they going to be able to use the gift multiple times, or for a long period of time?
For instance, one of my go-to gifts are Yeti mugs or Yeti tumblers because it’s practical and I know it will be used often.
If you’re like me and already have a mini library, buy 1-2 new books and re-wrap old books. Since Auggie was born, we’ve kept the tradition of having 25 Days of Christmas with books. For his first Christmas, he was only 6 months old so I didn’t wrap any books. For his second Christmas, he was 1.5 years old, so I wrapped 25 books and he’d open one book everyday starting December 1st. That doesn’t mean I bought 25 books though. Since he’s still so young, I simply wrapped books that he already have, whether it was an Easter book or a Halloween book. To him, it was the sensory of unwrapping the book that made it fun for him. Last year, I had already started accumulating a collection of winter books, so this tradition has become easier to fulfill. This year, I’ve ordered him 2 new books to add to his library, which he’ll be opening Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
My favorite gift to give is an experience, such as a trip to the museum, an aquarium, and a holiday event. On Christmas weekend, our family loves to drive up the mountains and have a snow day! We’ll visit Santa’s Village, create little snowmen, go snow tubing and/or ice skating, and eat at a local diner. Not to mention take lots of pictures! A few experience gift ideas you could give are:
- Movie tickets
- Wine tasting
- Sip & Paint class
- National Parks yearly pass
Experience gifts are my favorite because they give you the opportunity of creating long-lasting *core* memories. They don’t have to be extravagant or expensive either.
You can plan out a roadtrip, a staycation, or a little getaway and spend quality time with your loved ones. Cooking a meal together, baking some yummy goods, or creating a fun craft are simple, yet meaningful experiences. Some of my favorite holiday crafts to do are:
- Create a DIY ornament with supplies from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby
- Build and decorate a gingerbread house using a kit
- Make an art craft using household items
- Write letters to Santa and decorate the envelope
I also like to check Facebook for upcoming local events to see what I can RSVP to for free, such as tree lighting ceremonies, book readings with Mrs. Claus, gingerbread house decorating with a business, and so forth.
Shop Small Businesses
With so many sales going on right now, I’m compiling a list of my favorite educational products, for children, from small brands and businesses that you can support during the holidays. Make sure to also check on shipping updates so that your gifts arrive on time. The items I’m including are practical, and/or purposeful gifts that I’ve personally gifted to someone already or it is currently on my gift list (and wish list). Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links, unless otherwise stated. If I mention a discount code, I will also earn a small commission if the code is used.
Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit – For ages 3-5+ years, this starter kit is filled with lots of fun and interactive learning games. Children interact with actual hand held pieces, bringing a child’s game pieces & actions to life (No WiFi necessary for game play). This is compatible with a Fire Tablet or an Ipad.
Lil’ Loteria by Lil Libros – A bilingual English and Spanish bingo game that is very kid-friendly! For 2-6 players, ages 3+ years old. Lil’ Libros has been a family favorite for us and we have a big collection of their board books!
GIGIL STEM For Kids offers a subscription box that comes with 5 hands-on STEM activities for kids each month. Prior to the pandemic, GIGIL used to have a physical play space that I regularly visited with Auggie and we miss it so much! It’s owned by a local mom friend of mine along with a CA credentialed teacher with the intention of making learning fun and easy. Their STEM kids are also charter school approved!
Lovevery offers a subscription box plan for The Play Kits, boxes with child-safe and sustainably-made play essentials and toys curated for different age ranges. It is delivered every three months with free shipping, and members can skip a month or cancel anytime. Parents also get access to expert research, tips, ways to play and activity ideas. Lovevery also offers other playthings outside of the play kits. Auggie has had almost every play kit as he grew up, and still uses a lot of those toys to this day. You can save $30 off a new Play Kit subscription with the code PLAYKITS30 from 11/25 thru 11/29 11:59pm PST.
KiwiCo offers a subscription box plan to receive a KiwiCo crate every month, filled with enriching science
and art projects. Their crates include exciting projects that are also age-appropriate and educational. They also have crates for a wide range of age groups, starting at 0-24 months old, up to 21+ years old. Head to their website to see the deals they have. *This is not an affiliate link*
Jack + Link offers a wide selection of open ended wooden toys. We have so many of their products, such as the crayon holder, index card stand, large tinker tray, and more. *These are not affiliate links*
Coco Village sells unique, minimalistic wooden toys for kids. From furniture items to bedding and decor, to imaginative play toys to gear and apparel; they have so many amazing products to choose from! Sign up here to join their Black Friday VIP Sale.
Kinetic Sand – I know this isn’t a small business but Kinetic sand is a great sensory gift, especially for young children! They’re perfect for sensory bins or to play as is on a tray.
Mathlink Cubes by Learning Resources are great blocks to use for manipulatives. They encourage STEM based learning and help develop early math skills.
I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season, and make sure to stay tuned for more gift guides coming soon!
I’ve also connected with a few blogger friends to share some Very Merry Christmas Gift Guides! 🎄 Adults, kids, minimalists, spouses and more! Head to each of their pages to check out what they are sharing: