I should have shared this before Christmas. Cool. Better late than never, yea? To be fair, we were vacationing in Nicaragua and for the first time in a long time I chose to be really in the moment (minus the photos I took and video I captured, naturally)
Here’s the thing though, this post will apply year-round.
While I’m giving you an insight into our Christmas as a “minimalist family” I’m also going to share some tips for gift buying any time of the year. Tips I’ve personally used myself for years. Tried and true.
A bit of a backstory; we didn’t spend Christmas in the states. We celebrated two days early, flying to Nicaragua on the 23rd.
I definitely had more of a minimal gift giving outlook this year, but I don’t ever go crazy in the gift department. I’ve never felt the need for useless toys that take up space and are never played with. I speak about that in depth in this video; how we celebrate Christmas and why.
On Christmas Eve I allow my children to open one gift. This gift is always a box with pajamas, a movie, a book, popcorn, and hot chocolate. We spend the night baking cookies and laying on the couch watching a movie together, before climbing into bed and reading a story.
Moving on. I’ll share what my children received this year, followed by my tips for gift giving for a minimalist family. Keep in mind, to some this may be “too much.” For others it may be “too little.” Minimalism looks different to each individual . . . each family. There is no wrong or right way.
Also worth noting, these are the things that my husband and I purchased for our children. This does not include what they receive from friends and family. However, our family is great about paying special attention to what our children enjoy and make it a habit of asking us ahead of time what they would enjoy.
For our 7 year old daughter:
- Fashionista Barbies – I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to purchase Barbies for my daughter but she asked for them repeatedly throughout the year. I found the Fashionista line and felt great about the choice. These barbies come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. My daughter was thrilled that some of them looked like her and that there is so much diversity.
- iPod cases – Her one gift for her birthday this year was an iPod so that I could load it with age appropriate music that she can listen to at any time. For Christmas I got her three different colored cases so she can change them as she sees fit (which is daily, by the way.)
- Movie – We sit down to watch a movie together every day so it’s something I don’t mind having in our home.
- Book – Quite the reader she is. Movies and books. The only two things we “collect.” But again, we use them daily and find great value in them.
- Additional Barbie Clothes – So her Barbies can experiment with different career paths. Fun, right?
- American Girl Doll Clothes (kind of) – For her last birthday she received an American Girl Doll from her grandparents. I picked up off-brand clothing kits that I found on sale at Michaels and Walmart.
- Pajamas – And lastly, a new pair of pajamas to lounge around in on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
For our 5 year old son:
- A baseball bat and ball – Our children spend a lot of time outside and my son has showed an interest in playing baseball. I figured a little practice before the season couldn’t hurt!
- Football – Tossing a ball around is a fun activity for the whole family while encouraging his hand-eye coordination.
- Classic LEGO set – For the past 6 months he’s been playing with a set of 12 legos that his aunt passed down to him. With those 12 legos he would sit for hours creating new projects. While yes, LEGOS are lots of little things, it’s of great value for a child who can spend hours doing nothing else. I purchased a tackle box to store them.
- Book – Same as my daughter. He is slightly obsessed with Pete The Cat.
- Movie – Again with family traditions.
- MagnaTiles – Back when he was two and in preschool, he would sit and play with these MagnaTiles any time he was given “center time.” I have wanted to purchase them for YEARS, but they are super pricey. Being that he spent 2016 OBSESSED with building (he claims he wants to be a “builder” when he grows up,) I decided to splurge and go for it. Totally worth it. Every single adult in our family has become fixated by them and the children have played with them more than any other toy. We will definitely be purchasing an additional set.
- Lego building sets – We didn’t actually purchase these sets, his grandparents did. However, I figured I’d include them since that was the majority of what he received this year.
- Pajamas – He was big on Pokemon this year so these were perfect!
When you lay it out like this, it looks like a lot. But in actuality, these are all items that they asked for repeatedly throughout the year. And though they are separate items, most of them come together as one general gift (ex. Barbies + clothes,) which are easily stored.
This brings me to my first tip for gift giving as a minimalist family:
- Make it a habit to remove toys/clothes from your child’s room throughout the year (quarterly is a good place to start.) Before birthdays and Christmas my children help me choose things that they no longer value and we donate them to a family in need. If you start this tradition young you’ll be amazed at how easily your children are willing to give up items. It has become so engrained in my children that they will randomly come to me on any given day and hand me something telling me they want to give it to “another kid with no toys.”
- Buy movies/books/pajamas during Black Friday or major sales throughout the year. The Pokemon pajamas I purchased for my son are originally $30. I got them for $5 on Black Friday, as well as the books. Black Friday is also a great time to purchase movies as many stores will have them anywhere from $1-$7! I realize Black Friday goes against most of what minimalism stands for, but you are not contributing to excessive consumerism if what you are purchasing will be useful or valued.
- Skip random shopping trips throughout the year. Besides the SUPER rare special occasion, my husband and I do not buy toys throughout the year. Receiving gifts is set aside for birthdays and Christmas. If my children want something during the year I will encourage them to ask for it for their birthday if it’s something they still deeply desire at that point. Many things they ask for are trends that they are over within a couple of weeks, but if something sticks in their brain for months, there is a good chance they will receive it.
- Pay close attention to what your children enjoy or are skilled at. I touch on this in the video, but my daughter is more of a role play, musical type. Whereas my son is most stimulated by building and creating. I’m not going to buy my daughter legos because I know she’ll be bored within five minutes. And my son isn’t going to want a karaoke machine because it doesn’t challenge him enough. When you really take the time to recognize what your children excel at or enjoy, gift giving becomes much more intentional.
- Lastly, consider experiences over gifts. You may want to buy a year pass to your child’s favorite theme park. Or if your time/budget allows, visit a place that your family can enjoy while your children witness other children living and loving life with less.
There you have it! Keep in mind, minimalism will look different for your family than it does mine. Minimalism will look different to a bachelor than it will for a family of 5. There is no right or wrong way. The goal is intentional living by removing the things from our lives that do not bring us joy or are not found to be useful.
Do it your way!