More Joys, Less Toys: Give Gifts of Growth this Holiday

More Joys, less toys this holiday.
More joys, less toys this holiday.

“More joys, less toys.” In a world of instant gratification and excess, I repeat this mantra often.

Among other things, it helps keep my sanity, and household clutter in check. Don’t get me wrong. This is not another blog about how giving is better than receiving, or the spirit of the holiday season. There are plenty of those online. Rather it is about teaching your children that happiness comes from within. We all have one life. Live it. Most of all, in the end no one cares who had the best furniture. 

First, it started with clutter. A battle I wage daily.

Since I have five children, and a “Yankee pack rat” husband, I basically have to slice through clutter with a machete. In addition, I’m really careful about what I allow in the house, donating items often. Post-holiday overload overwhelms me and my children. I’ve worked to instill the ideal that fewer, nicer toys make sense. One of my favorite stores to buy quality educational toys is Lakeshore Learning. For unique toys, I visit G. Willikers in Portsmouth. While I’m grateful when people think of my children, I’m not shy about telling friends and relatives what my children need–and exactly what they don’t.

They don’t need more plastic, junky toys.

I may have sounded a bit opinionated there. Let me explain. Every holiday was a gift apocalypse. Before long I had piles of ripped and broken widgets, and super impractical items. Like 6,812 stuffed animals. Subsequently, the kids never really played with them, either. How about something useful? Something more practical, a non-disposable gift. A gift we could use and appreciate. Maybe I was on to something, here?

Here comes the more joys, less toys part. Because no matter what toy is (or isn’t) in the playroom my children are responsible for their own happiness.

Happiness is different for everyone. I believe that providing:

  • Stability
  • Wonder
  • New experiences
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Confidence
  • Worldliness, and
  • Problem solving helps to foster long term happiness in children. In addition they are prepared for the world. They also embrace new ideas, and generate them on their own.

As a result, our gift giving is of less tangible (material) items, but instead growth-focused. No child will ever learn how to navigate public transportation, budget for day at the aquarium, or ride a camel by playing their new Xbox. 

My kiddos sorting donations for a local non-profit.
My kiddos sorting donations for a local non-profit.

Consequently, I really consider what lessons my children will need to learn to become happy, stable adults. In addition to limited toys, I gift them those opportunities. These have included swimming lessons, dance classes, and time on horseback. I set aside funds for summer camp and theme parks. We visit museums, aquariums, and agricultural markets. I include a charitable component around the holidays, too. My kids loved participating in a neighborhood food drive, as well as raking leaves for a local veteran. 

In addition, I’ve dressed them all in fabulously ugly clothes and we went clamming. CLAMMING! We also press cider, dance in the rain, host cookie decorating parties, and own a pet pig. (My children are cleaning their pet’s “pig box” as I write this, and as a result, are learning the responsibility of care giving and pet ownership.) 

All this and more, is made possible by giving less toys and more joy. Joy doesn’t come from a store or from possessions. It’s my hope to raise a generation taught to be happy, so they know the value of things, not just the price.