The leaves are changing colors, the wind is blowing, and nature is preparing for winter. While we shake off our jackets and scarves and also prepare for the upcoming winter, this is also the time of year the shops and shoppers prepare for the busiest shopping time of the year: Christmas.

im dreaming of a toyless christmas

For some, shopping for gifts brings on feelings of excitement and adventure. For others – like me – it brings on feelings of foreboding and anxiety attacks.

It’s not that that I don’t like getting presents – I love gifts! And it’s not that I don’t like getting gifts for others – I love giving gifts!

It’s the idea of making decisions about what to give and what to suggest others to get our kids that makes me want to curl up into my shell and stay asleep in there until Christmas is long gone and the winter snow has melted away.

The part that overwhelms me the most is imagining more toys and things coming into the house. Throughout the year - and especially before a birthday or Christmas – we weed out the special toys from the neglected and discarded ones and set those items apart for donating. Still, some days I feel like toys are taking over our house. One day I’m afraid we’ll all wake up and won’t be able to get out bed because I’ve been buried alive by toys.

Apart from the hyperbole, the point is that the kids have enough “toys.” They like them for a day or sometimes even a week and then they are done, onto something new. Granted, like a friend pointed out to me, if they only had one or two special toys they’d probably play with them longer because that is all they would have.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Not at all. I’m grateful we have generous friends and family who are able to and willing to shower our kids with fun gizmos and trinkets galore. And all the clothes and other necessary items we’ve received over the years have been a huge help. I also know there are probably children out there who have nothing really nice to play with. I’m only trying to think of other gift ideas that I could suggest to those generous family members and friends in addition to or in lieu of the ordinary toy off the shelf.

I know it’s been said, over and over, but I’ll say it again. We live in a very consumer-minded world. We are consumed with what we have, what we don’t have, and what we want to have. I suppose it’s part of our inner yearning for something more.

This year, I’d like to do things a little different for our family and for our kids. I don’t want to be a Grinch and issue an embargo against all toys – except for those that make deafeningly loud and obnoxious noises (not to be confused with music). I also don’t want to muffle the childhood excitement and fun of receiving a new sparkly toy or awesome new gadget for our children.  Still, I’d like to find a way to celebrate Christmas and participate in the gift-giving and gift-receiving in a simpler and more meaningful way.

Some ideas I’ve thought of are gift cards the kids could use at their favorite restaurant or local entertainment place – like bowling or mini golf. I’ve also added the idea of family gifts to our list for places and things we could enjoy doing together as a family. After all, the gift of time together is more valuable than the gift of more stuff that we don’t necessarily need. I’ve also considered suggesting a donation be made to a local or global charity in our family’s or child’s name.

What are other gift ideas that are offer fun for kids but aren’t necessarily just another plastic thing that they will leave on the ground for me to step on and fall to my doom during the middle of the night?

Copyright 2013 Erika Marie