What does your baby like to play with? My son prefers to play with the box the toy came in, rather than the toy. Actually, he usually eats it. I can’t seem to stop this child from eating foreign objects – last week it was a clump of my hair (ew), before that it was a feather from a cushion. I swear he is going to cough up a furball soon…
Anyway, I digress.
A problem I face as a parent is being able to afford children. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not talking about nappies, clothes and food. I’m talking about the horrific pressure that parents put themselves under to deliver hoards of presents to their children at Christmas time. Yes, advertising is there, it exists; it is constant. But we don’t have to succumb to it.
I love my children more than anything in the world. But I’m determined to teach my kids the value of a gift, and to teach them that love and relationships with family are more important than material things. I also don’t want to go broke.
It stands to reason if a child is spoiled with presents, then they never appreciate the value of something. It becomes totally dispensable to them – there is a constant stream of ‘things’ and they simply don’t appreciate it. As a teacher, I’ve seen this; the unappreciative attitude of being used to getting what they want. I’ve seen a 15-year-old break a £300 mobile phone in a temper by throwing it against the wall, and the following week, a brand-spanking new one magically replaced it.
Everyone parents differently. I’m not judging those who choose to spend hundreds every Christmas – but my choice is to give some decent gifts but to not go mental. I have bills to pay. Half of these toys will end up in a landfill someday so I’m going to choose carefully.
So here are my self-imposed Christmas shopping rules for kids.
One main gift only. Somehow over the years, kids seem to get three or four ‘big’ gifts. Why? It’s a ‘main’ gift for a reason.
Divide the gifts into categories so you buy them things they actually need that you would have bought them anyway. Eg; pajamas, socks, hairclips, hats, hot water bottles, clothes, bubble bath. Pound shops are GREAT for these things, or keep an eye out for the sales
Set a budget and keep receipts – it can kind of be fun to see if you’ve met your target. And it’s a good benchmark for the following year.
Get a storage box and store gifts as you buy them. Then you don’t have to go hunting for random plastic bags that you stashed above the hot press etc. My Mum used to do this and would find presents as late as the following Easter that she had forgotten about!
Books, books, books. They’re invaluable and car boot sales are great for finding fantastic quality kids books.
Emma Kelly is a Belfast-based mum of two little ones and an English teacher by trade. Life is currently a happy juggle of nappies, toddler fun, constant dieting and the (more than) occasional glass of wine!