Saturday, November 29, 2014

Experiences For Christmas

We're trying something new this year: little to no presents for the minis for Christmas. Let me tell you a bit of the back story.

It was July and a large shipment of new daycare toys and crafts had just arrived. "It's just like Christmas!!" said my four year old, as he helped me unpack each box. "Christmas seems to happen year round here," I replied with a sigh. Not all kids expect new toys year round, but because of my day job (daycare provider to all ages of kiddos), we're constantly getting new goodies. Later in the summer I had a freak out moment with my oldest son when I found he had yet to play with his new Lego sets he had received for his birthday. 

My oldest son is at a hard age. He can play with older kids toys, build with small Lego's, and other small toys. However, he'd rather play with the other kids in the house. Therefore many of his toys don't see a lot of playtime. Yet I keep buying all of my minis toys and things they really don't need. The boys have a bin FULL of toys that have yet to see any playtime because they aren't daycare appropriate (this means that they're safe for all ages of kids to play with). It was another issue that needed solving before we became the next toy hoarder horror story.

Every year I go into the Christmas season with the same goals: Don't spend a lot of money and don't buy a lot of toys. I have never stuck to these goals. Last year I gave myself a budget of $100 per kid. My three minis ended up with a new playhouse, Magformers, dolls and accessories, blankets, figurines, movies, and more. I always tell myself "they share all of this with the daycare kids, so it's okay to buy them all of this stuff." But it's just stuff. Easily forgotten about, broken, or never played with. 

This year (I must be finally learning) I am sticking to my goals. I bought all of the minis Christmas presents months ago and spent very little money. I bought books, stickers, play dough items, and one big item from Santa. Instead of a stuff filled Christmas, this year we're giving our kids a Year Of Experiences. Santa will be surprising them at random times throughout the year with tickets to performances, places to go, road trips, and a vacation.

Our first Experience was Thanksgiving night: we took the minis to a performance of Disney on Ice. The kids LOVED it and had a great time! Two days later and they're still talking about it.
On our Experience list for 2015: a train ride on the Santa Express, a night at the water park hotel, seeing Broadway's  "The Lion King" when it rolls through town, a vacation in Chicago, and hiking at different State Parks around the state. The best part of all of this is that "Santa" is surprising them all year round and not just one morning of the year.

There are some big upsides to giving our kids Experiences instead of stuff: we won't accumulate unwanted crap this season, it will (hopefully) help a save some money on our entertainment budget since we're using these experiences as gifts and family outings, and it will be MUCH more memorable than the latest Lego set that won't get played with after the first build. I'm still unsure about Christmas morning, when the kids see there aren't many gifts under the tree. However, I'm hopeful that after our year has ended and we go over our Year of Experiences that will drown out any Christmas morning disappointments and leave us with some fine memories.