For many caregivers, the holiday season brings sugarplum visions of a mile-long gift list for kids, parents, grandparents, friends, and more. For kids, it often means an equally long wishlist packed with the toys, clothes, and gadgets they’re longing for. If it all starts to feel a little empty and commercial to you, you’re not alone.
One way to bring meaning back into the equation is by teaching your child the art of mindful gifting.
Mindful gifting means appreciating the joy that comes from giving meaningful gifts to others. It also means remembering to feel gratitude for what we receive. Luckily, kids don’t need much encouragement to feel the joy of giving: Researchers have found that even toddlers under 2 experience more happiness from sharing than from keeping treats to themselves.
Ready to learn more? Let’s unwrap the secrets of teaching kids the joys of mindful gifting.
What is Mindful Gifting?
Mindful gifting sounds good, but what exactly is it? When we talk about mindful gifting, we mean going beyond simply exchanging material items on certain days of the year because it’s expected.
Mindful gifting means:
- Being intentional about gift-giving, not just buying by rote
- Giving gifts that build emotional connection
- Showing that we know and value the recipient by choosing a gift with personal meaning
Like any mindfulness practice, mindful gifting means slowing down and being more aware of ourselves and those around us. It does take a little more time than simply hitting the bestsellers list on Amazon and checking names off your gift list. But it’s a wonderful way to help your child connect with the true meaning of the holidays and learn a skill that will help them build stronger, richer relationships.
Why Does Mindful Gifting Matter?
For caregivers, the holiday season comes with a big challenge: How do we let our kids enjoy the thrill of receiving gifts, while not getting caught up in greed or materialism?
Maybe you’ve gotten tired of seeing your kids tearing through a pile of presents in record time, hardly pausing to see what one gift is before moving to the next. Or maybe you’re burned out on buying friends and family gifts that you know will end up gathering dust simply because it’s a tradition.
Mindful gifting can help alleviate some of that stress. Teaching it to our children can have several wonderful benefits for their inner growth, as well as their bonds with others.
What are those benefits?
#1 Promotes Empathy and Understanding
Mindful gifting is a hands-on way to encourage your child to practice empathy. Help them think about gifts that would be meaningful for the recipient by asking themselves questions like:
- Interests – What do I know about them? What are their interests and hobbies?
- Personality – What are they like as a person? Do they like to play with others or prefer single activities?
#2 Fosters Gratitude
Of course, you’ve always tried to encourage your child to be grateful for gifts. They write thank-you notes and can offer a hug if they want.
However, mindful gifting can build a deeper understanding of gratitude by letting children experience firsthand just how much thought and effort goes into gift-giving. Choosing gifts for others reminds them that each gift they receive is also an expression of love and caring—even if the giver missed the mark.
#3 Encourages Thoughtful Decision-Making
When you involve your child in gift-giving and teach them how to do it mindfully, it’s also an excellent chance to practice their decision-making skills. Guide them to consider questions like:
- What can they afford with their budget?
- Would the recipient prefer a homemade gift?
- What would be useful to the recipient? What would they enjoy?
- What colors, characters, movies, books, or animals do they know the recipient likes?
Your child will benefit from the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes from making a careful decision and seeing it bring happiness to a loved one. This decision-making will come in handy when you start collaborating on New Year’s resolutions with your kids.
#4 Strengthens Relationships
Ultimately, mindful gifting is powerful because it reinforces our bonds with loved ones in multiple ways:
- We spend time thinking about the recipient’s needs and interests
- We reflect on happy memories and things we love and value about the recipient
- We feel enjoyment and pride from giving happiness to another
- The recipient feels warmth and connection in return
It all adds up to a truly special way of showing love and caring, and it’s the reason gift-giving is a central part of so many special celebrations and holiday traditions.
How Do I Teach Kids About Mindful Gifting?
Learning about mindful gifting begins with open and non-judgemental conversations about getting and giving gifts. Using a gratitude plan can help you and your child reflect before creating the shopping list. It’s important to validate your child’s desires and wants even while encouraging them to think about what they can give to others. Learning to enjoy giving doesn’t mean feeling ashamed for wanting to get gifts too.
When you talk with your kids about giving, try to:
- Validate their wants and needs – It’s perfectly normal for your child to be giddy about that new Lego set or Barbie doll. Try not to make your child feel greedy or ashamed of wanting things. It can help to talk about why new things are exciting while reminding your child that objects aren’t the only way to have fun and feel excited. You might say, “It’s fun to get new toys. Trying new things is always exciting! Let’s think about some other new things you could learn or do, too.”
- Ask questions and explore – While wanting gifts is natural, it’s also helpful to remind your child that it’s not just about getting. Encourage them to think about why that gift would mean so much. Try questions like, “I can see you’d love to get that doll! What makes it so special to you?”
- Remind them about the person behind gifts – Every caregiver knows that sinking feeling: Your child unwraps a present, only to find the toy they wanted last year. Cue the obvious disappointment and a half-hearted “Thanks, Gramma.” You can try to nurture the mindset of considering the person behind the present: “Gramma doesn’t always know what you like, but her gifts mean she cares about you. Let Gramma know you appreciate her by saying a kind thank-you.”
Involving Children in The Gifting Process
One of the best ways to teach children about mindful gifting is by modeling it. Talking with your child about the joys of giving and the importance of giving meaningful gifts isn’t as effective as bringing them into the gift-giving process and showing them how to make it truly thoughtful.
With that in mind, here are four of our favorite ways to get your kids into the spirit of mindful gifting, in the holidays and beyond:
- Shopping together – We know, bringing the kids along on your gift-shopping expeditions will slow things down. But it’s also a nice way to make the experience more mindful for everyone. Make a list of a few people whose gifts your child could be involved in, and do a special shopping trip just for those gifts. As you shop, talk about the recipient and help your child reflect on what could be a meaningful gift for them.
- DIY gifts – Do-it-yourself gifts are a natural fit for mindful gifting. Nothing adds more meaning to a gift than taking the time and effort to make it by hand. Help your child think about art or craft projects they enjoy making and who they know that might like receiving one of their creations. This could be anything from a simple card to a crocheted potholder (kids as young as five or six can easily master the basic crochet stitch).
- Reflect on past gifts – Spend time talking about gifts your child has given and received in the past. What gift stands out? What about a time they felt disappointed in a gift? Talk about the emotions that go with getting and giving.
- Wrapping and presentation – Teach your child that presentation is also part of showing your love and caring. Try some creative gift-wrapping techniques: Use the comics page from the newspaper, decorate brown paper with stickers or homemade stamps, or collect dried leaves or flowers to use instead of store-bought bows.
Celebrating the Act of Mindful Gifting
When you exchange gifts, try to highlight the emotional connection and the love that gifts represent. Celebrating the act of giving reinforces the idea that gifting is more than just the exchange of items.
Here are some tips to make mindful gifting a true celebration:
- Give to charity – While you’re shopping for gifts, dedicate a part of your budget to purchasing gifts for a local toy drive. Involve your child in choosing and wrapping these gifts.
- Gratitude activities – Mindful gifting is also about appreciating what we receive. Help your child reflect on this by suggesting gratitude activities: “What if we make a gratitude board you can keep in your room and add to whenever you like? You can draw pictures of your favorite things and the people who gave them to you.”
- Thank-you letters – After the holidays, sit down with your child to make thank-you cards for family and friends. Consider sending cards to loved ones even if they didn’t give a gift, simply thanking them for being a special person or wishing them a happy new year. This can be a great New Year’s Eve family activity to teach children gratitude.
Teach the Magic of Mindful Gifting With Help From Slumberkins
It’s all too easy to let materialism overshadow the deeper meaning of the holidays and especially the act of gift-giving. That’s why it’s important to take the time to teach children that gifting should be an act of empathy, care, and kindness.
Whether we’re giving or receiving, being mindful of the meaning behind the gift is what matters.
Ready to start your child off on their lifelong mindfulness journey but not sure where to start? Let Slumberkins provide you with books, special gifts, activities, and more, all made with emotional growth and learning in mind. Our passion is helping children and families connect to grow, building a kinder, brighter future together.
- "Giving: The best gift of all." The Center for Parenting Education. https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/indulgence-values/giving-best-gift/
- Marsh, Jason. "How to help kids learn to love giving." Greater Good Science Center. 14 December, 2016. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_help_kids_learn_to_love_giving
- Aknin, Lara B et al. “Giving leads to happiness in young children.” PloS one vol. 7,6 (2012): e39211. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039211