Many of us face the same scenario – you’ve spent weeks looking for the perfect gifts for your kids, and you’re still struggling to find the right balance. You need gifts that are age-appropriate yet enriching. Your gifts also ideally need to be sensitive to your child’s needs and interests while still remaining exciting and new. That’s a tightrope to walk, to be sure.
You also might have a set amount of money set aside for each child. All of this is obviously coming from a really good place, the best place: You want to see your kid’s happy and off to the best start possible in life. So, fast forward to Christmas morning, and has all of your love and hours researching the best gifts paid off? There’s laughter, squeals of delight, and sometimes happy, overwhelmed tears…the thing is, those have a tendency to be short-lived.
The novelty from receiving gadgets and toys can evaporate fairly quickly. Think back to your childhood – how many toys do you remember collecting cobwebs or stuffing into your closet never to be seen or heard from again? The fact is that gifts are often more glitter than substance, and the advertising so often outstrips sustained engagement from your child. Research is now showing that a mountain full of gifts might not be the ideal choice this holiday season. So, where does that leave matters?
The research is showing that kids and adults tend to value and fondly remember experiences much more than physical gifts as such. There’s a phenomenon in psychology known as hedonic adaptation in which we become desensitized or used to; the finer things in life, the more that we’re exposed to them. So, as an example, the first time that you receive a particular gift, it might seem like heaven has truly descended to Earth. Over time, though, you get used to having it and no longer get the same initial thrill.
Taking your kids to the zoo, a local museum, or a baseball game is an experience that they’ll treasure for a long time to come. If you do a bit of homework, you can even make outings educational and point out the significance of all of the interesting exhibits and artifacts along the way.
What’s remarkable is that experiences are not only more treasured than gifts, but giving your child an overabundance of toys has been shown to erode their self-esteem over the long term. That sounds terrible, but is it true? The fact is that kids who receive too many gifts often associate their identities with possessions rather than focusing on themselves, their families, and wonderful experiences that can be shared.
There’s still a place for Christmas gift deals and gifts under the tree, however. Choose a few gifts that you know will have deep resonance for years. A guitar for a kid who likes music or bicycle for gaining more experiences is a great example. Remind your kids that Christmas is mainly about giving to others.