Holiday Shopping: Don’t Lose Your Sh*t, People!

Playing with the birdbath

TGSG Note: Hi readers — at least I hope I still have readers after my very long blogging break! I am actually re-posting this from last year, because let’s face it, the push to over-spend and overdo hasn’t gone away this holiday season. Remember to take time to actually enjoy the holidays and this time you have to make memories. Don’t rush. Give back. Laugh a lot. Love more. xoxo – Bethe

Childhood is pretty simple. No really, it is. But we adults over-complicate it and fill it up with noise and lots and lots of stuff. We are the adults — all roads lead back to us.

Door busters. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Buying shit Stuff You Don’t Need Tuesday…MAKE. IT. STOP.

Simply put, the Holidays have become RIDICULOUS. There, I’ve said it. People, it needed to be said. And it needs to be repeated. RIDICULOUS.

And who has made it ridiculous? Hint: It’s not the kids.

Parents spending excessive amounts of money on mostly things children do not need, won’t enjoy for very long, and only want because some marketer told them they wanted it. Buying presents out of guilt. Trying to outdo last year, or the neighbors, or the sister-in-law. Whatever.

Odds are, this will ring at least a little bit true to you, unless you are a Super Zen Holiday Master, and if so, I am totally tipping my hat to you right now (chapeau!).

It doesn’t have to be like this. We can take a stand in our own lives and families and reclaim sanity. I’ve seen the idea of Four Presents floating around the last few years and I really like the concept.

Each child gets 4 presents: 

1.    Something they want

2.    Something they need

3.    Something to wear

4.    Something to read

Balanced and sane, with plenty of room for fun and whimsy. It also challenges you to focus on quality versus quantity, and forces you to really consider each child in a meaningful way. I like the idea of adding a 5th item — a coupon for one child-selected outing or activity. Kids will delight in picking an activity and helping plan the when and the where!

Will there be some push back? Most likely, but you can get through it and it will be worth it. (And after all, you are the adult – just sayin‘.) Plus, the planet will thank you. ALL THAT PLASTIC and excessive packaging for goods that are mostly made in China. Who needs it? More isn’t always better, often it is just more.

If you have children that are used to getting lots and lots of presents, talk to them about the real meaning of the holiday and how your family is going to shift the focus to spending more time together doing fun things, like ice skating, hiking, or game nights around the tree (or menorah or kinara). For very young children, they won’t know the difference and you will be setting a healthy expectation of the holiday.

As for toys, keep a few things in mind:

  • A toy should be 90% child and 10% toy, meaning if the toy does all the work and supplies all the creativity, who is having the fun? We want the kids to get great things out of a toy versus have the toy go through the motions set-up by manufacturers.
  • Keep movement in mind. Will this promote active play or sedentary play? Today’s children are spending 7.5 hours a day in front of screens, do you really want to add to that?

Two more tips…

Hope this post helps and inspires. If you have already over-purchased, set some things aside for birthday presents, give them to Toys for Tots, or return them and add that money to the Family Fun Budget (or save it!).

Deep breath — you can do it. And remember other people will give presents too. Plus the old adage really is true, what children truly remember is the gift of time spent with you.

Happy Sane Holidays! ~ The Grass Stain Guru

PS: Don’t forget to save the cardboard boxes — best toys EVER!

Merry Christmas From the Grass Stain Guru


 Merry, merry Christmas from The Grass Stain Guru and Not So Mystery Critter!

And don’t forget to enter The Christmas Box Challenge!


Peace and love, my friends.

See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru


A Stick-y Christmas

TGSG Note: There have been some great posts about simplifying Christmas out there in the blogosphere, which continue to give me hope that Americans may have actually learned something from this recession. A nice though, isn’t it?

My friend Carol Torgan did a nice roundup of posts about gifts to promote outdoor play that you should check out.

You’ll find lots of yummy cookie recipes just perfect for sharing, over at The Slow Family Online. (The spritz cookies really took me back, reminding me of sweet Christmases long ago, and of people long since gone.)

And below, you will find a piece I did on potentially the greatest toy of all — the stick. A gentle reminder that all that glitter does not glow…

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, try and remember that the greatest gift of all is kindness, compassion, love, and time for one another. No fancy wrapping required or trip to the mall.

Happy Holidays, world. Hugs ~ Bethe

Earlier this year, the very low-tech, but nonetheless AWESOME stick was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. That’s right, I said stick. It takes its rightful place among other perennial favorites, including the cardboard box and the 64 pack of crayons with the built in sharpener (of course!).

To qualify for this honor, a toy must must exemplify three very important qualities: learning, creativity, and discovery. The stick certainly meets that criteria.

It can be a sword, firewood for a shipwreck survivor, woven into the roof of a fort or a Fairy House, a magic wand, or a thousand other things a child can dream up. And each day, that same stick (or one just like it), takes on life anew and can be part of yet another scene of creativity and wonder only limited by a child’s imagination.

How many expensive toys can we say that about? How many toys that your kids “just had to have” are now abandoned in the basement, laying broken under the bed, or gathering dust on a shelf? More than a few would be my guess.

If Christmas, and the amount of money you spend on short-term satisfaction aren’t enough of a reminder, my friend David over at The Good Human wrote a great post called We Must Stop Living Throw-Away Lives, that will also help put things into perspective.

So, here is my challenge to you: stop buying so many toys. It’s pretty much that easy.

Letting kids engage their imaginations takes a lot less stuff  — plain and simple. It is also a great way to get them outside into nature’s toy store, which has much less marketing dollars behind it, but is a far better value all the way around.

Leaves, rocks, sticks, acorns, creeks, trees, and good old fashioned dirt will challenge children to create their own games and worlds of wonder. These simple, natural items are the building blocks of great play and countless adventures, and are there at the ready.

No plastic. No batteries. No blinking lights or buzzing noises. No rules, nor right or wrong way to play or adult explanation needed, which is as it should be.

If you are really in the mood to buy a toy or bicycle (which is also in the Toy Hall of Fame, PS.), check out yard sales, thrift stores, and your local “Penny Saver” paper. You will be surprised at the great things you can find, without breaking the bank or requiring additional manufacturing or packaging.

Or, why not set-up a Toy Swap with friends and neighbors? It’s a great way to pass toys along and get something “new”  for the kids in your world.  As we all try and lead more sustainable lives, we need to take the concept of recycle, reuse, and reduce to new areas of our lives, so why not play and toys?

Of course, it’s OK to buy new toys for special occasions, but challenge yourself to simplify and buy less overall. Odds are your kids won’t miss it, and I know you won’t miss the clutter.

Now, if you will excuse me, there is a stick outside that is just begging to be played with. I would hate to disappoint it.

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mandi Gaga

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