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Challenge: Gratitude & Giving

Mindful Gift Giving for a Real Holiday Season

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“What do you want for Christmas?” I asked my four-year-old.

Her nose scrunched up as she considered the question. “A water tower!” she said.

“A what?” I didn’t think I understood her correctly.

“A water tower!” she repeated.

My husband and I weren’t sure what kind of ridiculous, imaginative play world she was creating, but we didn’t want to stop her. We searched every corner of the internet for a miniature water tower. No luck. Then my mother-in-law located one online. Click. Buy. Estimated arrival: Tuesday before Christmas.

A week later, my mother-in-law called to say the gift would be delayed. We crossed our fingers that my daughter wouldn’t be too crushed on Christmas morning.

The good news is that she didn’t ask for it again, and that made me think more holistically about gift giving. Every year, our extended family tries to create a sense of magic and wonder for our girls. The holidays are fun, memorable—and momentary. Piles of toys already collect dust on the shelves of my daughters’ bedrooms, providing no purpose or developmental growth. Toys are scattered around the house creating a mess.


As media reports escalate about supply chain issues, parents are encouraged to purchase gifts early. I’m asking myself four important pre-purchase questions:

  1. Needs: Is this item something my daughters actually need? Will the gift serve a purpose a year from now? If not, I’ll add it to a want list. What we want isn’t the same as what we need and that’s essential for my girls to understand

  2. Development: Does the item help with social, emotional, physical, or cognitive development? Books and puzzles are my go-to gifts. As my girls have grown, family games and outdoor gear will always be prioritized.

  3. Give Back: Is it an item that creates impact? Buying from local and eco-friendly businesses helps my family help our community and environment.

  4. Experiences: What adventures or experiences would my children enjoy instead of more things? Some great family-fun experiences may include: gift certificates for bowling, a holiday exhibit, movies, or visiting a Children’s Museum.

As you begin the holiday season, consider joining me in reframing gift giving. And, if you already follow these practices, please share your wisdom on the TODAY Parenting Community!

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