The Art of Gift Giving & Receiving in Families

Gift giving and receiving can be problematic in families.

Seems a bit ironic when we’re trying to simplify and build a home environment based on love and gratitude.

But every year around the winter holidays, I get questions about how to handle gifts. So here, I’m going to give you my top tips on gift giving and receiving.

Namely, how do we handle gift giving and receiving and how do we avoid conflict in our families?

The Art of Gift Giving & Receiving

I was there myself, years ago, perhaps where you are now. Wanting only natural playthings in keeping with my hard-earned simplicity.

And then a well-meaning aunt or grandma would give my kids a plastic toy with all the bells and whistles, and I’d panic! 

The truth is though, that as Waldorf-inspired parents, we can go overboard. Sometimes WAY TOO FAR. And connection with extended family is important to preserve and nurture along with our immediate family connections.

What’s a Waldorf family to do about gift giving and receiving?

We have more control over the gifts we give to our own children, of course. Here are two places to go for more ideas about that: 

Making handmade gifts can be festive and connecting and a learning experience as well. I love giving handmade gifts, and every year we’d make at least some. 

Ideas for handmade gifts to give: window stars, knitted washcloths & handmade soap, bookmarks, fancy baked goods, placemats, and calendars.

Or you can give gifts of experience such as tickets to a show, an ice skating date, or dinner out for two to enjoy some one-on-one time with one of your children.

Books make wonderful gifts, too. I have a full list of over 50 children’s books here: Favorite Winter Holiday Books for Giving and Receiving. 

And,  I have a whole collection of Gift Guides for Simple Natural Families if you want more gift ideas.

Graciously Receiving Gifts

Now for the dilemma of receiving unwanted gifts. This is potentially a messier topic! Some extended families can even get into great conflict over this one.

Here’s one thought as we head into the holiday season:

Ask if grandparents or in-laws would like any suggestions for gifts to give your children! 

Then you can steer them toward a company you feel good about such as:

Or ask for a specific item that the whole family can enjoy together.

This was a great solution in our extended family. The grandparents often gave us one gift for all the children to play with together.

Here are a few ideas (my referral links):

Or ask for an annual membership to the Natural History Museum, or the Zoo, or the Historical Society, Botanical Gardens or Art Museum.

For years, one of our family’s favorite gift was an annual membership to either the Zoo or the Natural History Museum, it alternated every year.

But what if your relatives don’t ask? Or worse yet, they don’t see the value in your natural lifestyle and want to give your children the latest plastic toy or electronic device?

Let them! That’s my advice. I know that may surprise you, but the time to share about your new-found or misunderstood path is NOT around the holidays. 

It’s a process. And over time, they’ll see the benefits to your children of your parenting choices.

Or you’ll come to be able to talk about your goals and dreams for your children without bristling. The sharp edges do soften over time.

The Dilemma of Unwanted Gifts

Then what do you do with those unwanted gifts you’re kids receive, you may ask?

Let the children enjoy them for a time. If the toys become all-consuming, gently set limits. (Remember the mantra: “be firm but also be kind.”) And then at a later date, you can “disappear” them. Or clear out and donate the item. Perhaps during spring cleaning or in the summertime.

Remember, you’re in this for the long run. Don’t let the dilemma of unwanted gifts ruin your holidays.

Most importantly, don’t set up a power struggle with grandparents or in-laws by making ultimatums or edicts. That will work about as well as it does with children!

The definition of a gift is “a thing given willingly.”

Accept your gifts with as much grace and gratitude as you can muster.

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