I am certain this post will not make me popular amongst my tech-loving students, however, I firmly believe that children secretly desire “real toys” for Christmas; and by this I mean toys that do not require screens, wires, remotes, or batteries. I know electronics probably top the wish list this holiday season, but I want to encourage you, and myself, to dig deep for those gift ideas that lend themselves to family connection, the development of creativity and the much needed cardio movement our kids require for whole-child development.
Not all electronics are bad, but my fear is that we are becoming more attached to our devices than the people sitting beside us. As we all know, kids ultimately crave attention and attachment. In the moment, they may not choose it over a flashy screen, but our role as adults is to help them see what they are missing when they push relationships to the side. I have noticed in my own household that unless I have visible options for play, my children will always gravitate towards the flat screen they can see. So, this Christmas, I want to challenge you to think of gifts that draw your family together and summon everyone around the table or back yard. Many of these are not new ideas or toys, and in fact, are from a simpler time. Activities that foster indoor competition such as board games, card games, ping-pong or foosball tables, puzzles or games that require teams (Bannanagrams, Hedbanz, Pictionary, Spot it!) are always a hit. Anything that gets families outdoors together also creates connection such as firepits, camping or fishing gear, corn hole, a trampoline, a new basketball hoop, giant Jenga or Connect Four. Lastly, any type of coupon or gift card for a family-shared experience such as ice cream outings, bowling, trampoline park, Great Wolf Lodge stay, sporting event, snow tubing day trip, a play, museum/zoo/aquarium passes or amusement park tickets. These experiences give your family something to look forward to, and time away from home (and devices), creating memories that shape their childhood.
Children are wired to create and need opportunities to use their imagination and develop a sense of wonder, and screens often rob our children of this. Thus, this Christmas, I encourage you to expand and refresh your art supplies bucket. I have found that a random assortment of fresh markers, sharp colored pencils, paints, popsicle sticks, card stock, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, glitter glue, colored tape, gel pens and scissors makes my children's imaginations take off. They may not think to ask for this, but when boredom strikes it is always nice to have on hand when they are begging for iPad time. Other gift ideas are craft sets, music lessons for a new instrument, woodworking supplies, polaroid camera, a book series, karaoke machine (so entertaining!), or magazine subscriptions for a new hobby or interest.
We all know our kids need to move for their overall physical and mental health. As cold weather settles in we have to be a little more creative in helping our kids get in their physical activity instead of plopping on the couch with devices in hand. I know all kids have various interests in sports, but here are some ideas to think about what may get your kids moving and playing: bocce ball, supersized kickball, yard game kits, spike ball, laser tag set, glow in the dark capture the flag, frisbee golf supplies, portable pop-up soccer nets, new sports equipment, new bikes for the family and sports lessons to further develop an athletic interest.
I know that every family has different financial means and different traditions around the holidays. These are just some ideas to help you start thinking within your own family system how you can foster attachment and connection in a way that brings joy and peace during this special time of year as we celebrate the greatest gift of all that we have in Jesus.
Angela Liner (’00)
Lower School Counselor