The holiday season often reminds me of my years as a prekindergarten teacher and the sometimes funny, usually heartfelt gifts I received from students. Among the share of mugs, calendars, and boxes of candy, there were some truly bizarre gifts (an armadillo candle I never quite understood the significance of…), some slightly ill-chosen ones (what to do with personalized stationary that has someone else’s name?), and some that truly touched my heart, like the grocery store fruit basket that came from a family I knew had next to nothing to spare for presents. I won’t ever forget the sight of Hollis, his face partially hidden by a red cellophane-wrapped tower of apples and oranges, proudly presenting me with his gift.
Now that I have two children with teachers to similarly appreciate, I think about how to use this time to make gift-giving about more than the gift itself. What will your children give this year, and what will they learn in return?
Here are five tips for making gift-giving with children a meaningful learning experience:
- Boost your child’s social-emotional competencies by asking her to consider others’ thoughts and wants. As you look for gifts, talk about what you are picking out and why. Share ideas about how the recipient will feel about getting the gift like, “I know that Aunt Eileen loves to have pictures of her family around her. I think looking at a picture of you will make her smile.”
- Show your child the value of a handwritten note or card. Use words to communicate gratitude and the reasons why you are acknowledging someone special with a gift. Write down your child’s message, or encourage his beginning writing efforts on some special holiday stationary.
- Let your child select or create a gift for someone special. A child’s efforts may not always be “Pinterest-worthy” but the recipient is sure to value something a child has pride in. Make fridge magnets and personalized coasters with finger paints, or use fabric pens to decorate an apron. Supporting a child’s initiative and creativity foster valuable skills for school and for life.
- Slow down and talk with your child about why you are giving gifts. Have a back-and-forth conversation about the role that special people play in the child’s life, and why the holidays are a perfect time to appreciate them. Use new and sophisticated vocabulary words like grateful, appreciate, thoughtful, exchange, and occasion.
- Give your child a role in delivering gifts. Knock on a neighbor’s door with a treat, or let your child present a gift bag to the teacher. Encourage the language and social skills that come from the act of gift-giving. If you are sending a gift to someone far away, make a date to video chat so your child can express her sentiments face-to-face.
Best wishes from Jumpstart for a happy, safe, and learning-filled holiday!