Our first child is due in January, and as I approach this new adventure of parenting, I find myself thinking of many things in a brand new light. As the holidays draw near, I’m pondering how I might approach this season with my daughter next year. Throughout my adult life, I’ve become more and more averse to single-use plastics. I can’t imagine spending my hard-earned dollars on plastic toys that a) won’t last past January 31st because either my daughter has lost interest or broken them, and b) go straight to the landfill to spend the next millennium decomposing. While I’m aware that you can donate toys to the less fortunate or pass them down to other children, plastic toys will end up being thrown away at some point because they just don’t last. Some people think that plastic toys can be recycled, but the majority of the time, that is just not the case. Recycling toys can be very difficult based on parts made of resins with different recycle numbers. And, let’s face it, a lot of our “recycling” isn’t actually getting recycled properly and ends up in the landfill anyway.
All that being said, Plastics, an industry publication, estimates that 90 percent of toys on the market are plastic. That doesn’t even take packaging into account! So what do we do? Not have the joy of seeing our children’s faces light up on Christmas morning because we refuse to buy toys? I recently posed this question on a social media forum to see what other parents had to say. I got a lot of great “out-of-the-box” responses. One good example was the idea of giving four gifts only – “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.” But my favorite idea of all the suggestions was the gift of experiences.
Experiential gifting is something that I had never really thought of before. I am a child of the nineties – a time when consumerism was ramping up and the more toys Santa brought you, the better your Christmas was going to be. Parents felt empowered because they were finally able to give more stuff to their children than their parents were able to give to them. But now that reducing waste is becoming more important than ever, it’s making sense to most of the latest generation of parents to switch to a more modern approach to gift-giving. Let’s be honest, who actually remembers what toys they got at their 8th Christmas? Probably not many. But what if you spent that summer going to a museum with your parents, or that fall going to a football game with your dad every Sunday? Those memories last forever and can actually end up saving you money in the long run. For 2019, industry experts expect the average American to spend $920 per person during the holidays.1 For 2 children, you could spend $300 on a local pottery class, or $1,460 for an entire family of 4 to have season tickets to the Asheville Tourists (Tip: Children under 5 are free, so it would only be $730/season for 2 adults with small children!). That’s seventy game days of making memories with your family.
These are just a couple of examples. More research would almost certainly lead you to plenty of creative ideas to get you focused more on teaching kids the value of engaging with friends and family and less focused on consumer-driven “stuff.” Besides, isn’t that the true meaning of the holiday season anyway?