As the holiday season is upon us, I am reminded of the many life lessons I can teach my daughters during this time of year. For us, Hanukkah starts tomorrow, which means we have been talking a lot about the holiday, as well as gifts, for a few weeks now. Being that it will also be Thanksgiving the day after Hanukkah begins, we have also been discussing with our older daughter about what people really need in life to live, and what we appreciate having in our daily lives. We went shopping for food together to donate to a food pantry and she was ever so thrilled to choose items to fill our shopping cart! This trip to the store actually reminded her of last year when she choose one toy she felt she no longer played with, to donate to children without such fortune. Its funny, because she often references this toy and the occasion, though she was only 2 1/2, it must have made a big impact on her. Whenever we talk about donating, she thinks of this toy. We had planned last year to make it a yearly ritual before the holidays, to go through our toy bins and choose a toy or two to donate. I occasionally go through the toys and do so myself, but now realize how important it is to make children part of this process too (at least sometimes!). By engaging my daughter in the process, the learning is two-fold: that we don’t need to keep everything forever, and that there are others who might appreciate our things but cannot afford them. In Judaism we teach of the virtue of tzedekah, charity or righteousness, and are encouraged to involve children from a very young age. I was taught when I was young, and I only hope my daughters will learn the importance as well.
In addition to finding used toys, last year we also made a special trip to Target to purchase a new toy which a child her age might appreciate. I encouraged her to choose a toy she would like, but that we would donate. This year, we will do the same, but I will encourage her to help be a part of the buying process and possibly use some of her savings towards the toy. She has recently started filling up a piggy bank, and is beginning to understand the value of money. Here she is with it – it also happened to be the first purchase she had saved up for!
It is one thing to model for her the importance of giving, but now that she is older, I think it would be good to try to incorporate her into the process as well. A long time ago I bookmarked a website about how to teach children about money, in developmentally appropriate ways. Check it out: http://moneyasyougrow.org/#, I found it helpful, especially now that I have an inquisitive three-year-old!
Each year during this season I am always contradicted inside with a feeling of wanting my daughters to witness the joy of getting special presents, as well as the materialistic idealism that it fosters in our children. I try to limit gifts to one toy, one book, and one piece of clothing; and then for family and friends we make an Amazon wish list to help guide them in gift-giving choices that we (and the girls) would appreciate. Asking for experiences/museum memberships is also nice. Since we also celebrate Christmas with my husband’s family we actually don’t get the girls gifts from us then, we leave that to the rest of the family, which is more than plenty! I know it is a balance, and I don’t want to be a grinch about the holidays, because I too, love getting a few items from my wish list, and even more so, getting (and making!) gifts for family and friends. Our economy needs it too, right? 🙂 I just don’t want my girls to loose site of the true items of importance in our lives, and many of those are priceless.