This year at the Punkernoodle house we set a little challenge for ourselves. The kiddos are suddenly wise to the whole gift thing – they know they’re coming, they’re asking and begging for them, and of course for them, more is better. We decided, in an effort to save money and also be green, that we wouldn’t buy any NEW gifts for them – it’s a recycled Hanukkah/Christmas for us. I was nervous at first, but so far it’s gone off really well and the kids are none the wiser – and not in the least bit disappointed. For Hanukkah, when some children traditionally receive 8 nights of gifts, they got wooden puzzles, a doll, little learning computers, some DVDs for family movie night, a pile of books, and more – all of it recycled. Christmas will bring more of the same. Everything we bought for them was new or nearly new looking, some had never even been used, and all had a ton of “playing life” left in it. The only truly brand new stuff the girls got was from their relatives (grandparents don’t want to buy pre-owned stuff for the apples of their eyes, they just don’t).
So how’d we do it? Thanks to a few great kids consignment shops, I found really wonderful gifts even up to the last minute. I helped organize a toy drive in the fall and bought some toys from there (garage sales, community sales and swaps are other good places). Craigs List is another great place if you are looking for specific things (last year we bought the girls an amazing wooden train table, train tracks and a whole wooden Thomas train set for waaaayyyyy less than it costs new).
In Seattle, a couple of our favorite consignment shops are Childish Things and Me ‘n Moms. Every community has stores like these, or even thrift stores where you can find great recycled toys and clothes for cheap.
Another great way to give to your children without buying New Stuff is to give an experience. Annual passes to the zoo, the Children’s Theater, the Children’s Museum, tickets to a show, swimming or soccer lessons, etc. We took the girls to The Nutcracker and it was a great gift and a lifetime memory for them. Relatives and grandparents also love this idea because they feel like they are giving a gift that keeps on giving. Another carbon-neutral idea is to download a music album for your child – an hour or two of fun new kiddie music. Then put it on and have a family dance party. There are lots of gift ideas that maximize family time and togetherness and minimize buying new crap. If you do want to buy new stuff, anything locally made is great (we have artisans at our local farmer’s market who make soap, jewelry, hand-knit hats and dolls) or fairly traded (hot chocolate or chocolate, bubble bath, and hand-made organic cotton toys).
And you can always buy something new that is earth-friendly and will help you reduce your overall footprint (like cloth diapers for your baby from Punkernoodle or Two Little Whales!) or seeds and tools to plant a winter or spring garden…
Finally, re-think wrapping. Our kids are still young, so the present is the main focus and they don;t care much about wrapping. I just had one recycled gift bag that I would place each night’s gift in over Hanukkah and then when it was time for gifts I would pull it our of the bag or let them do it – no extra wrapping. When we do have wrapping I try to reuse it. You can also wrap things unconventionally – use the gifts themselves, like clothing or a toy purse, to wrap or contain other gifts. Wrap gifts in a reusable canvas shopping bag and then tell your child that’s their bag to take to the grocery store (another gift!).
Only a couple days left for Christmas shopping – with a little change in thinking you can give your kids a recycled, carbon-friendly Christmas too!