How to Balance Receiving with Giving

Kidz Learning Center

One of the critical challenges of holiday time is that our children get so used to receiving oodles of gifts that they begin to expect that they will always get more and more. But have you noticed how quickly they lose interest in many toys they receive during the holidays?

Showering our children with gifts every year can end up being detrimental if they become numb to the excitement of presents and focus only on the receiving side of the holidays. However, there are several ways to instill some balance so that our children learn to appreciate what they receive while also giving to others.

Express Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most important ways to boost happiness, providing us with incredible psychological, physical, and interpersonal benefits. It improves our health, reduces stress, and helps us focus on the positive aspects of life. In addition, teaching our kids how to step back and be thankful for what they have will keep them grounded and help them realize just how lucky they are to receive toys and other gifts at holiday time.

You can encourage your kids to express their gratitude for the gifts they receive by writing thank-you notes to friends and relatives. You can also go around the dinner table and invite everyone to say how grateful they are for each gift and why it is so meaningful to them. Finally, journaling is one of the most popular and effective ways to express gratitude. It encourages our kids to acknowledge the joyous moments in their day, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Consider giving them their own gratitude journal this holiday season, so they have the perfect place to record what they are thankful for, including their holiday gifts and other special moments throughout the year.

Learn That Less Is More

How many dolls does one little girl really need? If you dig through your children’s old toys, you may be taken aback by how many of each item they have: multiple puzzles, games, cars, trucks, plastic figures, and art supplies. It never ends. When they are showered with too many presents, it reduces the interest value of each toy very quickly. According to Kim John Payne in Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, kids who are inundated with toys are so overwhelmed that they are unable to play by themselves and can even develop focus issues.

It is essential to teach our children how to pick and choose a few special gifts they would like and not go overboard. Par­enting coach Carla Naumburg developed a fabulous poem to inspire the types of presents to give to children for the holidays that help make each gift meaningful. This approach goes beyond just the toys chil­dren typically want, allowing parents and children to be more creative with gifts.

Something you want,
something you need,
to wear, to read.

Something to see,
something to spare,
something to cook,
something to share.

Give to the Less Fortunate

The holiday season can quickly become a shopping spree if we are not careful. But this is a particularly critical time of year to remember those who cannot cel­ebrate the holidays like we are with piles of gifts. December is the perfect time to clean out the playroom and practice some giving. Spend time each year going through every nook and cranny to weed out the old toys before you bring in the new ones. Ask your children to collect piles of items to recycle, throw away, and donate. When the children choose from their own pile of toys, it creates a powerful hands-on experience to learn about the balance between giving and receiving.

After you do this exercise a few times, your kids will automatically realize that no matter what new gifts they receive, they will choose some that they no longer play with to give to children who may not get any presents at all. This is a habit that everyone can easily add to their holiday traditions.

You can also encourage your children to forgo a new gift or two to purchase items for those in need. Look for a holiday toy drive in your community to support and take your kids with you to purchase the items and deliver them to the charity.

Sandi Schwartz is an author, journalist, and mother of two. She has written extensively about parent­ing, wellness, and environmental issues. As the founder and director of the Ecohappiness Project, her mission is to inspire and educate families to build a nature habit to feel happier and calmer. Learn more at


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