“All I want for Christmas is you.” ~Mariah Carey
The spectrum of giving during the holiday season is certainly broad. On one end there lies Christmas lists like my son’s with no fewer than seven NFL jerseys and a NERF gun; on the other, lists like my 85 year-old father that say “I don’t need anything.”
The concept of reaching into our wallets is not new, nor is it “wrong.” But is it really what we want?
At the beginning of December, while preparing for my monthly appearance on KTVA 11’s Daybreak program, I reflected back to my childhood Christmas gifts. Which ones stood out, and why? I also pulled up an interesting study funded by the U.S. Travel Association that I first heard about during the Family Travel Summit in September. Called “Project Time Off,” the premise, and study, show that kids are truly affected by the amount of time parents spend at work and not with them, doing, as one child put it, “things that are fun.”
Things that are fun.
This stuck with me. What could I do, then, to practice what I preach, do as I say AND do?
The list I came up with was pretty solid, and you can watch it HERE. Below are the highlights, as we swing into those final few days before Christmas.
Support an organization. Like animals? Buy a pass to your local wildlife conservation center or zoo. We purchased a membership to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and feel pretty darned good about contributing to the successes of this amazing facility in Portage. GiftTip: Get a gift card holder and tie it around a stuffed moose, musk ox, or bear for a dramatic “under the tree” effect.
Learn a new skill. Everyone learning together, what a concept! How about taking a kayaking class, or perhaps a winter camping class? Try REI for a listing of great presentations in Alaska. Then, purchase some family camping or water sports gear for Christmas morning? Learning something new as a family puts everyone on the same plane, and when parents and kids learn skills together, everyone wins.
Pick up a book. I love books about travel (no kidding), animals, or historical events that take place in my own backyard, and many kids do, too. Remember that guest post by author Ken Keffer, who co-wrote The Secret Lives of Animals? I’m still reading it, and still love it. Pick out a book for each child centered around a trip you might take, or an animal you all love, and see where it takes you.
Plan a trip. Kids love surprises, and I don’t mean the surprises like those seen on a commercial for the Magic Kingdom(s). I’m talking about tucking airline tickets into a brand new backpack and whisking kids to a hotel in Seattle for their very own weekend of fun. Or, taking that backpack and adding a sleeping bag and a book about the Pacific Crest Trail to the airline tickets and hike for a week with your teenager through the Oregon or Washington wilderness, unplugged. Don’t forget that 2016 is also the Centennial of the National Park Service, too. Why not visit a park in another state?
The point? Own what you give. Make it a beautiful representation of who you are as both a family and individuals. Kids don’t always remember what they got, but they always remember where they went. Connecting the two sometimes work in everyone’s favor.