You know your child better than anyone, you know what gifts they are most excited about this Christmas. Is it Bluey toys, matching pyjamas, or maybe Barbie or Lego or Disney or books to read or a footy to kick or pool toys to enjoy? Whatever the choice you can be sure that what you gift your child will be excitedly unwrapped, and happily played with and explored for a while. And then…your child will search out what they truly wish for this Christmas – YOU, your time, your attention and your presence in their world!
Research with young children consistently tells us that rather than the latest device or toy, most want more quality time with loved ones, particularly their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. You may be surprised to hear this and perhaps even a tad sceptical. But isn’t it natural for children to want time and connection, to feel important to someone and of course to engage the grown-ups in play?
Perhaps the most valued gift we can give is to slow down, spend time and connect with our families. Think of your happy memories of Christmas from your childhood, yes certainly I can remember a favourite gift I was given but most of all I remember the fun times shared with family and friends. For many of us who have grown up in Australia, the December warm weather means board games, beach days, ice-blocks, bike riding, swimming in the ocean and/or playing under the sprinkler in the backyard and slipping down the slip’n’slide – now that is the FUN I remember that brings a smile to my face!
As parents, we put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves over Christmas, but sometimes we overlook the most important things. It’s easy to forget that often the things that make Christmas ‘magical’ mean more to our children than presents.
One group of pediatricians believe that what children need more than presents is an adult in their lives who really takes the time to listen and to know and love the child just the way they are, family time, solid routines, a good night’s sleep, family traditions, fun holiday rituals and some quiet, down time every day.
There are some gifts that are perhaps more likely to support play and engagement together and can be tailored to a child’s interests, such as:
- An entry pass or membership to a fun attraction like a national park, swimming pool, theme park, skating rink, botanic gardens, zoo or reptile park
- A card or set of cards promising to spend time with them, and perhaps playing a favourite game, watching a movie, kicking a ball at the park, going swimming or getting an ice cream
- A storybook that features the child, and possibly their pets, friends, family members, favourite characters or activities
- A children’s cookbook with recipes for the child to pick that you can make together
- Simple musical instruments. Drums, bells, triangles, xylophones and glockenspiels are all good options to provide hours of fun without being expensive or needing to be charged
- Materials for being creative. Things like playdough, crayons, chalk, packets of (recycled) paper or card, parent-approved pencils or textas can be great-value gifts
- Items for the dress-up box – colourful silks, hats, capes, aprons and so on are versatile and provide an endless variety of role-play options
- Imaginative play props—maybe felt puppets or a tea set. These are even better if you are willing to join in!
Like other parts of the world, Christmas in Australia is often filled with different family traditions designed to celebrate this time of the year. If your family doesn’t have any traditions it’s time to start! Holiday traditions create memories and anticipation for happy times. Make a special occasion of setting up the tree together, bake special Christmas foods or decorate a gingerbread house, visit Christmas lights and/or count down to Christmas with a calendar. See below for some additional ideas –
- Family gatherings
- Get a photo with Santa, maybe even stage an ugly sweater Christmas portrait session
- Check out the city Christmas events – Check out what’s on offer this Christmas in Brisbane
- Advent calendars are a common family tradition to count down the month of December leading up to Christmas
- Backyard cricket
- Listen to some Christmas tunes
- Send a letter to Santa
- Cooking sweet treats like Rocky Road, white Christmas and Christmas trifle
- A visit around to the local Christmas Lights and Decorations
- Preparing carrots and milk, or oats sprinkled with glitter so the reindeer can find our home as they fly by and sometimes even a cold beer for Santa
- Go camping
- Experiencing all the adventures of the Christmas elf
- Christmas Eve goody packs and sometimes a new pair of pj’s, and
- Watching a Christmas movie or two
Some links to activities, experiences and events worth experiencing with your children, family and friends this December –
However you choose to spend the festive season with your children, family and friends, most importantly remember to be kind to yourself and others. 2023 has been quite a year, family gatherings can be stressful and for those navigating separation or grieving the loss of a loved one, it can be a particularly tough time. Give yourself time to think and plan how you want to spend the holidays and reach out for help if you need—beyondblue has a lot of useful information on mental health and support services available.
Please know if you make time to play, cherish and listen to the children in your life, that in itself is a gift. Try not to let the stress or pressure of other demands get in the way.
From our BIG, beautiful Mother Duck family to yours we wish you this festive season many moments filled with joy, hope, fun, happiness and a truckload of special memories created and shared with the people that mean the most in your life.
Merry Christmas Everyone!