Mindful Gifting

Stephanie Chan

Years ago, I saw an advertisement that says,

“Create memories, not garbage.” 

“What a brilliant idea,” I thought. I love it! And now that it is the gifting season, it is especially important to remember and walk the talk. There is nothing wrong with buying an item as a gift, if you know this item is truly what the recipient and the family want, and will be for their highest good. But a lot of times, we don’t know what they want. Or worse, we buy stocking stuffers --- items that are small in size and value, just so a Christmas stocking looks full. Is that a good use of our Mother Earth’s resources? I don’t think so. The true essence of gifting, to me, is to create joy and connection, and as a result, happy memories! It does not need to be an item. How about an amazing experience that is truly unforgettable and creates story that gets told over and over again? Are you in? Great! I have some gifting ideas for you. ;) Some of the examples below are specific to Vancouverites. If you live in another part of this world, I’m sure there will be something similar. Just Google! Or message me, and I will be happy to Google for you. (I love researching!)

1) Tickets or Membership
Give the gift of wonder to the little ones and the inner child in us!  Here are some amazing places to visit with children:

Vancouver Aquarium
Science World
VanDusen Botanical Garden
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

2) Cooking Together
Children love the action in the kitchen, and love to be involved. It is like magic watching ingredients transform into the food through mixing, beating, cutting, heating, … you name it! Cooking together strengthens bonding with the child. After all, you need to continually communicate and collaborate as a team! As a bonus, your child will also learn to enjoy and appreciate food a lot more.

Don’t want to clean up afterwards? How about attending a cooking class together? Learning new skills and recipes together without having to prep or clean up would be so much fun! Check out Well Seasoned if you are in fellow Vancouverite. It is for age 8+, but you could call ahead to see if they could accommodate if your child is a little younger. See Family Fun Vancouver’s Review “Cooking Together: Parents & Kids at Langley’s Well Seasoned” for their amazing experience cooking with their children aged 6 and 8!

3) Tickets to Special Events
How about enjoying some beautiful Christmas lights as a family? In Vancouver, we have so many options! Aurora Winter Festival, VanDusen Festival of Lights, Bright Nights Christmas Train at Stanley Park, just to name a few. Check out Daily Hive’s blog on “32 festive places to see Christmas lights in Metro Vancouver” for more places. Some of them are free, too! Remember, it is about gifting an experience, a story, a memory, not the monetary value of the gift.

Aside from Christmas lights, we also have the Vancouver Christmas market and lots of craft fairs during the holiday season. If your child likes flying, visit FlyOver Canada! I love it so much that I went 4 times!

4) Let Your Child Decide What to Do for One Day
I haven’t tried this one yet because Ethan is only 16 months old. But other mamas have shared that children are surprisingly reasonable when given the power and trust. Besides, they learn to make decisions by making decisions! So go ahead, empower your child and let her decide what she wants to do. Have faith that you will have an amazing time together!

5) Travel
Experiencing life in another part of the world is always unforgettable. So, why not? Travel as a family and experience a different kind of life together! How about watching the northern lights in Yukon, Canada? Or experience a hot, summer Christmas in Australia? How about enjoying a mild winter and enjoy some paella in Spain? Or a family yoga retreat in Costa Rica? How about skiing or snowboarding plus onsen (hot springs) in the snow in Japan? Even just going on a road trip near your hometown would be a nice getaway, eh?

We travelled to Japan with Ethan when he was 5 months old.  It was amazing, and we will definitely travel with him again!

6) Photobook, or video compilation if you like being digital
Photobooks and video compilations make wonderful and very thoughtful gifts. Every child loves to re-visit all the happy moments of her life! You could create one for the whole family and highlight what happened, or focus on your child and include messages of gratitude, thanking her for being who she is, and remind her that her presence brings so much joy to your life! Every child would love that, including our inner child!

7) “Family Life Story” Photo Session

"Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things." - Kurt Vonnegut

Wouldn’t it be nice to capture those everyday moments in a photo session? A lot of times, I just want to savour the moment, so I didn’t take out my phone to take photos. And let’s be honest, by the time the phone is out, the moment has fled! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a professional photographer capturing those moments, while we continue to be present with our littles? If you are in Vancouver, check out Felicia Chang. I looooove her work! If you are looking for other photographers via Instagram, try searching hashtags such #familydocumentary and #familyphotojournalism. If you prefer to Google, try searching “day in the life of family photographer”.

8) Let Your Inner Child Out and PLAY together!

Build Gingerbread House together or build a snowman, make a wreath, or snow angels, have a snowball fight, … you name it!  Or how about going to an escape game together?  Or laser tag?  Paint ball?  Zipline?  Ice-skate?  There are lots of fun options.  Just let loose and have fun.  :)

9) Unplug and give your child your full presence and attention for one day
Ideally, we should be doing this everyday, but life happens. What if we commit to being fully present for just one day? Lock our phones away, no screens, no distractions, … just unplug and give the gift of presence. It’s easier said than done, but I am sure it will be totally worth it! Your child will really appreciate it, and the memories you create that day with your child will be much more vivid, detailed and unforgettable.

10) Pampering together
We all love a little pampering. It is demonstration of self-love and self-care! How about going to the spa together, or have a manicure with your little girls? (If you want mani with your little boys, I won’t judge!) How about going for a massage together? Just relax and enjoy being taken care of. When you and your children feel better physically, you connect better.

11) Connect with Mother Nature
If you love being in nature, how about going on a hike, or camp together (I know it’s cold, but I’ve done it before when I was young. It’s fun!)? Or just slow down and do some stargazing? Do something that you don’t normally do, and that what’s make the experience extra special and memorable!

12) Volunteer and give back as a family!
It is the season of giving after all. So, how about giving back to the community as a family? Often times, the joy of giving is greater than receiving. Doing something meaningful and impactful as a team brings lots of joy to the family and strengthens the relationship. Volunteering also teaches your child he can make a difference, and that he is abundant and has so much to give! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make it a family tradition to volunteer?

13) Ask for a Wishlist
If you really want to give a physical gift to a child, ask for a wishlist! This make sure what you give is what she wants to receive. No bad surprises, no waste of resources (I’m not just talking about money here. I’m talking about the time it takes you to brainstorm and find the gift, plus the materials it took from Mother Earth, and the potential of the item ending up in landfill!), no waste of home space or the mental energy of debating what to do with an unwanted gift. If you are gifting to a child other than your own, then I highly recommend checking with her parents as well. You are bringing something into their home space, and they may not want certain items at home for various reasons. Perhaps they already have something similar, or they want to minimize screen time, hence a video game would not be appropriate, or they prefer to have natural toys instead of plastic, … you never know until you ask! So, do the respectful thing and ask the parents! Also, you could consider contributing to a more expensive item on a wishlist.

14) Cash
It may not be customary in your culture, but it is absolutely normal in Chinese tradition. We put cash in a red envelop with words of blessings on its cover. It is called a red pocket, and it is a symbol of blessing. It is a very practical gift. Children could choose to save, donate, or buy what they want. They could use the money to treat the ones they love. If you want children to learn to manage money, then let them handle money. You’d be surprised how diligent they can be when trusted with money.

So there you have it --- mindful gifting ideas that will surely be remembered for years, or better yet, for life! These are not limited to Christmas, of course. They are for birthdays and other occasions as well.

Hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful, mindful holiday. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

With Lots of Love,

Stephanie xxx

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