My Christmas memories as a young girl include lots of food, lots of people, lots of whimsical decoration, but very few presents. The gifts I received were simple, often homemade, and only a sprinkling.

I was always thrilled to open the carefully wrapped packages. I clung to the gifts for the entire holiday season. Some gifts I cherished so much that I still own them.

Today, as I prepare a Christmas list for family and friends, I am reminded of the simple gifts that meant so much to me growing up. While I want to prepare handmade gifts for loved ones, I can’t help but think how they’ll fare beside shiny technology. Will the gift be appreciated? Will the invested time be honored? Or, will the item be tossed aside in favor of a more modern, twinkling toy?

It’s clear that we live in a time where portable plastics with bells and whistles take center stage. That’s not going to disappear anytime soon, no matter how nostalgic we become. Children born in the last 15 years have no idea what a world without internet is like.

How do we gift for the child who has everything, including a digital play sink?

How do we share something simple with a niece or nephew when they can create their own website in the blink of an eye?

How do we offer a piece of Christmas magic when the child thinks Santa Claus is the reason for the season?

Even without technology, you can still be a successful gift-giver and the young recipients will remember your thoughtfulness forever.

How to bring simplicity back to holiday gift-giving:

  1. Begin with your own child. While you may be tempted to influence all the children of the world, you can only begin with your own child – and not just at Christmas time. Throughout the year, teach your child about the handcrafts you grew up with. Have him feel the texture of yarn, smell the woodsy scent of natural wood, see the colors and patterns in fabrics, hear the sound of an acoustic instrument, and taste the wonders of homemade food. This exposure will take your child away from invasive technology and sensitize him to the simple pleasures in life. When the holidays roll around, he will appreciate the effort a person has put into a handmade gift.
  1. Offer a supplement to go along with a handmade gift. You don’t necessarily need to wait for the parents to begin knitting mittens before you share the gift of simplicity with someone else’s child.

If you’re going to crochet a new hat for a technology-crazed nephew, offer a supplement to go along with it.

Some ideas include:

  • a story to go along with the hat (an inspiring story about how you learned to crochet, or about how a charity that crochets for the needy got started, such as Krochet Kids Intl. and Keeping Kids Warm)
  • a timeline explaining the history of crocheting (for the history buff)
  • a list of famous people who wear crocheted hats today (or the style of hat you made)
  • “how-to” instructions to get started himself (use clear pictures for each step of the way)
  • list websites that share videos specifically teaching children to crochet
  • include tools for the child to learn to crochet (yarn and needles)

If you are gifting a wood-crafted gift to your selfie-loving niece, supplement with:

  • a bag of wood craft bits (easily found for cheap at any dollar store)
  • an already assembled natural wooden birdhouse or jewelry box ready for staining/ painting (also easily available at dollar stores)
  • a book for children about wood crafts
  • basic supplies for working with natural wood like sandpaper or glue (depending on the age, you can also supplement with a child-sized hammer or saw)
  • wooden pegs and popsicle sticks
  • tickets to see the latest wooden sculpture exhibit at the museum
  1. Offer a simple gift that lasts all year long. Competing with technology is easy if you give a gift that a child can enjoy all year long – not just within seconds of unwrapping. Think in terms of experiences rather than things.

Some ideas include:

  • a class the child has always wanted such as music, photography, skating, or crochet lessons (consider a three-month session instead of the entire year if finances don’t permit)
  • a subscription to a favorite magazine
  • a yearly pass to the botanical gardens, eco-museum or space center (or whatever else is the child’s passion)
  • monthly subscription for a surprise box (many companies offer random crafts, science, art or themed educational kits that arrive at the door monthly – who wouldn’t love the anticipation and mystery?)
  • teach the child to give to others in need (start a “Giver’s Club” together that meets monthly where, by next Christmas, the club donates items of choice to a charity of choice)

In what ways will you bring simplicity back to gift-giving?

About Gabriella Volpe

Gabriella Volpe is a homeschooling mom of a child with special needs, a certified teacher and the homeschool consultant for families of children with special needs. She knows first-hand what it means to struggle with educational planning for a child who does not fit the system and is limited by resources and products intended for children without disabilities. She helps parents find ways to adapt and modify the curriculum so they don’t have to spend hours figuring it out on their own. You can find her at

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