By Olivia Mitchell

It’s almost that time of year again. For many, Christmas shopping can be stressful. But there are alternatives to the frantic grab-at-anything approach.

This holiday season, think outside the box. Toys aren’t the only game in town when it comes to presents. Gift-giving can be fun and meaningful at the same time. For example, personalized jewelry can make a wonderful gift, and it will last much longer than a plastic toy. Instead of throwaway costume jewelry, you can offer something like classic pearls. Not only are they beautiful and timeless, they’re also the June birthstone. Properly cared for, genuine jewels will last a lifetime and beyond, becoming a family heirloom. Read on to garner more tips for picking the right gift for your kids, and to feel happy and confident about your choices.

Less Can Be More

We live in a time of incredible wealth that previous generations couldn’t even imagine. Children today have more toys than they need. The fact is, kids don’t need a lot of playthings to entertain themselves. Don’t give in to the pressure of thinking the living room must be filled with presents on Christmas morning in order for the day to be a success.

When choosing gifts, select items that are well-made and have real play value. Things to consider before making a purchase:

1. Does it engage the mind or does it encourage passivity? Toys and games that spark creativity and critical thinking are always the better choice.

2. Is the item safe and will it hold up to less-than-gentle handling? Kids find creative ways to use toys, so make sure it can withstand such treatment.

3. Is it developmentally appropriate? You don’t want to give a gift that will either become boring after a few sessions or be too complicated to enjoy and wind up frustrating the child.

Match the Child’s Personality

When selecting gifts for children, it can be tempting to buy something that you loved as a kid. Don’t fall into this trap. Really think about each child’s personality and interests, and choose items accordingly. Even if you don’t understand the appeal of something like manga, if your kid likes it, get them a book. At least they’re reading.

Think Outside the Box

As appealing as a bright plastic doodad can appear on a store shelf, few kids are lacking in trinkets. Instead, consider offering an experience: a ski lesson, a day of snow tubing, a concert, a theatrical performance, or a visit to a museum, aquarium, or other place of interest are all great alternatives that will create lasting memories without cluttering up the house. Note, an experience doesn’t mean there’ll be nothing under the tree. Wrap the ticket or itinerary in an elegant envelope, ribbon-bound scroll, or even a huge box for a unique and exciting gift to open on Christmas morning.

Stick to Your Budget

Guilt is a powerful feeling, but the joy of opening gifts is fleeting. Pearls aside, Christmas presents aren’t generally considered an investment, so don’t blow your budget just for a few minutes of happy squeals. Make a budget and stick to it.

Remember to Have Fun

Christmas is a time for joy and generosity, but it can be difficult to remember that as you’re fighting the crowds at the mall or searching endlessly online. Remember the reason why you’re doing this: for love. Don’t make yourself crazy, and be sure to take time to appreciate the ones who really matter. When you offer your gift, play with it and the recipient. While a toy is likely be broken or forgotten before too long, spending time with loved ones is one of the best ways to create memories that will be cherished for years to come.

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