One of the BEST decisions we’ve made for our kids has been to stop giving them gifts. Yep, you read that right. No gifts. We were tired of seeing countless toys and short-lived wishes getting tossed aside in a pile of other forgotten toys. Do not, I repeat do NOT feel sorry for my children. They are blessed beyond measure, and have far more than a few sticks to play with between them.
Instead, we gift our kids a birthday party for their friends when that big day comes around, and my all-time favorite a family calendar of adventures each year at Christmas. When I heard a friend at work sharing about her sister’s calendar gift for her older kiddos, I brought the idea home to my husband who was quick to jump on board. We were SO ready to skip gifting and enlist memory making in its place.
Here’s how it works.
1. Figure out your budget for the year.
How much do you spend on family entertainment monthly (perhaps you’ll want to allot ½ or all of that amount to your calendar adventure), and what will you be saving by not buying a traditional gift(s) for your children? Total that up, and you have your budget!
2. Plan out your calendar!
Look ahead to local events, pre-planned outings, and scheduled vacations.
Have you always wanted to check out that local festival in a neighboring city? Is your big family vacation with the in-laws planned for July this year? Is your sister getting married in October? Save these dates – you’re going to build them into your family calendar.
Start by plugging in those big events; they can be big or little – they can cost a little or a lot. Let’s say that your sister’s wedding was not necessarily going to be a family fun event…but it could be. Get into town ½ a day early and take that time to see the sights and make some memories.
Find free and educational events to plug into your calendar; did you know what most libraries offer FREE tickets to different museums and events in your community? Add a trip to the nearest fro-yo afterwards and you’ve got yourself a family date.
If you’re kids are into movies like mine, look ahead to see what Disney flick or comic book film is coming out next year and what the release dates are. Movie dates are a relatively inexpensive family adventure; tickets plus a bucket of popcorn or purse sized candies from your local dollar bin.
Use this opportunity to introduce your kids to a bit of culture; experience The Nutcracker ballet, Wicked in the theatre, or Shakespeare outdoors! Speaking of the outdoors…nature provides terrific adventures; hiking, biking, camping, and star gazing. Sporting events are a blast too; tickets to a soccer game, hockey event or a basketball game will be fun for everyone. What about taking them to their first music concert?
Don’t forget the easy and free, or low-cost options; picnic in the park, sledding, or a scavenger hunt. Check out this video highlight of our February calendar adventure; fun in the sun and snow.
You can also include ideas that already needed to happen – and work them into an adventure, for example the kids need haircuts before school starts; make it a ‘spa day’ at the local beauty school with haircuts, pedicures, and a facial. Or you can DIY most of that too! If your kiddos need a new summer wardrobe, give them each $100 and teach them how to shop for items on sale, but with the freedom to choose the items that they love…within reason.
Big ticket trips should also be included in your calendar adventure. Is Disneyland/world on your bucket list with your kiddos next year? Build it in! Have you been wanting to visit a few national parks when you’re 4th grader gets that free annual pass? Plan on it!
Kids Choice is an all time favorite in our household. The girls put together a list of ideas – they range from the what the heck were you thinking, to surprisingly reasonable, thankfully. Dad and I get to veto a couple, and we’re left with a voting option and a fun time to be had by all. As they’ve gotten more creative, we’ve had to put driving distance and dollar limits to these choices too.
Parent Dates are our girls’ favorites. Be.still.my.heart! Each of us takes a kiddo and we plan a date together, specific to the kid. We have our date on the same day, and then come home and tell each other how much fun we had. A few months later we swap kids and do another date. Solo time with your kids is priceless, let me tell you.
3. Choose your pictures, and load up your calendar.
These could be photos from your own collection of times you’ve been to said location, or pulled from a free site online, or a simple clip art image – you choose. Maybe you want to keep it a bit mysterious and make it a partial image from the surprise event that leaves them guessing until the big first of the month reveal. Drop your photos onto your favorite calendar creating site; like Shutterfly or Costco – or go with a simple Word calendar that you print from home. Options are endless!
Word of advice; don’t lock yourself into a particular date unless you absolutely must – life happens, don’t let it get in the way of your calendar adventure. Instead, commit to skiing in February…but give yourself flexibility to not go the last Saturday of the month if there is no snow!
4. Don’t ever look back.
Don’t drag yourself to Target, Toys-R-Us or search Amazon for another birthday or Christmas gift. Let them save their money for the latest piece of technology, or request it from grandparents. Choose memory making over gift getting.
We have had calendar adventure gifts for the past two years, and our girls looked forward to that gift the MOST this past Christmas morning, and we look forward to flipping the page, picking a date and making memories as a family each month.
5. Document your journey!
Be sure to take photos to chronicle one of the best gifts you could ever get your kid.
Thank you for joining me on my journey to influence.