Holiday selling, giving, and thankfulness

I am trying to teach my 7-year old son that the holidays are about more than just buying and receiving gifts. I want him to appreciate what he has, not focus on what he doesn’t have. I want him to think about the gifts he really wants, not just the gifts he wants right now.

This year, we tried three new Thanksgiving traditions to get the holidays off to a better start:

* Selling with a smile. My son set up a table at the Keiki Swap Meet, hosted by the Children’s DiscoveryCenter. On a Saturday morning, my son sold his gently-used books, DVDs, puzzles, toys, and games. Not only did this reduce my son’s clutter and make room for holiday gifts, it taught him to evaluate the toys he really wants – and gave him some spending money for Christmas gifts. He greeted customers, suggested toys, added up sales, and made change. He also learned about treating customers well – whenever someone made a purchase, he offered them a free “prize” (a pencil, stickers, a tattoo). He didn’t try to hold on to toys that he no longer played with, and was happy to meet some of the kids who bought his toys.

Tip #1: Practice being friendly. My son to practiced saying “Hi” and “Welcome to my store” with eye contact and a smile. I reminded him to thank everyone who stopped by, even if they were just looking.

Tip #2: Collect “freebies.” Whenever my son gets free stickers, tattoos, pencils, and other trinkets, we put the things he doesn’t want into a small box. We had a nice assortment of “prizes” to give away.

* Giving to others. In the weeks before Thanksgiving, my son and I put together two shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. My son chose two of his new, unopened toys for boys aged 5-9. To each box, we added toothbrushes, toothpaste, pencils, erasers, stickers, toy cars, a book, and other small toys. It gave us a nice feeling to prepare a Christmas gift for a child somewhere in the world, who might not get a Christmas present. When he pointed out that Santa gives every kid a present, I answered that sometimes Santa needs our help (he accepted that, but rejected the idea that Santa goes on vacation in Hawaii, because “he has too many toys to make”). During National Collection Week, we dropped off our shoeboxes, complete with gift wrap and labels, and learned that our gifts will be sent to Nepal.

Tip: Set gifts aside year-round. If my son receives too many birthday or holiday presents, I usually set aside some of them, and bring them out throughout the year. So we already had a stash of small toys and games that we could share, without having to spend extra money.

* Sharing our thankfulness. On Thanksgiving Day, in addition to a lovely dinner, we created a “Thankful Pumpkin Patch.” We gave everyone a pumpkin cut-out, asked them to write something they are thankful for, and added it to our thankful patch. We could just go around the dinner table and share our thanks, but I like the idea of writing things down; there’s less pressure to come up with something witty or eloquent, and it gives everyone a chance to read each other’s responses.

Tip: Thankfulness as art. Some ideas to turn your thanks into year-round art: write your thanks on a “Thankful Tree” (fall leaves), a “Thankful Patch” (pumpkins), a “Thankful Turkey” (feathers), or “Thankful Stones” (stones or pebbles).

How do you balance giving and receiving during the holidays? What do the holidays mean to you?

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