Helping Children Find Christmas

Too often it seems that Christmas is a season for spending rather than sharing. In the hope of reducing our children’s desire for many new toys and helping them feel the joy of giving at Christmastime, we have tried some new practices.

First, we control TV usage so the children do not see all those advertisements for “fad” toys which are usually high in cost and low in play value. (Occasionally the entire family watches a seasonal special together.)

Second, the children know they may ask Santa for only ONE item. This way, they put more thought into what they’d really like, and discussion with mom and dad either confirms or negates the value of that item for a particular child. We try to steer them toward toys that will be long-lasting and appropriate for their age, toys that will help them learn and will develop creativity.

Another way to circumvent the “overwhelmed Christmas,” both in terms of adults’ finances and children’s emotional reactions, is to spread gifts over the year. Getting a bicycle for a birthday is every bit as exciting as receiving it for Christmas.

For the children, receiving a single gift several times a year—the start of a new school year, or sometimes for no special occasion at all—seems to be enjoyable, and actually the gifts are appreciated more than if they were all heaped together for one big splash at Christmastime.

Hand-in-hand with helping children develop a positive attitude toward giving is teaching them appreciation for what they are given. We encourage them to write thank-you notes. (A child who cannot yet write may draw a picture of the gift.) Going through this process helps children remember that someone else has invested time and concern in something especially for them.

We’ve also developed a “sharing project” during the past few years with our young family. Sometimes it has been visits to the homes of elderly or lonely members of our ward to take fruit which the children have selected and paid for with their own money. Other times, we have helped with Sub-for-Santa projects, giving our children the opportunity to contact neighbors who’d like to donate, and to wrap and deliver the gifts. We try to internalize these giving experiences by discussing how this makes us feel and referring to them often during the holidays.

Projects like these are helping us eliminate the budget-breaking, self-serving Christmas in our own family and are teaching us, we hope, to give as Christ would have us give. Laurie Williams Sowby, American Fork, Utah

Personalized Christmas Tablecloth

Our personalized Christmas tablecloth has been a tradition in our family for several years now. It has been a delight to all because everyone participates in it.

A few years ago I purchased a light green bed sheet and embroidered the corners and center with holly. On each side of the center area I also embroidered “Christmas at the Badgers.”

Each year after Christmas Eve dinner and the other festivities are over, and before the guests (we usually have about thirty) leave for home, we have them draw or write something on a designated area of the cloth, where also is embroidered the date of the current year. Then during the following year I embroider these drawings and have the cloth ready for our Christmas dinner the next year.

I’ve found this even becoming a part of our family history—some of the drawings depict events in the lives of the family members. One year our son, who was studying dentistry in Chicago, drew the Chicago skyline and the apartment his family was living in. Two of our other children were away on missions, so I embroidered their names and the names of the missions where they were laboring.

The pets of the families are not forgotten, either. From “Buster,” a German Police dog, to “Meow,” a pet kitten—all are depicted. Sometimes my interpretation has been wrong, such as the time a grandson drew his three dogs and I thought they were reindeer and embroidered antlers on them.

This cloth may not win a prize at the State Fair, but it has won the hearts of our family members and guests who share Christmas with us each year. Wanda West Badger, Salt Lake City, Utah

Once More with Peeling

Do your children find it hard to peel oranges? A little preparation will make it easier for them.

First, wash the orange and then cut a slice from the top. With a paring knife, make slashes from top to bottom, spaced about an inch apart at the widest part of the orange. Be sure the cuts go completely through the rind to the fruit.

At lunch time, the child merely has to start at the top of the orange and peel each section of the rind from top to bottom. Elna Kemp Wallace, Los Angeles, California

[illustrations] Illustrated by Aldonna