On this “Cyber Monday” it seems appropriate to examine the always challenging task of Christmas gift selection. By far, Trista is the most difficult to shop for. Therefor, her gift will most likely be chosen under stressful last minute circumstances. Every year I try to be better. Every year I fail. Ce la vie. The kids, however, are a bit easier for me. Though I understand the nature of a world heavily influenced by technology, I believe the ability to utilize and enjoy it should be balanced by tools that encourage thoughtful reflection and adventure. Our kids are, by no means, discouraged from the use of technology (yes this includes video games). We simply believe their time in front of a screen, large or small, is most valuable when limited and when complimented by real world experience. In order to have kids that are brave and kind, I believe it’s important to begin introducing habits at a young age that encourage those traits. Christmas gifts are a great place for this introduction to take place. Here are a few ideas and suggestions…
Reflection – In today’s fast paced world, very little time is spent sitting still. We tend to get uncomfortable or feel lazy if not moving, thinking, doing something. But science tells us that periods of inward reflection are healthy. In fact, successful people of all disciplines tout the benefits of mindfulness. Trying to get a 9 year old to meditate, however, is an exercise in futility for most, myself included. My kids rarely respond to, “what did you do at school today?” with much beyond – “nothing.” I know they did a whole lot more than nothing but I also know that if they don’t take a second to think about it, much of what they did won’t be absorbed and will, in fact, turn into “nothing.” So I encourage a better, more thoughtful answer and do my best to keep the dialogue going and their little minds thinking. This concept it fortified in written form by journaling. Taking the time to reflect on an experience in a journal is shown to have multiple positive effects that include stretching I.Q, sparking creativity and evoking mindfulness (other benefits can be found in this article by Huffington Post). I am not suggesting a daily diary or even a regularly scheduled entry. An example of journaling that we use is to have our kids bring their journals along on family trips or adventures and write in them at the end of the day. We don’t read them unless they show them to us and we don’t place any requirement on what they say. We simply ask that they spend time thinking about the day and try to include at least a couple of things they were grateful for. Simple really.
Suggested Gift – I use a Notebook from Best Made that is simple and nice. I keep it in a Best Made Strongbox that somehow seems to supply an air of importance to the process. In fact, I’ll be giving a journal and box to a lucky subscriber, so if you haven’t subscribed to my site, think about doing so. (FYI, I’m not affiliated in anyway with Best Made, but would love to be if you’re listening!)
Balance – Again, in life, balance is key. Not only is it important to balance work with play, technology with experience and vegetables with cookies, it is also important to simply balance – as in not fall down. As an adult, I love Yoga. I tried to get the kids involved but that lasted about as long as my preppy phase in high school (not long), so we went another direction. Instead of Yoga, we got the kids ice skates. They loved it, learned that falling hurts and that balance keeps them upright. Skating activates a ton of muscles and requires coordination that translates to an array of other sports and activities. Kids pick it up quick so starting young is A-Ok.
Suggested Gift – Hockey or Figure skates are fine and can usually be rented at the rink if you’d rather try before you buy. Fit is important though, and owning skates means you know that the edges are tuned appropriately. Visiting a specialty or sporting goods store is the best option. Dick’s is a good place to start if you have one.
Adventure – Adventure is what gets the kids of the couch. Bringing the game from the screen to the real world is a fantastic way to inspire life experience. Adding relative technology can also be helpful. Putting a GoPro on a bike allows a kid to return home to watch themselves performing and encourages future progression. Geocaching with a GPS adds reward to effort and builds navigating skill. Even just bringing along a pair of binoculars can transform a simple hike by altering perspective and cultivating curiosity. I believe adventure to be the secret to life. It challenges, humbles, strengthens and unifies. Getting outside, trying new things and fostering challenging experiences is the greatest gift a parent can give. Add a journal and a little reflection and voila, you’re a shoe in for a “World’s Greatest Parent” mug next Christmas!
Suggested Gift – I love my Garmin GPS products. I have one on my bike, my wrist and in my hiking pack. It’s always nice to know where you are and how to get home!