It all begins in late September and early October; the holiday decorations begin to replace all of the summer items on store shelves. Holiday music wafts over the airwaves. Toy ads pop up on our online media. And commercials on TV, especially on kid channels, begin hawking toys and other “stuff.” Parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles begin thinking about holiday giving. The message is clear: BUY! BUY! BUY STUFF! But what if there was another way to celebrate with our children, and to give experiences rather than things?
Many of you may have already thought about this, and many of you may already choose experiences over “stuff” when holiday shopping for your favorite children. But perhaps there are some things you’ve not thought about, and this article, 50 awesome experience gifts to give—instead of toys may give you some additional ideas. Basically, the experiences suggested include classes - lots of them - to enrich your child’s life. Some of them are for the child only, and some of them include a parent/guardian/significant adult, or an entire family. These are opportunities to learn something new, to share precious time together, and to make memories that last a lifetime.
One of my favorite suggestions on this list, though, is giving to a charity or cause of a child’s choice. Though adults may be familiar with this concept, children may not be. Indeed, children may not often think of giving as more important than receiving, and may need some help understanding why this is important. Working through this learning might include researching charities, choosing a charity, performing the act/service, and experiencing the joy that comes from altruism, from giving without the thought of receiving. The gift may be money, but it could also be time, and/or talent. This giving will probably become a significant life-changing experience.
Dr. Michele Borba, internationally recognized educator, speaker and best-selling author on character and social-emotional development, bullying prevention and parenting, featured in this memorable 2016 TED Talk, Empathy Is a Verb: My TEDx Talk to Start an UnSelfie Revolution, speaks to the lessons learned from empathy and giving to others. She suggests that empathy is a verb; it is active, it is meaningful, and it is real. Human beings, she asserts, are hard-wired to care, and through empathetic moments, we see ourselves and others in a different light. Empathy strengthens human connections, learning skills, communication, collaboration, and perspective-taking. And, after practicing empathy and giving, we never remain the same as we were; we grow as others grow. Dr. Borba further shares that empathy requires us to practice “habits of the heart” -- learning to think WE instead of solely ME, and learning to START WITH ONE -- one act, one kindness, one gift.
If you choose to introduce empathy through contribution to a charity or cause with your favorite chiId or children, I can imagine that some may find it a bit strange and puzzling. In fact, I hope that it is strange and puzzling. I hope, also, that it stretches the comfort zone of the child (and perhaps the comfort zone of the giver.) We only grow when we reach the boundaries of our comfort zones and press through them.
May this holiday season be a chance for all of us to grow as givers and receivers. Peace and joy to all of you.
Past President, WATG
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.