Reduce Waste for Kids' Christmas Gifts

Thursday December 17, 2015

Child with gift

Kelly asks…

I read a lot about ways to reduce the amount of stuff that gets exchanged during the holiday season. There are lots of great ideas (many of them experience-based) but I often wonder, what if you have kids?


Lauren says…

As a parent, this is something I give a lot of thought to every year. When it comes to our kids, even the most minimalist of parents will agree that it is not obligation that has us showering them in gifts but the joy of seeing their faces light up upon opening a present.


Kids are so in the moment that opening up a zoo pass or a ticket to a play almost doesn’t register in their minds. Which isn’t to say that those things aren’t great gifts, but I’ve come to think that with kids, a balance of alternative gifts and thoughtful presents makes for a pretty awesome holiday season for everyone. Here are some of my ideas on how to keep the stuff to a minimum and to maximize the presence of the season.




We’ve been creating an experience book for the last few years. Each month of the year has a riddle that corresponds to a family friendly activity we will do together. Rollerskating, tickets for a play at Storybook Theatre, eating at a favorite restaurant, and snowtubing at Mount Norquay have been favorites so far. If you are up for an added element of adventure you can let the kids choose when these activities happen, no questions asked.


My kids love family photos. In our screen-oriented lives, many of us no longer print photos. The last few years I have been consolidating our family’s photographed adventures in a photo book and giving it to everyone on Christmas morning. The kids actually take the time to look at it in the midst of opening the rest of their gifts.


Do you have an active child telling you they want to learn guitar, go to hip-hop dance lessons, or take up synchronized swimming? Passes to drop-in classes can be a fun way for kids to experience activities they’ve been wanting to try out without the time commitment or a significant financial investment. 




Consider that buying locally contributes to a healthy local economy and keeps our city unique and vibrant. REAP’s list of sustainable Calgary and area businesses is a great place to start your shopping.


Buying used through Kijiji can make the whole season easier on the pocketbook, and usually tends to make it easier to send what you buy back into the cycle for someone else to enjoy once you are done with it.


We use Christmas as an opportunity to stock up on board games. Still fun on a Saturday night, there are some great games out there offering entertainment for kids and adults alike.


Giving Back


Organizations like Kiva, Charity Sub and the World Wildlife Fund have an interactive element that is engaging for kids. They get to choose which person, organization or animal to sponsor and often get updates or even a small bit of swag for the donation. Giving locally is also an easy way to stay connected to the recipient organization.


Many families choose to give time during the holiday season as well. A day serving meals at a homeless shelter offers perspective and helps instills generosity in children.


Most kids love traditions. A big part of making the season special for children is taking the time to make your own traditions. Down the road, these are the things they’ll likely remember more than any specific gift. This season can get hectic, and there is value in holding the idea of “presence, not presents.”


by Lauren Mangion, Conscious Homes