Keeping it fun while reducing consumption and waste is something that many parents wrestle with when it comes to the holiday season and other special occasions. Here is an initial list of suggestions. Please share yours by e-mailing us!
Starting early is a good idea. If we focus holiday celebrations on people and fun (not on presents) right from the beginning, that’s what children will learn. We can help them to develop appropriate expectations by having events where participants play games, sing songs, tell stories, make crafts, share special food and have fun doing things together.
And when it comes to activities and gifts for kids, keep safety in mind. Consider what is appropriate for the age and interests of the child.
- Toys without Batteries. While the latest electronics get a lot of advertising exposure, there are many great toys and games that don’t need batteries — board games, cards, balls, magic tricks, stuffed animals, skipping ropes, frisbees. If you end up with something that does take batteries, Green Action suggests using the rechargeable kind, recharging them as needed, and making sure they are safely disposed of when they stop holding a charge. Most rechargeables should not be placed with regular garbage, but should be taken to a hazardous waste depot.
- Fair Trade. Chocolate and other gift items are available from shops that offer certified fair trade goods. It’s an opportunity for older children to learn about the fair trade concept. Plus items like No Sweat footwear and clothing are way cool choices for kids in the know.
- Adopt a Wild Animal. What a great way for children to learn about other species, habitat preservation, and human impacts! Options include polar bears, penguins and butterflies. For more ideas, do an internet search of “wildlife adoption.”
- Second-Hand Toys. Previously loved items are available at thrift shops at far less cost than buying new. We suggest being aware of safety (small or loose parts), cleaning items well, and watching for any banned items (e.g. jewellery containing lead) that may have found their way back into the market.
- That’s the Ticket! Give an experience! Tickets to a concert or event, or a pass to a family attraction are great choices. Consider options like Manitoba Theatre for Young People, Fort Whyte Alive, the Manitoba Museum and Planetarium, or the Winnipeg Goldeyes.
- Buy Organic. Kids’ clothing made from organic fabrics is increasingly available.
- Giving Twice. Purchasing items from places like UNICEF, Ten Thousand Villages and other charitable organizations allows you to support social justice causes with your consumer dollars. And many items are different from what is available at mainstream retailers, which makes them more special and more fun!
- Growing Things. Here’s a specific idea — a book on kids’ gardening, along with a package of seeds.
- It’s for the Birds. Here’s another idea — instructions or a kit for making a bird feeder. Keeping track of feathered visitors can be a whole season of fun.
- Recycled Products. Look for things made from recycled materials (e.g. notebooks from recycled paper).
- Hand-Made Gifts. Craft sales and local stores often feature hand-made toys – dolls, puppets, blocks, wooden toys, puzzles.
- Fun and Fitness. Consider a gift to keep kids active in outdoor play — snow sports equipment, cycling gear, and winter wear like tuques and mitts.
- Books. There are so many outstanding books for children. Look for Canadian authors, books that fit the child’s interests, and classics like The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (Your suggestions are welcome. Please tell us your favourites.)