The end-of-year holidays revolve around the spirit of giving, and many parents are shaking up what it means to “give” to their kids.
Earlier this year, actress Mila Kunis echoed many parents’ sentiments about holiday gift-giving. In October, she clarified her comment that she was adopting a new Christmas tradition that involved “no presents for the kids” from her and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher. During an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Kunis explained that she’s not “anti-gifts” but that she wants to scale back when it comes to showering her kids with presents.
“They get so many wonderful gifts from my family and my husband’s family so he and I give her literally one present,” she said.
We asked the HuffPost Parents community to share their similar holiday traditions ― ones that don’t involve piles of toys for the kiddos. Some prefer to invoke the phrase “quality over quantity,” others choose to gift experiences rather than toys, and many moms and dads decide to show their kids what it means to give instead of offering presents to them.
Here are 19 holiday traditions that focus on more than giving kids tons of toys:
“We are getting away from toys and a ridiculous amount of presents for useful things and experiences. This year, my 10-year-old daughter asked if we could redecorate her bedroom, so that will be her big gift.” ― Jamie Braithwaite
“I always make my kids pick out a few toys each that we then donate to less fortunate children (not to the Red Cross or Salvation Army, but locally), even though we aren’t that fortunate ourselves. I guess it is cliche, but I’m hoping to instill a desire to give and sacrifice potential presents to give to others.” ― Kyle Taylor
This is how we do presents: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read and then Santa’s gift (something special).
“Instead of stocking stuffers, Santa brings us tickets to see a play or a musical so that we can plan on going together and enjoying the theater as a family.” ― Jessica Hoho
“Instead of gifts for the grown-ups, we each bring grooming items for the homeless and less fortunate (razors, shaving cream, feminine products, lotion, shampoo, baby diapers and wipes). The children get one present each. Christmas feels so much better since we started this.” ― Lynnda Armstrong Owens
“This is how we do presents: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read and then Santa’s gift (something special).” ― Christine Simpson
“We do three gifts under the tree: something to wear, something to read and something they asked for. Then we do an experience. This year it’s a trip to Myrtle Beach for the first time. One is getting tickets to dinner theater, and one is getting tickets to the aquarium so we’ll be making memories.” ― Covey Denton
“My dad passed away in 2008, and my mom wanted to do something different for Christmas that year. So my husband, two sons and I took Mom to Florida over Christmas (we’re in Indiana). We did a few presents and stockings there, but focused on having fun and making memories. My mom climbed a lighthouse to see the view with her grandsons! Kept that up for three more years until she passed. We still go. Last couple of years we added a visit to Universal Studios over New Year’s as their big present.” ― Susan Burleigh
“Every year a different adult family member chooses a charity and in lieu of gifts, we donate money to that well-researched charity. It brings a sense of awareness outside of ourselves and fosters a spirit of gratitude and generosity. My kids and niece and nephew start participating at 10 years old, but they still receive gifts.” ― Julie Lampert Franks
“Make cookies, drink hot cocoa, wear matching PJs, pop popcorn and watch a movie on Christmas Eve. Then plan a summer vacation as a big ‘Santa’ gift.” ― Kaitlyn Kambestad
“Twenty-five days of Christmas books ― every morning in December, my kids open up a different Christmas book that we read together. It’s our version of an Advent calendar, and I enjoy it as much as the kids.” ― Eileen Conlon Blanco
“We have adopted a quality over quantity rule. It’s better to have something nice, valuable, sentimental … than lots of little things that you’ll forget about in a week. So we do two to three really thoughtful and nicer gifts. The girls love it, and I think it makes Christmas more magical when it’s important. Plus it’s even better when the gift you give relates to an inside joke you have been babying along all year!” ― Brianna Freeburn
“We do give and receive presents, but we open a couple on Christmas Day plus a stocking, and the rest get opened on the other 11 days of Christmas. We had a rule growing up that you couldn’t open another present until you had appreciated the one you already have. I’m keen to make sure I continue this rule with my children; too many Christmases are all about a commercially driven mountain of presents being ripped open and discarded. We still always place a walnut and a satsuma [a citrus fruit] in the stockings, too, and it’s still one of my favorite presents!” ― Alice George
Every morning in December my kids open up a different Christmas book that we read together. It’s our version of an Advent calendar, and I enjoy it as much as the kids.
“We try to do presents that are all experiences and spending time together. We do get a few extra presents that my son wants. We give books about what experiences we are doing. We always give as a present one ornament for our tree, which my son will get when he goes off and has his own. We always pick a charity in giving back and donate to them. We make cinnamon rolls, which my son loves. They are a treat during the holidays.” ― Kathy Fulham
“I’m from northeast Philly and every year around Christmas we go into town and get our meat for Christmas dinner at the Reading Terminal Market. We then visit the light shows in town. We also cut our tree down three weeks before Christmas. The place we go to has a store, train sets, Santa, a big fire pit and hot chocolate. It’s so much fun. Glad I started these traditions so my kids can carry them on!” ― Jennifer Vaughn
“Mom gets her books, Dad makes her something (out of wood) and Santa gets her one gift.” ― Kimberly Ballinger
“Christmas light tour of the city!” ― Corin Ramos
“We are doing a family vacation this year.” ― Mandee Kanikula
“We started the tradition of giving our son experiences/adventures instead of toys. Last year, we gave him a Christmas-themed picnic on a lake with his little friends. He’s now a picnic enthusiast! This year, we may give him a year pass to a local children’s museum as a gift that keeps on giving.” ― Ivette Palomera
“We always ‘adopted’ a family in need. We would buy presents, clothes, food, hygiene items … and deliver them anonymously. We also would bake/make meals and take them to police stations/children’s hospitals for those that had to work the holiday. My favorite Christmas memories are all doing things like this!” ― Mackenzie Schmid
These submissions have been edited and condensed for clarity.