“Give the gift of time”: giving children sustainable gifts for christmas

Giving children sustainable gifts: experts give tips

Which gifts really make children happy? Claire Grauer and Anna Sundermann, two experts on sustainable consumption, explain in an interview with oKO-TEST why gifts "are not always big and super expensive" have to be.

Claire Grauer and Anna Sundermann are doctoral students in sustainability sciences at Leuphana University Luneburg. We talked to you about Christmas gifts for children. Can giving gifts also be sustainable??

oKO-TEST: Every year, parents get the feeling: "Our children already have everything – what should we give them??

Anna Sundermann: Simply working off their wish list is not very advisable. It is better to listen to the children to find out what their real needs are. If they get something they really want as a gift, the joy is all the greater.

Gift-giving has a centuries-old tradition, the main motivation is: to strengthen the relationship. A gift doesn’t always have to be big and super elaborate. If it is the right one, the recipient will also like a smaller one. A gift that is important to the recipient is even devalued if the giver adds another one just to meet a certain target.

1-2 lovingly selected, special gifts

Claire Grauer: We humans are taught early on: The more I get, the more important I. At the same time, it is too much of a challenge when children receive too many gifts at once. If they tear open twenty packages on Christmas Eve as if in a frenzy, they can’t really be happy about it in the end. One or two lovingly selected, special gifts are a better solution. Things that the child really wants. That children like to play with and that don’t end up in the corner.

Occasional gifts don’t help anyone. Then it ends up being just a gift certificate again. By the way, the feeling that we have too many things is also a stress factor. It puts us under pressure, according to the motto: I already have so many books, I won’t even get around to reading the newly given one.

Less is more: If children receive too many gifts at once, they can't really enjoy them in the end

Speaking of stress, Christmas is supposed to be a time of reflection and contemplation?

Grauer: Nowadays, however, many people tend to perceive the holidays as stressful. One way to counteract this is: instead of material consumer goods, give each other the gift of time.

Sundermann: Yes, a time voucher is a great idea, i.e. a self-made voucher for a joint activity. With children, however, the event should be as close in time as possible. A time voucher at Christmas should not read: We’re going to the zoo next summer.

"More time with the family is extremely important to children"

Grauer: More time with the family is extremely important to children. Christmas in particular offers the chance to do just that. Children love playing board games together or going on outings together. In a project last year, we asked young people how they felt about homeschooling during the Corona Lockdown. It was a difficult phase for them. But many also said they found it nice to spend more time with family they otherwise hardly see during the week.

In fact, our research on time management and sustainable consumption shows that people would prefer to use a given hour of time for rest, leisure or even more time with family and friends.

Donations instead of gifts?

Away from consumerism: Is donating instead of giving a gift a good idea??

Sundermann: This doesn’t work for everyone and depends a lot on the person. The relief organization, to which the donation goes, must be really a concern for the presentee. My partner, for example, likes it when I have found a cool project for him that he thinks is worth supporting. It’s a little harder to teach children, but it can be done. However, the project to which the donation goes must not be too abstract for them.

Grauer: Spatial proximity helps there. For example, if the donation goes to an organization that supports youth centers in social hot spots in your own city. You can also decide together as a family which cause you want to support.

"A gift does not always have to be new"

Do you have any other ideas for more sustainability on the gift table?

Sundermann: A gift does not always have to be new. Up to a certain age, children don’t really care if things are new or not, as long as they are not completely battered. In my circle of acquaintances, parents gave their son a used Kettcar and he has a blast with it.

Which gifts really make children happy?

Grauer: Another idea is to consider before Christmas, which toys are perhaps no longer interesting. These could then be given away or sold at the flea market. It often develops later with children that they want trendy things that others also have, for example, the latest cell phone or sneaker model.

Sundermann: But we adults should not take ourselves out of the obligation. We are setting an example to our children. The children learn from their parents how and about which gifts they are happy.

Showing the positive sides of sustainability

How can parents counteract this? Do they need to raise their children’s awareness of sustainability as early as possible??

Sundermann: If possible, you shouldn’t dictate anything to them, but point out the positive sides, the gains. Education for sustainable consumption is not about raising the index finger and saying: you must behave in such and such a way.

Sustainability does not mean no more joy and to experience only restrictions. It’s more about empowering people – young and adult alike – to shape their own future and make their own decisions. It must not come to an overwhelming of the learner, that’s what pedagogy calls it, when teachers force their own opinion or even behavior on their students.

What to consider when the family decides on a "different Christmas has decided?

Grauer: One should introduce the changes cautiously. So don’t immediately celebrate the next Christmas in a completely different way. Also this puts only again under stress. The important thing is to de-stress. Sundermann: It is better to try it out step by step. As a family, first think together about just one thing you want to change. For example: How about giving each other more time this year?

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