How Do We Give More Meaningful Gifts?

I've become a very predictable gift-giver, with nearly all of my gifts to kids and adults alike coming in the form of books. I love books and I love sharing them, but as the holidays approached this year, I began to wonder about more experiential, meaning-generating gift ideas. Of the infinite number of ways to do that, here are two intriguing ones I came across this season:

Give a Learning Gift
My longtime mentor and his wife have created a wonderful gift giving tradition for their two grandchildren. Before the holidays, they ask each grandchild to identify two kinds of learning experiences they would like. The first is something they would like to get better at - for example, they've started playing basketball and they really want to learn how to play well. The second is something totally new they'd like to learn - for example, they want to know how to do magic, or how to build a piece of furniture. In each case, the grandparents then find someone - usually paid, but it could be a skill-share or a gift from a skilled adult - to offer those specific skills. They might find a basketball coach or college basketball player to give a few lessons or a basketball clinic for them and friends; or they might ask a local amateur carpenter to work with the kids to build a simple piece of furniture.

I love that this approach invites the child to reflect on what they'd like to learn, considering both their growth areas (fostering the "growth mindset" approach of believing your skills can always be developed) and their new interests, nurturing curiosity. I also love that it doesn't necessarily require any new toys or material items, focusing instead on experience and on the transfer of skills.

Give a Tradition
A close friend shared another beautiful way of gift-giving. When their kids were young and relatives began asking what to buy them, they made a request to close relatives and family friends, those who they knew would be in their kids' lives for some time. Instead of giving us an item, since we already have what we need, they said, give the kids a tradition. For example, their aunt decided to give her two nephews the tradition of an annual hot chocolate movie night, and every holiday season now she comes by to do that. When she couldn't make it in-person one year, she sent hot chocolate mix and a DVD to continue the tradition from afar. As a gift invitation for a small number of close family friends or relatives, I love how this approach can generate so much meaning for kids, with the happy anticipation of a tradition coming up and that sense of security and connection that a recurring ritual creates.

Happy Holidays!