young children enjoy a Christmas morning


As An Eco-Conscious Parent, Here’s How I’m Doing Christmas for My Kids

Dec 4, 2019

I consider myself a minimalist. Too much stuff gives me all kinds of stress, from ecological to financial. I’m a big believer in experiential gifts and spending time (together), not wads of money.

But I’m buying my kids presents this year.

They're tangible, need to be unwrapped and aren't just experiences or vouchers. And I’m feeling good about it. It’s not out of guilt or peer pressure, or any of those other powerful emotions. There is a method to my consumerism.

First of all, when I say I’m buying my kids presents, I don’t mean a pile of plastic, electronics or toys. I am not anti-toy — in the past I have purchased Lego sets. Pored over the Maplelea Doll catalogue. Become well-versed in BeyBlades and My Little Pony. But this year, my kids seem to have enough of those items. They didn’t even appear on wish lists. And so I’ve changed my approach.

They Are Getting Well-Made Items They Need

I said I’m not gifting experiences this year, but that’s not entirely true. I have one trip lined up for after Christmas, and am planning one more for the summer vacation. My kids are saving any money they receive or earn for even bigger trips to Europe, one day. Travel is high on our list.

So for Christmas I decided to gift my kids items that they need and that appeal to their sense of adventure: excellent day packs, perfect for carrying essentials whether exploring a national park or a city.

I also researched to find ones made by truly ethical companies that employ fair trade practices and that help the workers, not risk their safety. I even found neat packs that are made from the remnants of other products. The rainbow pattern for each is individual and based on the preferences of the worker, not a blueprint. My kids and I will talk about the unique and creative process behind these bags, and how it is important to support ethical and sustainable manufacturers with our all-important buying power. I hope the kids will enjoy these bags, which will also be used for swimming practice and hikes close to home, and that they will kindle that adventuring spirit.

Research and Wonder

This year I am also gifting books. My kids love reading and will read the same books twenty times over. When books get that much love, I have no problem buying versus borrowing them. My son is fascinated by different cities and their history, so a Canadian Geographic tome on historic Canadian sites will fill his stocking. My kids are into reading some of the classics I enjoyed when I was young, so some of the Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright will give us fodder for our nightly reading aloud sessions. Unwrapping books is one of the great joys in life, and I’m going to make sure that there are plenty to fill our already overflowing bookshelves.

Read a slightly different take on Christmas from a 10-year-old child here.

Clothes and Consumables

I feel like we have gotten away from gifting essential, practical items. Perhaps it's because we see kids getting clothes and books and toiletries whenever they need them, rather than as a special treat, so it doesn't occur to some that they are an option for gifting.

But my kids need some well-made clothes and so I have no problem making them gifts. From sun shirts to swim trunks, they’re going under the tree. Now it helps that they come from the kids’ favourite sustainable company, and that they tie in with an upcoming vacation. But I don’t feel guilty giving items that they require. Same for toiletry kits in their favourite colours and patterns, and funky luggage tags to help round out the stocking stuffers.

I’m also not above wrapping up items like a coveted shampoo and conditioner or a dessert made for camping trips. These items are consumable, they fill a need and the kids still have fun being surprised by them.

A lot of people would be aghast at the gifts I have purchased this year. They are utilitarian, and low on bells and whistles — literally. They might think that they aren’t fun. But they all serve to support our chosen lifestyle.

Read one mother's approach to a simple Christmas here.

They enable our travels and adventures, and make them more comfortable. The books and maps fill my kids with wonder. Items for trips fill them with excitement. And sometimes it's great to have a surprise, no matter what the item is. 

I still want my kids to have a stocking full of unknown treasures, because I delight in seeing presents wrapped (in recyclable paper, please) under the tree. I love seeing their faces when they uncover a gift.

But it doesn’t all have to be frivolous. Giving can uphold good business practices and our family's values.

So, yes, this year there are parcels. There are packages. Because there is fun in functionality — in practicality. And overall, I believe there is the warmth and love associated with giving of any kind.

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a yoga teacher and freelance writer who lives in the beautiful hills of the Headwaters in Orangeville, Ontario, with her blended family of seven. With kids spanning a decade in age, there are always some shenanigans on the go, and she loves being in the middle of it all. Janice loves sharing nature, eco-living and new experiences with her family and friends, as well as a fine cup of coffee and a good book.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.