The hope candle glows soft, casting its light upon our dining table while little fingers color paper Jesse Tree ornaments. Words from our favorite advent devotional flow like poetry as I read aloud, filling our hearts and home with their beauty.
When my children think of Christmas, these are the moments I want them to remember: advent devotionals around the table, a candlelight service at church, a stack of favorite Christmas books, fire cracking in the fireplace, fairy play during the “12 days of Christmas kindness” (still a favorite tradition). I don’t want them to remember a stressed out, rushed, frenzied season of shopping and events, which it can so easily become.
For years I struggled with this conundrum: How to avoid the consumerism culture of Christmas when there are still gifts to be bought?
Because I sometimes go to extremes, my first response to this conundrum (years ago) was to do Christmas gifts without “consuming.” That year my entire family received cards telling them of a World Vision donation made in their name: “Two chickens have been gifted to a family in need.” “A family now has a goat to milk.” “A boy in Guatemala will love his new soccer ball.” They kindly received these cards and seemed to appreciate the gesture, but truly, we both knew it wasn’t a real gift. While I unwrapped items lovingly selected for me, they sat content with their donation cards.
Then one year I made homemade gifts. Everything from personalized photo calendars and homemade lavender bath salts to a short story written and performed for my whole family (where the main characters were modeled after each person in the family). While these gifts were mostly successful, they were extremely time consuming. I have a tendency toward perfectionism, so I’ve learned that if I plan to do any DIY or homemade gift, even if it is meaningful (and saves money), I will labor over it. So I now weigh these decisions carefully.
It’s possible that one reason I can feel such stress surrounding Christmas gifts is due to the sheer amount of gifts I must buy every year (aside from our little family, there are 7 on one side of the family, 17 on the other). It could also be because gift giving is not my love language, yet it is the way in which many people in my family receive love. So while I struggle with it, I want to do it well for their sake.
I want them to feel loved.
After years of struggle during the holiday gift-buying season, things slowly began to shift when I started focusing on gifting with purpose. It feels good to buy a gift that gives back—to a maker or small business owner, to an artisan in a developing country, or to a social brand that commits to donating a portion of the proceeds. When I buy an item with a purpose behind it, I’m stretching my resources by supporting a cause I believe in while also finding something unique and special to give to a loved one. This kind of gift buying speaks to my love language and to theirs!
That (and my family now using Amazon wishlists) has become a game-changer for me. Both are simple, intentional, and allow me to feel good about my purchases. Also, most of this kind of shopping can be accomplished online, which means I can finish my Christmas gift buying in a few evenings.
Stay on budget (check). Shop with purpose (check). Shop small (check). Keep it simple (check).
So, as I now wrap up my Christmas gift buying, I thought I’d share some our favorites with you!
My Simple + Purposeful Gift Guide
For Kids (School)
I recently discovered these clever little books, and now we own several (and have more on our wishlist). These are not your average lift-the-flap board book, as they are created for older children (4 – 10) and are incredibly informative. My kindergartener loves practicing simple addition and subtraction with the First Math Book, and both she and my 3rd grader are fascinated with the Look Inside Your Body book.
These two accessories make the perfect companions to reading aloud The Burgess Bird Book for Children, which is what we are currently doing for part of our nature study.
We received this sweet little set as a gift, and the girls and I have loved using it to keep watch of time during our read alouds (we don’t have a clock in the room). Its aroma is a subtle honey scent, and it creates a soft ambiance perfect for winter.
This may seem a rather simple thing to include, but it is the first notepad that my kindergartener has used consistently. She loves her “chunky pad” and is almost ready for a new one!
One of my 3rd grader’s favorite pastimes is creating stories in these little blank books. They can also usually be found in the Target dollar section.
Little Women has been our “big read aloud” this year, and reading from such a beautiful book has made it even more special.
A favorite in our house, this book accompanies the nature study curriculum I created a few years ago (and is still my top blog post).
For Kids (Play)
Timbermade Flower Press and Block Town Set
Every handmade toy from Amy + Wade’s Timbermade shop is beautiful, sturdy, and practical. The Block Town Set is truly one of the most played with items in our house, and a Home Sweet Home Set will be under the tree this Christmas. (Take 10% OFF through Dec. 13th with: holiday2017)
We have several games that the girls enjoy playing (we especially like Bird Bingo), but this is the definite favorite, the go-to game that they pull out to play all on their own. Actually, they are playing it right now as I type!
My girls curate the Storyweaver kids collection, and these vintage-styled rag dolls are not only their favorite items, but are the lovies they snuggle with every night. These fair-trade dolls are made by mothers in Bangladesh who are sending their children to school with the proceeds. (Take 15 % OFF through Dec. 18th with: sparrow15off)
This has been the year of Harry Potter for my oldest, so I must include her two favorite Potter-themed play things, which have received much use!
Made in Nashville by women who have overcome adversity, this dainty necklace comes with the inscription “Mama Bird” or “Wild + Free Mama” and was our bestseller at the Wild + Free Conference in TN. 100% of the proceeds from this product will be gifted to the Wild + Free Farm Village through December 31st. (Take 15 % OFF through Dec. 18th with: sparrow15off)
I LOVE my Essential Oil Lava Bead Bracelet and wear it all the time. Unique Lava Beads not only look great but are highly functional. Put a drop of your favorite essential oil on the porous beads and wear it throughout the day! What makes it even better is knowing that this jewelry is made by at-risk women in Haiti, giving them dignified work that pays a fair wage. (Take 15 % OFF through Dec. 18th with: sparrow15off)
After trying multiple “clean beauty” tinted moisturizers and BB creams but never being fully satisfied with the results, I found this fabulous product. Hands down, it is my favorite face product I’ve ever used (and that’s saying quite a bit). The cream blush stick and eyeliner pencil are also wonderful products that are part of my daily regimen.
These were the answer to my search for black booties that were ethical, comfortable, versatile (love those brown heels!), and around my $100 budget. I’ve been very happy with this purchase!
I’ve followed Pyne & Smith on Instagram for a while, but I finally broke down and invested in one of these beautiful flax linen dresses during their Cyber Monday sale, and I’m so glad that I did … because it is gorgeous! I also love that this purchase supports an ethical, sustainable small business.
This fair-trade leather satchel has been my main bag for over a year now, and it’s as beautiful as ever! The hand block-printed interior lining makes it truly unique. (Take 15 % OFF through Dec. 18th with: sparrow15off)
These two lovely stationary products are what I use to plan our days (along with this checklist notepad).
For anyone who writes or reads in bed, this is a fabulous gift. I use mine all of the time!
It’s not the fanciest on the market, but it works well and is under $20.
After searching Etsy for an advent candleholder, Joanna Gaines designed exactly what I was looking for (and it’s only $23)!!!
These fair-trade boots are ruggedly beautiful and will last for years (the pair in this pic are a year old; they were my husband’s gift last year).
I gave my husband this membership for Father’s Day this year, but as he has a beard (and only shaves around it), we soon realized that there were enough cartridges for both of us to use monthly! Yay! I now never have a dull razor.
This is an excellent book for the man (or woman) who is seeking to simplify their life yet increase productivity and purpose.
This was one of my husband’s gifts two years ago, and he still takes it to the university with him every morning.
(Disclaimer Note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for earning fees by linking to Amazon.com. Every link above is to a product that my family purchased and loves to use, and any commission I might earn through this blog post will go directly to our homeschooling budget. Thank you in advance for reading and shopping through my little blog!)