’Tis the season when children everywhere rejoice with the refrain: “I want, I want, gimme, gimme!” Are yours begging for something new every time you come within a five-mile radius of a toy store? Time to rein it in, Rudolph. If your kids are more about holiday greed than peace and goodwill, here are ten ways to help them start celebrating a happier, more mindful holiday.  


Minimize the temptation.

Kids are only human. Instead of spending every weekend between Thanksgiving and New Year’s at the mall, do most of your holiday shopping online after little ones are in bed. That way, they won’t be confronted at every shopping cart turn with yet another item they can’t live without. If you do take the kids along to get gifts, read our tips first.


Say “Is that what you really want?” or “Let’s add it to your list!”

When something sparkly catches your child’s eye, say, “Wow, that is awesome. Is that what you really want this year, or do you want [thing they’ve already asked for] more?” In the process, you’re teaching them delayed gratification (even though you’re not getting it for them today, they might get it later) and setting their expectations. It doesn’t mean you can’t get them more than one thing they’ve asked for or let relatives and friends who ask know what else they might like, but it does help kids learn to prioritize and manage their own desires. Another approach: Keep a wish list for them, adding to it when they ask for something, then sit down with them to prioritize it once you’re ready to get their gifts.


Keep it simple.

If kids are used to an avalanche of gifts, they’ll come to expect it. Instead of presenting them with endless packages, try limiting gifts for each child to just one they need, one they want, one to wear and one to read. If you’re scaling back from holidays past, do it gradually to ease kids into it rather than putting the brakes on all at once this year.


Give the gift of experiences instead of things.

Gift season tickets for your child’s favorite sports team, season passes to a local attraction, family passes to a bowling alley or skating rink, a year’s subscription to the Q Wunder app, or a membership to a museum, zoo or rock-climbing gym. You don’t have to spend a lot — even movie tickets can make a popular gift for kids.


Talk about “in our family.”

When kids start asking for everything in their field of vision, take it as an opportunity to talk about your family’s values. “Hey, I understand that you really want that [and that, and that], but in our family, instead of spending all our money on toys, we like to save up to travel and see Grandma and Grandpa and cousins.”  


Make a Christmas list of gifts to give instead of get.

Instead of asking kids what they want and/or sitting them down to dogear every toy catalog that lands in your mailbox (which communicates to kids that the season is all about the presents they get), pay attention to what they ask for on their own and keep a running list on your phone. You can also help them make a Christmas list of people to give presents to and ask what they want to give them. Helping kids make gifts like cookies, granola, ornaments, paintings or homemade modeling clay lets them experience the joy of giving as well as receiving. You can also let them help you pick out presents for others (“Which color do you think Aunt Maria would like?”).


Slow down.

The holidays can feel like a season of more, more, more. Make sure you get some downtime with your kids by watching a favorite holiday special from your childhood or playing a board game like Q’s Race to the Top. And remember the “present” part when it comes time for presents: Instead of a frenzy of ribbons flying everywhere at once, have kids pass out one gift at a time and watch each person opens theirs.


Start family holiday traditions.

You could make an annual trip to the ice rink followed by hot chocolate, have a dance party on the first night of Hanukkah (try the fun family-friendly songs on the Q Wunder playlist) or just take an evening walk around your neighborhood to check out holiday lights. In Iceland, families celebrate the tradition of Jolabokaflod, or the Christmas book flood: After exchanging books on Christmas Eve, everyone spends the evening reading. (Kids can’t read on their own yet? Try Q’s Wild Ride, which comes with a read-along CD, or Q’s Coloring Book.)


Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Don’t complain about the ugly scarf your cousin sent you or grumble about all the things you wish you could afford in front of your kids. Instead, model gracious appreciation and teach your kids to say “Thank you!” (bonus points for “That was so nice of you!”), even when they receive a gift they don’t like. You can also give to others: Take your kids to visit and sing carols to seniors at a nursing home. Have your children pick out a toy to donate to Toys for Tots. There are lots of opportunities for even young kids to volunteer and give to others. You can even cut out the shape of a tree and add cut-out leaves or ornaments every day with what each person in the family is grateful for.


Talk about what the season means in your family.

What do you celebrate and why? Sharing the meaning behind the holiday helps kids appreciate more than just the presents they’ll get.