When I was six my parents and I moved to rural Brazil. Even at a young age I noticed that the neighbouring kids owned a lot less toys than kids in Australia. Most children had one toy in their entire room. When it came to Christmas, it was very simple, not many presents but lots of good food to share. So I learnt quite early that Christmas was not about buying gift after gift, it was about spending time with the family and sharing what you have. Also Santa took many forms and they were all magical.
Encourage Children to Believe in Magic
As Christmas is nearing, I think about my experiences and the experiences my son is having of Christmas. I like to think that Christmas is a time when parents can encourage children to believe in magic. Several studies and psychologists have found that imagination and ‘make believe’ is a crucial part in early childhood development. Research has found that pretend play has an important role in developing creativity, empathy, social competence and problem solving skills.
Pretend play allows children to express their feelings both positive and negative. They are able to process and integrate their emotions with cognition.
Bringing Santa into the house can be a magical experience for your child. The story of Santa is believed to come from the myth of Saint Nicholas. His legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus. Whatever version of Santa you like, make it magical. Make bio-sparkles and leave healthy food out for Santa. Show your kids how he or she enjoyed the meal. Reinforce that Santa is about sharing gifts and caring for family and friends. As your child starts to get older and starts questioning who is Santa, the transition will be easier as Santa always represented sharing and caring.
It’s About Generosity
Santa was always about generosity in my childhood. It was a time to make presents, gift some of my toys and share food with the entire family and friends. The core ethics my family and I now encourage are:
- Releasing and then regifting toys that you have grown out of.
- Encouraging children to help in the kitchen. Take the challenge of serving others first.
- Be generous with your time and make it a digital detox day.
Santa Recycles and Makes his Presents
As a child I grew up believing that Santa made his own presents from materials that needed to be recycled. He would also fix old toys and regift them. I knew that Santa cared about the planet and this is why he did this. Now as a mother I am teaching my son the same thing. Any presents that come from Santa are either pre-loved or handmade.
Last year my son got a second hand bike from Santa and he absolutely loved it. It was my way to demonstrate breaking the consumerist cycle and give environmentally aware gifts. You don’t have to pretend Santa doesn’t exist to teach your child about consumerism and marketing. Just guide them into understanding what is important behind the symbol/spirit of Santa Claus.