My Extended Family’s Alternative to Gift-Giving

Gift giving alternative

Parents are always looking for ways to inspire their kids to give during the holidays. There are many options out there – donating to a food drive, doing a reverse Advent calendar, volunteering time, or providing letters and gifts to the elderly.

I’m always inspired by all the giving I see during this season and am especially impressed when I see parents actively engaging their children in the act of giving.

My family has our own tradition rooted in giving back. Several years ago, we decided that our kids get enough “stuff” and that Santa has been very generous to them over the years. It seemed excessive to be then exchanging presents with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We knew we could do better than that. We wondered how our big, extended family could celebrate the holidays together by giving to those outside of our family. My sister rallied us all and set up a new plan.

We decided to pool all our money together that we would have otherwise spent on presents for each other. We wanted the children to experience the act of giving and have some small understanding of their own privilege.

Every December, my sister collects our funds, purchases gift cards, and then gathers all of her nieces and nephews to have them write out cards for our friends living with homelessness. We all then hit the streets to share our gift cards and enjoy some friendly interactions and holiday greetings with these lovely community members.

The lessons in this act of giving are endless. Our kids appreciate what they have, and learn the valuable lesson around giving – that it IS so much better than receiving. It also provides them with positive interactions with people living with homelessness. So many wins.

What family traditions have you built around giving?


Julie Cole is a recovered lawyer, mom of six, and Co-founder of Mabel’s Labels



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