Are you one of the smug people who has nearly finished their Christmas shopping? Or are you a last minute, dash around the shops type? Either way, you are currently being bombarded by marketing galore.
Constant emails and cutesy catalogues will try to persuade you that all women desire purple silk underwear or fluffy ear muffs. Meanwhile, the man in your life absolutely requires a designer leather iPad cover embossed with his initials and the children will have a Christmas to remember ONLY if you buy them their own body-weight in overpriced, branded plastic.
We will all receive items that we don’t want or need and we will all spend a bit more than we should have done. Whilst our bank balances can hopefully recover in the New Year, it’s not so rosy for the environment because all consumerism has a direct impact on the planet. Now I’m not so mean as to suggest we don’t give presents, my children would still be crying by New Year’s Day if I was that horrible. However, burying them in an excess of new possessions doesn’t do them any favours.
Over-gifting your kids can result in them acquiring a spoilt, entitled attitude, not looking after their new toys properly and expecting even more next year. You know what over-gifting looks like: the child is swamped by presents which they open in an increasingly mechanical, zombie like way, finding it hard when the supply eventually stops.
To try and rein myself in (because it is so easy to get carried away) I love the gifting advice that goes ‘Want. Need. Wear. Read’ and try to apply it to shopping for the kids.
A present is never wasted if it is what someone really, really desires. If you have no clue, then ask, or at least give vouchers rather than buying them the thing you secretly want. Yes, Dads with that Star Wars Lego, I’m talking to you!
So it’s a little more on the boring side, but for children this is where the more sensible purchases come in, such as a new duvet set, furniture for their room, hairbrush or swim kit. Although my cousins were given toothpaste every year – I think that may be taking it a bit far.
Much as I love a festive jumper, giving it on Christmas Day means it is hardly going to be worn. If you must, then size up so growing children can wear it the next year too. Onesies, special dresses and organic cotton pjs make excellent choices here.
The gift of a book is the most wonderful of all. What could be more perfect than giving them a whole world, for you to read together or for older children to discover alone? I don’t think anyone can have too many books.
What about stockings? That’s helping Father Christmas plan your child’s stocking obviously. I try and keep to the above rules when, er, suggesting ideas to the elves. That is, something from each category of: want, need, wear, read – but we do have a whole stocking to stuff.
Eco-friendly ‘consumables’ are great filler options, such as Fair-trade organic chocolates, dried fruit, an all-natural bath bomb or lip balm, or shower gel. I also feel Santa should always provide useful items such as pants, tights, vests and socks.
When you are tight for time, it is easy to just grab the nearest available items, however eco-unfriendly. Don’t worry though, I’ve collated some green and thoughtful stocking ideas that will help!
Baby and toddler stocking ideas
I honestly wouldn’t go crazy for this age group – a couple of nice, eco-friendly toys and then a few practical items will be plenty.
I love these lovely sustainable wooden grasping toys by EverEarth.
A gnome leaf stacking toy.
Felt animals (3+).
Wooden letters for the bedroom door, like these.
Wooden cars (these mini ones are 3+).
Cutlery and plate sets.
Gorgeous Stockmar beeswax crayons.
Primary age stocking ideas
Eco action trump cards – a fun way of learning about taking care of the environment.
Mini boxes of a favourite ‘treat’ cereal.
Learn about natural energy sources with a potato-powered clock.
A new water bottle – this one is made from recycled plastic and has a charcoal filter.
A wind-up torch.
A flannel with their favourite character on.
A grow your own carnivorous plants kit.
Lavender and wheat filled teddies, that can be microwaved and will make the bed all cosy (so you can turn the heating down).
Teenager stocking ideas
A bead and hoop necklace, fairly traded and made from all natural materials.
These gorgeous birch candle holders.
Vouchers – probably iTunes.
An adult colouring book inspired by nature.
Pretty glass earring dish.
Slightly crazy, but low eco-impact, face drinks mats.
Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? Grow your own money (plant).
I also enjoyed these eco-gift suggestions from River Cottage HQ, and don’t forget second-hand items are perfect too. Now is also a great time to take any outgrown toys to the charity shop so someone else can benefit!
Above all, don’t go overboard on the pressies, do get out for some fresh air and do remember that possessions don’t bring happiness, it’s all about being together in your very own crazy, unique way.
Kate Blincoe is the author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting (Green Books) and is a freelance writer.