Okay, when my kids were little I had a little bright idea that worked so good that I wanted to pass it on to you! It doesn’t cost (hardly) any money and it is so cool!
So, you know how when your kids go to your relatives for a holiday, or they have a birthday party, there can be that embarrassing moment where they open a gift and either don’t care about it, or don’t like it, and they just toss it aside, and you lock eyes with your great aunt Sally, who knitted them those mittens, and you see that sad look on her face? And then you pick up the mittens from where your child discarded them and try to get your child to look at them, just, honey! look! Look at these cozy mittens! But your child has moved on to the pony set that their cousin gave them, and you grimace because it’s so awkward and you feel bad and you don’t look back at Aunt Sally and hope that she doesn’t feel toooo bad?
Okay, this is about that.
This happened with my children a few times when they were young, and one Christmas season, when I was unpacking the Christmas decorations, I pulled out an empty gift bag that had been tucked in the tote and I had a lightbulb moment. I call it: the Gift Game.
I gathered all my kids in to the living room, and we sat in a circle. (My twins were 3 and my son was 5 at the time.)
I told the kids the following rules:
“We are going to play The Gift Game! It’s a silly game that starts like this: One of you will take this bag, and choose someone in the circle to “buy” a gift for! You can go all over the house and find one item as silly as you want to put in the bag as a pretend gift for the other player! But the rule is: You need to have a reason why the person would LOVE your silly gift.”
And then you send the first player off to hunt through the house.
When we played it the first time, my daughter Aurora went off and found a spatula for my son Eric.
When she got back, I told her to give the bag to Eric and tell him, “Merry Christmas, Eric! I hope you like this, I picked it out just for you!”
And then Eric had to take the gift, look Aurora in the eye and say, “Thank you, Aurora!” before he opened it. When he opened it, he had to look at her again and either guess the reason she gave it to him, or else name something he liked about it.
He said, “Wow, Aurora! A spatula. I can play hockey with this!”
And then everyone laughed, and I asked Aurora why she picked it out. She said, “I got it because Eric likes to eat, so he could cook himself some pancakes!”
And then it was Eric’s turn, and he left with the bag to put the spatula back and to go find a gift for another player.
When he went, he found a pair of my husband’s socks, and he brought the bag back for my daughter, Giselle.
Giselle very sweetly took the bag, looked in Eric’s eyes and said, “Thank you, Eric!” And then she dove in and found the socks.
And then she threw herself on the floor and had a fit.
Because guess what, kids are kids, and they don’t act like mature adults. That’s why they need to be taught!
I picked her up and said, “Giselle? What’s going on?” and she said, “He got me stupid socks!”
And I calmed her down, and said, “Giselle, look at Eric.”
And Eric was in his spot, looking really sad, and I said, “Eric, why did you think Giselle would like socks for her silly gift?” And he answered, “Because her feet are always cold and they are so thick and fuzzy.”
And then I told them all that when you get a gift for someone at Christmas or on your birthday, usually the person who gave it has a reason, and they want you to like it, and if you throw a fit or don’t care about it, it can make the person sad. When Giselle saw how Eric reacted, she picked up the socks and smiled (with her eyes still red from crying) and told him that she loved them.
We played a few more rounds, with a few really silly gifts, but also had quite a few opportunities to teach gift giving and receiving “skills.”
The important parts to me:
- The kids should be encouraged to have a “Good reason” for choosing the gift that they pick out.
- The receiver should look the giver in the eyes, say thank you, and add a detail about “why” they appreciate the gift.
Honestly, maybe it sounds a little “preachy” but the kids didn’t seem to think it was! They had a lot of fun and we played it several times that Christmas, and the next year, too. We even played it with some of their friends around. They seemed to love the “hunting around the house” aspect and the guessing game.
Anyway! I was so glad I thought of it, because forever after that when they got a gift from someone, they seemed to really understand that the gift-giver should be really, honestly, thanked for the gift.
I hope this helps some other family! If you play it and it works, or you have some other tip to go along with it, leave a comment!