Should we put a stop to end of year gifting?
Well, it's that time of year again. Things are winding down, and the end of year gifts are ramping up. This is the time of year where see some variant on these questions being asked regularly:
- What should we give the children as an end of year gift?
- What should we get the children to make for families as a gift?
- What should I get my child's educator as a gift?
Let's be clear - I like the idea of gifting. In fact, our Inspired EC team decided to do a secret santa this year, and given that our team works throughout NSW, QLD, ACT and VIC and in different divisions, some of our team dont actually know one another that well yet. So, we're enjoying doing some serious sluething to find out what people love, what they're passionate about, so that the gifts can be meaningful.
What I do wonder about though, when it comes to gifting, is if it tends to become a little routine or auto-pilot.
Gifts for Children
In my old service we used to buy books for the children for the end of the year. It would have been simple to get all the same book, or to randomly select a book for each child. But, we took our time and educators individually selected books for children based on their interests and personalities. This felt far more meaningful for us.
Gifts for Families
Many years ago, while on a work placement, I was asked to help with the mothers day gift production. My job was to interrupt the children who were playing, convince them to draw a picture of themself with their mum on a pink love heart, take their photograph and stick both things inside a clear love heart shaped key ring. It was soul crushing. For the most part, the children weren't interested. They wanted to keep playing. They wanted to draw a dinosaur instead (and why wouldnt they?!). They wanted to have a yellow piece of paper. They didn't want their photo taken. It become a grumpy production line, and it shaped my resistance to this type of experience forever more.
Gifts for Educators
Ever been inundated with more chocolate than you can handle? I have. I've left work at the end of the year laden down with bath bombs and candles and chocolates and biscuits. Don't get me wrong - I am grateful for all of it. But that stuff all has to go somewhere (well the chocolate has to go in my belly, but the other stuff needs a physical home!) One year our service received so many boxes of chocolate that even after making pigs of ourselves on our educator only clean up day, we still had dozens of boxes to divide up and take home. It was overwhelming.
What if we thought about it a little differently?
What if we gifted children and families time together? Gather all of the families at a local park and enjoy a family picnic. Designate a photographer to take some snapshots of the children and families playing, laughing and connecting and then send these through to the families. Memories and connection last and are ultimately what we all (children and adults) want.
What if we encouraged families to give gifts that would benefit the whole service instead of just our bellies? One year we wrote a note to our families that went something like this:
"Each year we are overwhelmed with gifts from many families. We so appreciate these (although they are not necessary - your child is gift enough!) however can't possibly eat that much chocolate each year! This year, we thought that we would offer a few suggestions of things that would be great for our service. There is no expectation for anything at all - but we know that some families will still want to give a gift, and thought we would make this easier! We are planning to overhaul our garden and would love some new plants."
Make suggestions that align with your service philosophy. One year, a bunch of parents chipped in and bought our team a voucher for a local cafe so we could go out together, which was really thoughtful (again - it's a gift of time)
So, should we put a stop to the gifts?
No, not at all. But we do need to be a little more mindful. From a sustainability standpoint - unwanted gifts (and their wrapping) are a huge issue. From a pedagogical standpoint - does creating a production line of children and interrupting their play to create a stock-standard gift align with our values and philosophy?
If we want to do gifts - lets be mindful about it!
PS - If you are wanting to gift an educator something that will last longer than a box of chocolate - consider our 2022 Reflective Journals - they keep giving all year long!