How to make a Christmas wish list

A long time ago, I learned that I could make the annual Christmas wish list tradition a lot of fun if I got the focus off of gifts and onto values...

First, I picked a date for hot cocoa and wish lists. I set the counter up as I might for a craft project by putting out pencils, erasers, colored markers, catalogs, whole punches, etc.

Second, I showed each of the kids how to start a letter to Santa.

Third, I let the kids draft out their long lists of wishes. They could put anything (and as many things as) they wanted on their lists - no editing or shoulds allowed from mom.

The lists were very long and included big deals such as Guinea Pigs, slide projectors, new bicycles and skateboards, as well as little deals such as lip gloss and candy.

Finally, and this is the magical part, I asked them to take their long lists and to choose something for their head, (books or knowledge-based learning), something for their heart (an animal to love, athletic equipment), something for their hands (yarn for knitting, blocks, or projects to build and cook), and something for our home (a family game, a supply of fancy paper, new pastels).

As the children made trade-offs, I talked to them about balance and about happiness being a sign of a person using many of his or her gifts throughout a lifetime. They seemed to understand the connection, but expect a lot of discussion, negotiation, even some disappointments...

Finally, they wrote up their edited lists on a fresh piece of paper to Santa and decorated it. If there was anything either of them felt really strongly about including (in addition to the 4-Hs), we would just keep talking about it. I even asked them to add one wish for someone else . . . to integrate the idea of charitable giving.

This approach to how to make a Christmas wish list takes time and some thought. But it can help ease the blind consumerism the tradition can bring ... while transforming it into a mini plan.

I like that the kids are learning simple consciousness about their wishes, something I still practice myself. And while they won't get everything on their lists, they deal with the disappointments before Christmas morning. That makes "a little room" for the spirit of Christmas to come in.

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