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How to Have a Minimalist Christmas with Kids

Having a minimalist Christmas with kids can seem impossible. Between all of the gift-giving traditions, baking, decorations, and more, it can all be overwhelming. One parent shares her top tips for having a minimalist Christmas with kids.
close-up of a minimalist Christmas tree
Updated: April 19, 2024

Having a minimalist Christmas has become a goal for many parents, and for those parents who are not quite ready to go with a minimalist approach, there still seems to be interest in downsizing the overall gift-giving experience. There are many substantial reasons to attempt a more minimalist approach this Christmas. The benefits impact your children, the earth, and your wallet for the better.

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Reasons to Try a Minimalist Christmas

For many families, they want to take away the overly materialistic aspect of the holiday. There are other beautiful themes to focus on this season like generosity of spirit, kindness, peace, and joy. Multitudes of store-bought gifts are not necessary to celebrate these things.

A minimalist approach to Christmas also helps to remove much of the sheer waste that can be associated with the holiday. Gift and toy packaging typically involves disposable plastic galore. Many of the toys and gifts given as holiday presents don’t last much longer than the Christmas break itself. Landfills fill, and the earth bears the brunt of these choices—not to mention the toys that will never decompose no matter how much you pass them along to others to be reused first.

Also, Christmas should not be about the size of our wallets as the size of our hearts is not directly proportional to this. There is so much pressure on families to spend money during the holidays, but the magic of Christmas has nothing to do with the number of presents.

Lastly, overloading children with presents is not necessarily the best thing for them. Having too much makes it hard to appreciate the value of things. It also can make children (and adults!) anxious to open many presents and to try to take in the overstimulation and unnecessary nature of excess. 

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Tips for a Successful Minimalist Christmas

Fortunately, it’s much easier to minimize the trappings of Christmas than to try to go big with gift giving. Here are a few ways that you can easily have a minimalist Christmas with kids:

The Four Gift Rule

A minimalist gift giving technique that has gained a lot of traction on social media in recent years involves giving each child four gifts for Christmas. The guideline is something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. There is so much room for creativity with this rule, but it points you in the direction of exactly what to buy without going overboard.

Give the Gift of Experiences

The gift of experience is one that keeps on giving way after the time that the holiday season ends. Experience gifts don’t take up space, and they don’t create clutter. They are often things that your children can experience with the family or others and adds value to their memories and overall childhood. There are many options to consider like museum and play space memberships, theatre tickets, sports game tickets, art lessons, travel, and so much more.

Create Online Wish Lists for Your Children

Often the biggest challenges of a minimalist Christmas does not have to do with your immediate family, but more from relatives who have good intentions and don’t know what to gift. Sharing your approach to the holidays with them and explaining the value of a minimalist Christmas to them is important. Also, if you are able to provide specific items or experiences that would work well for your family as Christmas gift wish lists, it may help relatives from buying in excess or buying gifts that your family really doesn’t need or want.

Take the Focus Off Opening Gifts on Christmas Morning

Instead of talking about opening gifts as the big Christmas morning event, keep the conversation about other things. Maybe it’s a special Christmas breakfast or a family walk outside or a holiday themed scavenger hunt. Also, stop asking children what they want for Christmas and asking them to make lists. Christmas can be whatever you make of it and whatever aligns with your family values.

Change the Approach of your Children’s Letters to Santa 

Rather than asking your children to write letters to Santa to ask for gifts, present this exciting letter writing tradition as an opportunity to express gratitude and to share thoughts with Santa about who might need some extra help and Christmas magic this season. It’s a beautiful thing for children to simply write letters to thank Santa for whatever magic he may bring and for them to think about others and who may need generosity most this Christmas season.

You don’t have to feel like a minimalist approach to Christmas needs to be all or nothing. You can work towards this gradually as a family, and be sure to note that any small steps towards eliminating excess and waste are positive things. Starting your Christmas season with any of the above approaches can help your family focus on whatever aspect of the holidays is most important to you and your family values.

Planning to have the difficult Santa conversation with your child. Follow our Step-by-Step Guide to Talking About Santa to make the experience less painful and keep the magic of Christmas alive.

Charise Rohm Nulsen

About Charise

Charise is a Travel Planner and founder of Experience the Dream Travel, specializing in… Read more

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