Holiday Gift Guide for Raising an "Unselfie" Child

As we enter into the holiday season, one book and its key concept keeps popping into my head: Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. I've been following Dr. Borba's writings on this subject and it has really struck a cord with me. She focuses on ways we can teach our kids to think about WE instead of just ME. As she notes, empathy is not innate; kids must be taught it and we as parents must model it. 

We are constantly trying in our home to encourage an attitude of gratefulness and unselfishness with our kids. Now, granted at ages 7 and 3, this is not the easiest task. We know from research that kids really don't have the brain maturity to think about much other than themselves for quite a while. Our 7-year-old, however, is getting to the age where gratitude and unselfish behavior is a possibility, at least some of the time.

This attitude of gratitude, however, is sometimes even harder to create during the holidays (as ironic as that is) because of our culture of commercialization and consumption. Holidays often become centered around toys, presents and the dreaded "I want" monster.

gifts for raising an unselfish child

In light of this, I wanted to create a different kind of gift guide this season. Yes, it does include items to purchase, but this guide focuses on gifts that promote empathy, kindness and giving back to others.

Charitable Gifts:

- "Sponsor" a family or child for the holidays: many organizations this time of year have the option to sponsor the needs of a family or child. You and your family can shop for the gifts together and pick out items they need or want.

- Help send a care package to military service members: organizations such as Operation Gratitude collect items and donations to send to service men and women stationed all over the world. You can donate items, money or help assemble packages. 

- Donate items to a homeless pet shelter: shelters for homeless pets are always in need of food, treats, toys, etc. for the pets they care for. Kids will probably love picking out pet items for some cute animals that really need help.

Thinking of Others:

- Gift lists for others: kids always get excited about writing a letter to Santa with their gift list included. How about encouraging them to write a gift list for others. What would mom, dad, grandma, or uncle like for Christmas?

- Buying (or making) gifts for others: if your child is old enough to be earning some "pocket change" then encourage them to save it up to buy a gift for a beloved friend or relative. Of course, most adults also love gifts that are handmade by a child. Pull out those craft supplies and make some gifts.

- Make "blessing bags" together: a few years ago my moms' group made bags for the homeless individuals you see on the street while you're stopped at a stop light. Usually they include just some basic necessities and snacks. The first time we handed one out to a person at a street corner, it really made an impression on my son. Since then, we've been making them every few months, especially during the cold winter months.

Gifts that give back:

-Kindness Dolls: a doll that actually helps encourage kindness in kids--great idea. It's simple: you choose a doll (with names like Hope, Grace or Fair) and it comes with tokens of kindness that your child can pass out to others. The tokens are meant to encourage others to pass along kindness to others. Another great feature is that for each doll sold, another is donated to a child less fortunate (e.g., children in homeless shelters or hospitals).

kind doll

- BrickSmarts: this is one of those companies that comes up with a great idea and we all say, "why didn't I think of that?" They take used Legos, clean and refurbish them and put them pack together into a complete set (including instructions). Now this might just look like a cool way to get Legos at a cheaper price. While it is that, it is also a way of preserving mother Earth. Less plastic being created means fewer precious resources being used up. It's a win-win for our kids and planet Earth. You can also sell your used Legos for store credit to use on a set for you child. 


- Kindness Elves: We all are familiar with the Elf on the Shelf. While I think he's loads of fun, I also felt a little icky about the idea of the "big brother watching out for you doing wrong" idea. The Kindness Elves just feel more realistic and meaningful to me. They still do silly antics at night, but in the morning they have suggestions for random acts of kindness that kids can do.

kindness elves

Cuddle and Kind: I came across these online and I instantly fell in love with them. Hand-knit dolls for boys and girls that are made in Peru. The best part--the artisans who make the dolls are paid a fair trade wage. An added bonus is that for each doll bought, the company provides 10 meals to kids all over the world through the World Food Program. 

dolls cuddle and kind

Gifts That Support Families (not big business):

We can't have a gift guide without some toys, right. When looking for unique, thoughtful gifts I always start with Etsy. I've found some great vintage records for my son's record player as well as vintage books. There are also a lot of wonderful toys that are made by individuals rather than large companies. I love the idea of supporting a stay-at-home mom, dad or retired grandparent rather than some faceless corporation. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Pretend Play: toddlers (and even early elementary kids) learn wonderful lessons from pretend play. They love to pretend almost anything they see grown-ups doing, as well as aspects of stories. These will all foster imagination in your little ones.

Garden Play Set

etsy garden play set

Felt Food Bananas

etsy banana

Campfire Playset

etsy playset

Bow and Arrow Playset

etsy playset

Quiet Time: fostering quiet play in young children can be a challenge. These toys might give you a few minutes of quiet while a younger child naps...or you nap!

Toy Car Mat

etsy car mat

Personalized Fabric Quiet Book

quiet book etsy

Felt Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head

potato head etsy

Busy Toddlers: toddlers have a limited attention span but they love to tinker with novel objects. These busy boards will keep them entertained.

Wooden Busy Board

busy board etsy

Personalized Busy Board

toddler gift etsy

Puppets: puppet shows can be great fun for little ones and older kids alike. They can re-tell their favorite stories with their favorite characters.

Daniel Tiger Finger Puppets

etsy puppets

Christmas Finger Puppets

etsy puppets

Animal Finger Puppets

etsy puppets

Arts and Crafts: both boys and girls love arts and crafts supplies, especially items that are unique. These will help keep little hands busy on those snowy afternoons.

Personalized Crayon Holder

etsy arts and crafts

Fun Shaped Crayons

etsy arts and crafts

Kid's Travel Craft Kit

kids travel kit

Vintage Children's Books: one of the best parts of parenthood is sharing some of your favorite stories from your childhood. What better way to share these books than an actually vintage book from that time. Plus, it's a great form of re-using, instead of buying new.

Peter Pan

Wind in the Willows

The Snowy Day

Enjoy the holidays!

E**Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links

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