It’s 62 days until Christmas. Do you know where your gift list is?

With Halloween still a week away, it’s hard for this mama to even think about Christmas. I’m focused on pumpkins and hayrides. But, the store decorations, the avalanche of Christmas catalogues, and the plunge into November-like temperatures remind me that Christmas is coming. How can parents plan to make the day special?

Seek gifts that nurture imagination. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein.

Every parent chuckles when it happens. We spend hours searching for the perfect toy. Our child opens the package, pulls out the toy, and plays with the box. Why? Boxes serve imagination. Whether a space ship, a bear’s den, or a laboratory - the box becomes what is needed for the moment.

Other options abound. Brio train sets offer hours of spatial learning, story building and sheer fun. Comparable toys include Lego sets, cardboard building blocks, action figures, and plush toys. Catalogues like Mindware are filled with games, toys, and sets that purposely engage our child’s imagination. Don’t forget the books - whether mystery, craft, or non-fiction - books inspire children to enter other worlds and dream big.

With eight children (translation eight birthdays each year plus at least 10 gifts per child at Christmas), we encountered a LOT of toys. We routinely had to cull to make room. The keepers were never powered by a battery.

Remember the love language. In the tumult of Christmas buying, it’s easy to get caught in chasing the “hot” buy of the year or simply getting through a list. But, gifts are all about showing our love. To communicate that love well, we need to speak in our child’s love language. Most people know Gary Chapman’s "The Five Love Languages." Recalling these in gift buying helps ensure our efforts hit the mark. The five love languages are time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts.

For kids who feel most loved through gifts, Christmas seems easy - but it can be tricky. Parents need to give the most thought to gifts for these children. A gift that expresses intentional consideration for their interests and personality hits big. One that misses isn’t just disappointing - it can affect how loved this child feels. Acts of service kids appreciate the work parents put into Christmas and the experience. Words of affirmation kids need to hear praise for their efforts during the season. Physical touch kids need hugs or tickle fests - even in the busyness of the holidays. Time kids want attention more than presents. When parents keep a focus on these, children feel the love - no matter what is under the tree.

Consider experiences over things. Often the best gifts aren’t wrapped. Let’s face it. Most of us already have too much stuff. Stuff that needs maintenance, gets in the way and breeds carelessness. A better option may be to put resources into a family trip to explore new scenery and culture. Or, into memberships in local museums and clubs. Funding a child’s hobby or avocation may mean much more than one more game.

A Christmas morning with stockings filled with smallish gifts followed by a day (or week) together playing games, hitting the beach, or curled by a fire in a cabin as the snow falls outside creates memories of family investment in each other. What gift could be better than parents taking the most precious resource in existence and investing it in being with their children and building memories that last far longer than any toy?

We have 62 days. As toy catalogues flood mailboxes, a focus on nurturing both our children and our relationship with them helps us choose wisely. Get your list going, then get back to enjoying the pumpkins and hayrides.

This Week's Circulars