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How to Ask for “Child-Powered” Gifts this Holiday Season

No matter what gifts your child receives, remember to practice gratitude. After all, receiving graciously makes the gift-giver happy and models behavior you'll want to see in your child, too.

As the holidays approach, so does the torrent of advertising for the latest and greatest gizmos, gadgets, and electronics. Commercials, magazines, and pop-up ads barrage us at every turn with deals on plastic toys and games that light up, make noises, move on command or feature popular cartoon characters. Well-meaning friends and relatives might want to give your child one of these trendy gifts.

Gifts For Montessori Households

When asked about gift ideas, it’s important to graciously let them know what sorts of presents you believe would truly benefit your growing child. You might frame your reasons around what it means to be a Montessori family or have a more general desire to be mindful about what enters your home.

This stringing beads set promotes focus, persistence, and problem solving. It is included in the Monti Kids Level 6 subscription box for toddlers 18-22 months

Helping your family understand what you DO want

Stacy Keane, leader of the Monti Kids Learning Team, offers the following rule of thumb, “I use the phrase ‘child-powered, not battery-powered’ as a clarification to describe the sorts of toys and gifts we prefer. That’s because battery-powered toys create a passive state of learning. Child-powered makes them an active learner.”

Stacy, a mom of three, makes a comparison between Montessori-approved gifts, which are often made of wood and promote fine and gross motor learning and real-life skills, and typical seasonal holiday toys, which offer instant gratification and sensory stimulation. “It’s like offering candy or broccoli, junk food versus brain food.”

We tend to gravitate towards whatever offers immediate gratification – that’s just human nature. However, as we all know, brain food is more beneficial than junk food in the long run. 

Related: Why Montessorians prefer wooden toys 

When asked, tell your family what action your child is interested in. Does your crawler love to play peek-a-boo? Build things? Help around the house? Talking about this could help ease you into a conversation about prioritizing gifts that inspire active learning. Then, you might be able to mention what you prefer to avoid.

Montessori Gift Ideas

Steering away from screen activities

While friends or relatives might believe they’re expressing utmost generosity by offering to give your child a costly electronic device, you can kindly explain that they are not yet ready for these types of gifts. If they need further explanation (beyond that of Maria Montessori), you can allude to the most recent guidelines of the World Health Organization, which boldly convey the health hazards of electronic screen time for young children, namely, that infants under one year of age should never be exposed to electronic screens, and that children under four should not have more than one hour per day, “resulting in healthier adults.” 

Montessori Gift Ideas

The easiest way to receive a gift that supports your child’s Montessori education is to create a wishlist. So when Grandma asks what your children want or need, you can make it simple for her by providing this list. If she offers to purchase a big ticket item, you might request a Pikler Triangle, Learning Tower, or Balance Bike, for example. Children under a year might enjoy a Walking Wagon or a Monti Kids Activity Gym. Story books, interactive books, and board books are always appreciated, as are gift cards from your local independent bookstore. Gifts that inspire outdoor activities are a great idea, too, and might include a child-size rake, wheelbarrow, shovels, or a T-ball set. Make an Amazon wish list or ask for a gift card for your next Monti Kids box. Montessori Services and their sister company, For Small Hands, include an array of age-appropriate gifts, all pre-approved by Montessori educators.

Montessori Gifts
I use the phrase 'child-powered, not battery-powered' as a clarification to describe the sorts of toys and gifts we prefer.
Stacy Keane
Montessori Educator

The Gift of Experiences—and Gratitude

Even more than material objects is the opportunity to spend time and share experiences with those you love. A day trip to a sledding hill, a box of materials for a baking project, or a membership to the local zoo all make lasting gifts. The gift of time and presence, when all is said and done, is truly the best gift of all.

If your child gets a present that doesn’t align with your values, find something else to appreciate about the item or the act of giving. If you don’t wish to keep it, you may be able to exchange it, and if not, you can donate it to children in need.

Consider letting your little one enjoy the gift briefly, then rotating a new toy in, and later donate it (she will most likely already have forgotten about it by then). Learning how to say “thank you” with sincerity is a skill in itself, something that we’re never to young—or old—to learn.

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