Yesterday was one of my favourite days in our infant school calendar – Christmas Shop.
Kids love Christmas because of the presents, obviously – their own presents, and in my experience, any that the people around them will let them open too! The joy of receiving a gift takes no teaching at all.
It’s harder to teach them how much fun it is to give a present. There’s power in the ability to gift, and children’s power is limited – the power to go out, browse a shop, choose a suitable gift, pay for it, and wrap it all on their own is beyond them, of course. You can take them and help them choose, but they probably won’t get the same sense of independence and freedom – and unless someone else takes them shopping for you, you will probably always know what you’re getting for Christmas -and they don’t get the joy of surprising you.
I wasn’t expecting any independent operation on the gift-giving front, until the boys were at least 10 years old – that was until I learned about Christmas Shop, all the way back in 2014.
Run by our parents’ association, Christmas Shop lets children browse a brilliant range of gifts suitable for all sorts of ages and tastes, and take home a wrapped, labelled gift for each member of the family, which they can then hide and keep secret until the big day. It’s such a wonderful way to give them their first taste of selecting a gift for someone they love, as independently as possible.
Here’s how it works.
In January, the volunteer parent committee start buying up all sorts of nice little sale items in bulk, 12 or 15 at a time – whatever they spot that is good value, and that would be worth at least £2.50 at normal price. This continues throughout the year.
In late November, a letter goes home that explains the concept of the Christmas Shop, with a list to fill of all the people you’d like your child to buy for. Then send it back with payment of £2.50 per person, and your child is ready to go shopping.
Volunteers wrap the hundreds of presents a couple of weeks beforehand, and in early December Christmas Shop is open for two days, in the staff room. Volunteers dressed in their best Christmas knitwear collect each participating child from their class, armed with their list of gift recipients, and crucial information such as age and gender, to help guide their little shopper in their choices. Each gift on the shelf that they choose has wrapped-up counterparts, and one of these is labelled and put in a bag for their purchaser to take home.
It’s beautiful. Everyone loves Christmas Shop. There is so much organisation needed, but the joy it brings is wonderful. You can tell how much it’s loved, because the same volunteers are there for years on end; and the children look forward to it so much, and many of them remember it long after they’ve left the infant school. When you bring them into the shop, their little faces are priceless – and having been the lucky recipient of a Christmas Shop gift for several years now, I can vouch for the pleasure they get from keeping their surprises a secret from everyone else in their family, and how they love watching the unwrapping on Christmas Day. It usually brings a fantastic amount of money for the school, as well, thanks to savvy gift shopping through the year.
The point of this post is really just to share the happiness I had this week in being part of it, and to urge you to think about introducing it to your school if you don’t have it already. It’s a big effort, but the rewards are rich and many, and it’s such a wonderful way to teach them that it’s so exciting to receive a gift, but it can be just as exciting to give one.
Fingers crossed for our mystery gifts this year – especially all the ones I helped to pick out yesterday morning!