Plastic Free Christmas – Stocking Fillers
I’m aiming to be as free from single use plastic as possible this Christmas and one of the biggest culprits for plastic waste are those stocking fillers.
I’m not talking about the large presents that the children really want, if you know your toddler is going to get hours of joy from a plastic ride on toy car which you can then pass on to a relative or local family go for it. This is not about being perfect, it’s about being better.
Stocking fillers are those little things, often bought without as much thought or consideration as the bigger gifts, and so I think that they are a good place to focus on when cutting down on plastic waste.
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Get rid of the Guilt
I remember having coffee with a mum friend a couple of years ago and she said with a note of panic, “I’ve just been to Sainsbury’s because they’ve got a 2 for 1 offer on toys, I was just grabbing things off the shelves. I know they won’t play with half of it but it’s stuff to open on Christmas day!” Then she let out a high, nervous laugh. Like so many mums with young children she wanted everything to be perfect on the most magical day of the year and if that meant that they needed stuff to open she was going to provide it.
So let’s break it all down for a moment. Parents are either going to get into debt or spend more time at work, away from their family to earn more money. They can then buy things that their children neither need nor want so they have a lot of stuff to open which then becomes clutter to be stored. Sounds a bit silly doesn’t it?
I’m not a purist and I think the joy of opening a beautifully wrapped gift that someone has thoughtfully bought for you is an utter joy. I also love the look on my children’s faces when they get a special something they didn’t expect. On the other hand I do remember my daughter getting present fatigue on her third Christmas (that’s her in the main image) and we had to put some of the presents away to open at a later date. It was all just a bit over the top! So, let’s just let go of the guilt and find a balance for those little gifts that plump up the stockings.
Christmas is about eating and, like at Easter, it is perfectly acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast! If you want to be totally wholesome you can make your own chocolate treats and pop them in a gorgeous glass jar and be a zero waste hero. If you’re anything like me, the thought of extra time in the kitchen might tip you over the edge.
There are alternatives to the plastic wrapped selection packs that are readily available in every supermarket, you just have to choose to buy them. Lindt do lovely foil wrapped festive chocolate and who doesn’t love a Toblerone with its holiday vibe and recyclable packaging. You can cheat a bit with sweets too. Get your pretty jam jar and fill up at the pick and mix pop a ribbon round and you’re a yummy mummy without the effort or the price tag.
If you have toddlers you can be really sneaky because they haven’t be Christmas programmed yet and they love everything. Of course you want to get them that gorgeous wooden rocking horse or mini trampoline for a main present, go ahead. Friends and relatives will get them super cute outfits because they want the joy of buying a super cute outfit (toddler couldn’t care less about clothes)
Now, for the little gifts you don’t have to get them all new stuff – you can cheat! Put some of their Duplo or building blocks in a fancy box and see that they’re just as excited as they would have been if you’d just bought it. They will of course love the box to play with too!
Collect hand me down stacking cups and shape sorters from friends and neighbours (everyone is decluttering at this time of year to make room for more stuff) You can also wrap all the different components separately and watch your clever little protege work out how they fit together.
Let go of any guilt you might feel about not buying new by overcompensating and spending more time playing with your little one. Ask any primary school teacher, that’s what they really appreciate (and don’t forget the world your making is for them)
If you are buying new toys see if you can find them made in a more biodegradable material like wood or metal. Often these are more expensive but the advantage is that they will look more attractive in the home and will hold their value longer so you can sell or donate them as your child grows older.
Something To Do
If you have kids of primary school age (5 – 10 years old) they need activities on Christmas morning. Coloring books, origami, canvasses and knitting will keep some children busy.
Others kids might need something more active like a treasure hunt. Each clue could have a physical challenge to complete (20 star jumps should use up some of the sugar energy before Aunt Maud arrives) Then put a little present at the end so they have fewer gifts but the process of opening lasts longer and is more of an event. It will take a little bit of organisation but apart from some time and paper it’s free fun!
Most kids love computer games. A lot are subscription based so you can make a fun card with the log in and away they go. My son is game crazy and we’re a big fan of the store Cex where you can buy and trade in old games, phones and consoles. He really doesn’t care that they are second hand as long as they work. Computer games aren’t plastic free but by buying second hand and then trading back in when you’re finished you can do your bit by keeping them out of landfill.
Children playing on screens is not my idea of the wholesome family Christmas. Board games are the traditional Christmas activity but in my experience these often end in tears, usually mine (over competitive me?)
Some of my fondest Christmas memories involve me, my daughter and sister doing ‘Living La Vida Loca’ on Just Dance and the grandparents being blown away by Nintendo Labo with my son.
Teens and Over
Eco friendly toiletries are great for teens. You can of course make these yourself if you have the time and talent but if not there are plenty of options.
Lush do some amazing Christmas themed ones that are package free and will make them feel a little grown up. They even have a pick and mix section.
Also, take a stroll past the Linx Africa this year and buy some Earth Conscious Deodrant with no nasties in, your son will do the environment a favour in more ways than one. If you want to splash out a little more The White Company have some beautiful gift sets and are pretty good on packaging, opting for cardboard inserts over plastic.
Teens start to show a bit more interest in their bedrooms and how it reflects their personality so bedding, a snuggly throw, a poster or framed photo might have a bit more longevity than a joke present picked in haste.
Now, often these lists of gift experiences include theatre tickets, music lessons and hot-air balloon rides, I would class these as big main presents not stocking fillers unless you’ve got plenty of money sloshing around. Try these lower budget extras for more purse friendly options:
- cinema tickets
- a voucher for a movie night with popcorn
- vouchers for a favorite shop or beauty parlour
- a magazine subscription
- gift card for a favorite cafe
- trip to the local swimming pool or skate park
When you’re in the full throws of Christmas panic and feel the need to grab every bit of tat go through this checklist:
- Will they use it?
- Could I get one made from wood or other biodegradable material?
- Could I get this without packaging?
- What value will it bring after they’ve opened it?
- Am I just buying it because it’s on offer?
If you need ideas on how to wrap your plastic free stocking fillers without creating more waste take a look at my blog on plastic free festive wrapping and for masses of ideas follow my Eco Christmas Wrapping board where I regularly add new and beautiful wrapping solutions.
I’d love to hear your ideas for plastic free gifts, let me know in the comments section.