As much as I love November and the holiday season, I dread the monsoon of marketing directed at our kids that comes with it. Nothing makes my head want to explode more than listening to a child who just got a new paint set, or backpack or soccer cleats start to whine about that new sparkly toy they saw on TV that they just **have** to have!

I fight commercials like it’s my business.

I make our kids fast forward through them.

I try to trash Toys R Us mailings before they make it through our door.

And I’m constantly trying to find new ways get to my crew to pay attention to what they have. Rather than to whine about what they think they need. So we talk about the difference between want and need and still when that commercial about light up my little pony’s or whatever manages to creep into the living room suddenly my offspring forget all their thankfulness and morph into creatures with a terrible case of the gimme’s.

It’s especially bad leading up to Christmas, isn’t it?

And so I’m always on the lookout for ways to help my kids remember that this is a season that’s not supposed to be all about them. But all those cliches we try to teach lose a lot of their impact when all they are is the shrill nagging of frustrated parents.

That’s why every November I’m so grateful for a tangible way to involve my kids in a shopping trip that specifically is NOT about them.

I took my kids to the store yesterday and gave them instructions (in the car, in the shopping aisle, and again at checkout) that this trip was NOT for them. That they were to shop for a boy or girl their age. To pick toys they would love. And to pick them with the purpose to give them away.

Of course, the second we walked into Target all four of us were distracted by all the shiny, pretty things. And as I was holding the most gorgeously, unnecessary, fluffy white pillow in my hands, my oldest walked over, snatched it out of my hands, and directed me, “Mom! We’re NOT here to get things for you. We’re here to shop for other kids!”

And that’s when I knew that Operation Christmas Child is the project that really does teach kids truth that sticks. (And the reason I’m partnering with them on this post).

Now if I were more organized, like my friend Amanda, we would have been shopping year round and stocking up on great deals. Her daughter, Lydia, has been planning all year to pack 100 shoe boxes! That blew all our minds in the Baker household.

But whether you’re a planner or just pleased that you remembered (like us) I promise that watching your kiddos shop for another child will blow your minds. It’s the BEST thing. I took them over to the dollar bins at Target and they quickly forgot about themselves as they were sucked into the excitement of surprising someone else. They were quickly comparing choices and picking out pencils and notepads and that pair of socks with the exact Star Wars picture they’d always wanted to wear themselves.

We kept pulling out the suggested packing list from OCC and traveled up and down the aisles and floors because the kids were determined to cover all the suggested bases. From toothbrushes and toothpaste to undies, school supplies and that one WOW item for their shoe box. It was exciting, man, to watch my kids so excited. 

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And by the time we got home I thought they might be over it – but no – they dove straight into the packing phase, lovingly imaging how excited another kid would be to open what they’d packed.

It was a good parenting moment, I tell you what.

Especially after this had happened mere hours before. And I had very little to do with it other than giving them the opportunity.

It’s amazing how quick kids are to embrace the idea of how thrilling it can be to give. I didn’t once have to say out loud, “It’s better to give than to receive.” I simply watched how they got a little real life, hand’s on experience. Suddenly the cliche wasn’t so cliche anymore.

And then they wanted to include photos of themselves so we snapped ’em real quick and printed them out. And it was the kids’ own idea to turn them into cards explaining that the shoe box came from them.

And yes, your heart really can feel like it’s going to explode when the kids who were whining and snapping at each other mere moments before become unified over the task of glitter-fying a card for a stranger.

Because kids are kids are kids the world over – and who doesn’t love glitter and glue?!

More than any other question, when I get home from a conference my kids want to know if I got them a present. It can drive me bonkers. But when I watched my kiddo who suffers the most from a constant case of the gimmees getting so excited about giving all the gifts he’d picked out to give away – I got that beautiful feeling in the pit of my mama stomach – the kind you can’t buy.

Seriously, if you’re sick and tired of the marketing surrounding Christmas, grab an old shoe box or pick one up at an OCC location and let your kids into the secret of how to forget about themselves and love someone else.

It’s addictive.

This is our second year and quickly becoming one of our favorite holiday traditions.

How to pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox and cure your kids of the gimmees:

  1. Find a shoebox. Wrap it if you’d like.
  2. Decide whether you will pack for a girl or a boy and pick an age category.
  3. Fill with gifts. One wow item and then add other fun toys, hygiene and school supplies.
  4. Pray for the child who will unpack your gifts. Include your kids.
  5. Donate $7 online and you can track your shoebox and discover where it’s delivered.
  6. Drop it off during national collection week: November 16-23. Find a drop off location here.

Then leave a comment and let me know how it changed the atmosphere in your home – for at least one day this Christmas season :)

We were thrilled to partner with Operation Christmas Child on this post! We’re big fans of the project, the stories, and the impact on our kids at home as well as kids around the globe. Thank you OCC!
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