Campbell Fiver Family Network

Curbing Consumerism in Childhood

Spring Cleaning. It always reminds me that I have survived another gluttonous gift getting season by way of taking stock of what is now unloved, discarded and un-needed in order to de-clutter and simplify. It is easy to buy into manufactures claims of quality in their products when combined with the whines and pining of children who are in love with the latest and greatest, especially when swept into the pressure cooker shopping day countdown.


Every year I think it will be different, and every year although small changes are made, I still find myself slogging through stuff we don’t need and kids who are seemingly indifferent to it all. In contrast to this, I am aware of the endless joy and entertainment kids will get from the simpler things in life. The stick my son loyally totes around the forest for hours, as his fishing rod for the imaginary fish he catches in the stream, serves as evidence that hours of fun and brain development costs nothing. The enthusiasm a driftwood fort inspires and the hours of plotting, hauling and teamwork that develops and motivates, reminds me once we get out there the fun just happens. The beach glass and rock collection becomes a built in break for mom and dad as they put their feet up at the fire and watch the kids scurry around and squat to curate. 


As I observe the authentic joy and engagement kids have with their surroundings and the depth of imagination involved in this play, and I realize this is something you just can’t bottle, or market or wrap up and give, no Baby Einstein you've got nothing on sticks. The true gift, the one that lasts and keeps on giving, is that which supports kids to do what they love and creates happy memories for years to come, I've decided. If we can make the transition from disposable plastic toys, which ultimately litter the land and our kid’s brains, to supporting experiences that nurture their spirit, we might find a shift in attitude and thus a break in the consumer cycle. 


We teach by example, whether we want to or not. Children can’t learn that materialism and consumerism are empty, wasteful and expensive if their parents dutifully accept these traditional western societal norms and expectations dictated by the calendar. The toy isle friction is not an interaction that promotes strong and positive relationships, and in fact, most parents will agree that arguing with their kids is a repetitive, time -consuming drain on the family. So why not make it easier and free up some time and energy for positive experiences instead? 


We have learned a few simple changes, that overtime will fully transform the way we experience gifting and our consumer attitude. Handmade gifts promote thoughtfulness and care, 2nd hand treasures open up unknown possibilities and focuses on individuals interest, and the gift of memories can come in many forms such as go cart passes, or horse back riding. This simple shift teaches children the basis of what’s really important so we can enjoy ourselves, each other and our time.


Rhonda Teramura ECE and Mom of Three


Take a look at this video for a look at Consuming Kids:  The Commercialization of Childhood
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