GIFT OF ME­MORIES

THE MEAN­ING OF THE FES­TIVE SEA­SON EX­TENDS FAR BE­YOND WHAT SHOPS MAY HAVE TO OF­FER – RATHER IT IS THE PER­FECT TIME FOR CON­NECT­ING WITH LOVED ONES

Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - FEATURE - BET TINA WAR BUR­TON

The Ca­vanagh fam­ily is in no rush to cel­e­brate Christ­mas. In­stead they are rel­ish­ing the time of the year when they can take part in the many fes­tive fam­ily tra­di­tions that De­cem­ber has to of­fer.

Ge­orgie Ca­vanagh says fam­ily and tra­di­tion are at the heart of Christ­mas at her house.

“Sure the chil­dren love open­ing the presents un­der the tree on Christ­mas Day, but in our fam­ily Christ­mas is so much more than presents,” she says.

“In fact I don’t over­whelm my chil­dren with too many presents at all.

“They know that mum gives them the big present and Santa gives the smaller presents,” the sin­gle par­ent of Caleb and Cam­den, says.

“I make sure I have saved for this time of the year, and I take ad­van­tage of sales through the year to buy some good qual­ity yet well-priced stock­ing fillers.”

Ge­orgie says her fam­ily love the fes­tive sea­son be­cause it’s the time of the year when they get to put up the Christ­mas tree, check-out the Christ­mas lights, get their Santa photo and go to Car­ols by Can­dle­light.

“It’s the sim­ple, fun things that we all love about Christ­mas,” she says.

“Spend­ing time with the ex­tended fam­ily is what Christ­mas me­mories are based on and not so much what is un­der the Christ­mas tree.”

And lead­ing Townsville child psy­chol­o­gist and mother-of-three Ni­cole Pierotti couldn’t agree more, say­ing her fam­ily lives by the pop­u­lar Christ­mas gift­giv­ing creed: some­thing to play with, some­thing to read, some­thing to wear and some­thing needed.

“Over the years I’ve fol­lowed this guide and it cer­tainly works,” Ni­cole, who owns Babysmiles in Townsville, says.

“If you give kids too much of what they need, it’s not enough fun. Too much of what to wear? Well cer­tainly teenage girls will be quite happy but still there is noth­ing much to do once they have tried them on.

“Some­thing to read – we all need a good book or two and cer­tainly handy af­ter Christ­mas lunch or din­ner and most im­por­tantly some­thing to play with.

“Christ­mas is a time where you may be lucky enough to be around fam­ily and we have more time. Hav­ing some gifts that in­volve play for kids and adults alike is al­ways a hit.

Ni­cole says in more re­cent years she has car­ried on the tra­di­tion of gift­ing adults home-baked good­ies.

“Th­ese days my kids all help to cre­ate, bake, wrap and box,” she says. “Whether you shop on­line, go shop­ping on tired feet, sneak out by your­self or take kids in hand and all go to­gether, gift giv­ing is part of our Christ­mas tra­di­tion.”

But Ni­cole says chil­dren re­ally want some­thing very sim­ple dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son: your time.

“If you are stuck in the rou­tine of end­lessly shop­ping, cook­ing, clean­ing and pre­par­ing, per­haps a more laid­back Christ­mas is needed,” she says.

“Pull out the board games, dust of the out­door sport­ing gear or just pop on a movie and some pop­corn, drag out the pil­lows and en­joy a movie to­gether.

“Wa­ter bal­loon fights go well with our cli­mate too and adults al­ways join in, and be­fore too long, won­der­ful me­mories are made.”

Ni­cole ad­vises that par­ents try to avoid the stress that of­ten ac­com­pa­nies a long Christ­mas gift list.

“Keep in mind that shar­ing time and food is the most mem­o­rable gift as the years go on,” she says. “Not too many adults re­mem­ber what gifts they re­ceived as kids. They re­mem­ber the peo­ple, the tra­di­tions, the ex­cite­ment, the food and the feel­ing of Christ­mas.” Ni­cole says Christ­mas isn’t just about gift giv­ing. “It’s about friends, fam­ily and com­mu­nity,” she says. “There are lots of ways to add com­mu­nity into your Christ­mas plans.

“Have a look at what com­mu­nity events are on near you, there is Christ­mas Car­ols, Christ­mas masses, Christ­mas mar­kets, Sta­ble on the Strand, even Christ­mas movies and Christ­mas Tree Ap­peals abound.”

Ni­cole says par­tic­i­pat­ing in th­ese shows chil­dren get a wider mean­ing of Christ­mas.

“It shows chil­dren that Christ­mas is not just about them and what presents they want.

“That giv­ing to oth­ers is pre­cious and makes them feel gen­er­ous and worth­while.”

The owner of one of Townsville’s most pop­u­lar toy stores, Deb­o­rah La­touf, knows a thing or two about the best toys for chil­dren.

Be­sides be­ing the owner of award-win­ning re­tailer En­tropy, Deb­o­rah is a for­mer sports sci­en­tist with the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport and has a PhD in mo­tor devel­op­ment.

“Here at En­tropy we are all about fun, but also the very se­ri­ous busi­ness of help­ing par­ents to cre­ate won­der­ful me­mories for their kids,” the mother-of-two says. “Just cast your mind back to your own child­hood, what was your favourite toy? What ad­ven­tures did you get up to with it? Did you fall asleep cud­dling it?

“Toys like that stick in our me­mories more than any elec­tronic game could,” Deb­o­rah says.

“The En­tropy elves are pas­sion­ate about help­ing to cre­ate those me­mories. They have three tips for choos­ing toys that will be trea­sured for years to come – namely play value, dura­bil­ity and toys that en­cour­age chil­dren to do what they do best.”

Deb­o­rah says when it comes to play value, par­ents should ques­tion of a toy can evolve with their child’s in­tel­lec­tual and phys­i­cal devel­op­ment.

“Toys that are great for this are the Wish­bone Bike (goes from a trike to a bal­ance bike as your lit­tle one grows), and the Haba Build­ing Blocks (a va­ri­ety of shapes means that ev­ery­one from ba­bies to master ar­chi­tects can en­joy them),” she says.

“As for dura­bil­ity, par­ents are en­cour­aged to in­vest in toys that will last; not only so they can be grate­fully passed to sib­lings, but also so they’ll be kept and shared with fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Deb­o­rah says toys that en­cour­age chil­dren to do what they do best, as in us­ing their bod­ies and brains, are al­ways a win­ner.

“The mini mi­cro scooter is one of our all-time favourite prod­ucts as it’s ideal for get­ting chil­dren ac­tive and is built to last the rigours of child­hood

races,” she says. “The multi award-win­ning Wheely Bug is also a won­der­ful (and cute) lit­tle mover.

“The craft kits are ex­tremely pop­u­lar and re­ally help to hone those creative and prob­lem-solv­ing skills to pro­duce some­thing that chil­dren can be proud of.”

Nikki Storey, the Townsville co-or­di­na­tor for the Saver Plus pro­gram, says Christ­mas can be a huge fi­nan­cial strain on the fam­ily bank ac­count.

The SaverPlus pro­gram is sup­ported by The Smith Fam­ily and ANZ Bank, pro­vides fi­nan­cial ed­u­ca­tion for fam­i­lies on lower in­comes. It also of­fers par­ents tips on how they can save at Christ­mas by get­ting creative.

“It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that a thought­ful gift does not have to break the bud­get,” she says. “I am sure that those who are not able to cel­e­brate Christ­mas with some­one they care about would agree, that time with fam­ily and friends you love is what we should all trea­sure more than any gift.”

Although Nikki says gift-giv­ing is also a tra­di­tional part of the day.

“There are ways par­ents can re­duce the bur­den of gift buy­ing with a lit­tle plan­ning,” she says. “Hav­ing a bud­get in place and putting sav­ings aside as early as pos­si­ble for gifts, food, and travel is im­por­tant so we don’t over­spend and have a Christ­mas blow out.

“Check­ing cat­a­logues and on­line spe­cials reg­u­larly is also a smart thing to do, and don’t for­get about layby as an op­tion for more ex­pen­sive items. There are a lot of gift ideas out there to con­sider if you are keen to keep your Christ­mas shop­ping in check.”

OWNER OF EN­TROPY TOY STORE DEB­O­RAH LA­TOUF WITH TOYS THAT HAVE GREAT PLAY VALUE THIS CHRIST­MAS. PIC­TURE: ZAK SIM­MONDS

NI­COLE PIEROTTI

KIRWAN MUM GE­ORGINA CA­VANAGH WITH SONS CALEB AND CAM­DEN

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