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
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
KIRWAN MUM GEORGINA CAVANAGH WITH SONS CALEB AND CAMDEN