Anya Hart Dyke is hitting shopping centres to encourage parents to consider giving their kids the gift of time

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 28 November 2019

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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On Saturday 30 November, campaigner Anya Hart Dyke will visit one of Fife’s largest shopping centres dressed as a giant Christmas present. She’s going to talk to Black Friday shoppers about spending time with children this Christmas instead of buying them stuff.

‘The environmental impact associated with the manufacture, transport, wrapping up and disposal of all the things we buy, is huge’, Anya says. ‘I think it’s easy to forget or simply not realise that there’s a direct link between shopping and climate change.

‘And while most parents bemoan their homes heaving with under-played-with toys as well as the cost of some of the most popular toys on the market, giving only one or two presents to children is the least socially acceptable sustainable choice at Christmas.’

What do parents think?

Anya has been dressing up as a giant Christmas present since the start of November, visiting different locations across Fife. She has spoken to more than 120 parents already.

She was shocked to discover that nine out of 10 parents have had to regift or pass to charity Christmas presents given to their children because they are just not wanted.

Almost half of parents want to see the number of gifts their children receive limited to two and even parents who did not think this was desirable or realistic reported their children getting ‘far too much’, and that the volume of presents was ‘overwhelming and stressful’.

‘I had an ‘Is it just me?’ moment’, Anya says, ‘so I thought I’d ask other parents what they thought. There’s definitely appetite for change and the time to start creating our own Christmas traditions is now. My two- and five-year-old received in the range of 15-20 presents each last Christmas, almost all of which they have long since outgrown, few of which were wanted, none of which were needed. I love Christmas but I want to do it on my own terms.

‘I don’t want Christmas-as-usual with the excessive waste, debt and stress that comes from celebrating with so many unwanted gifts. There is also very limited oversight in the UK when it comes to toy safety and only last week Which? revealed toys being sold on Amazon and eBay that were in breach of EU safety regulations. This is about buying less and buying better.’

‘Christmas is a time to pause so you can connect with friends, family and the wider community. Giving experiences and spending time are great gifts and it’s important to remember that small changes can have a big impact when we share our ideas around how to have a greener, more mindful Christmas.’

Extinction Rebellion Families spokesperson

‘Gift of time’ ideas

‘I’m not opting out of Christmas – which is impossible with small kids anyway – because I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to engage children on consumerism, helping others and growing meaningful relationships with family and friends’, Anya continues. ‘Brainstorming exciting and creative ‘gift of time’ activities with my 5-year-old that we can do with family and friends in 2020 has injected the fun back into the Christmas build-up.

‘I think we need to teach children to value the friends and family in our life for the fun you can have with them and what you can learn from them, not for what they can afford to buy for us. I’m not taking the magic away. Father Christmas will still be visiting but there will only be a couple of presents under the tree for each child to tear open.’

To help create better memories at Christmas and normalise gifting time over stuff, Anya is dressing up as a giant Christmas present every Saturday in the lead-up to Christmas to share free ‘gift of time’ ideas for kids with shoppers.

You can share your own ideas online using the hashtag #WrapYourselfUpThisChristmas and get inspired here by all the ideas parents have shared with Hart Dyke already.

Anya Hart Dyke lives in Fife with her two-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. She has a background in sustainability and is author of free ebook ‘Our throwaway society – raising children to consume wisely’.

Click here for more from Anya Hart Dyke.

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