Yeah, you read that right. We gave the children toilet roll tubes for Christmas. Yep.
Now, I should say that these weren’t any old toilet roll tubes. These were fabulously glorious, pimped up toilet roll tubes. They had eyebrows, and pipe cleaners for arms, feathers for hair, buttons in the place of clothes …. okay, maybe I’m getting slightly carried away with the memory of it. Here’s what the kids actually got:
Okay, so I won’t be winning any crafting awards at any point in the near future but guess what… my two-year old was delighted with them. They were wrapped just like any conventional Christmas present would be. We all watched excitedly as the little fingers fumbled at the wrapping, and all gasped in mock joy when they were revealed. You know, like all the usual Christmas morning stuff. We turned them into a family and role-played different scenarios. They went on trips to the Christmas tree, they came out with us on our Christmas afternoon walk, they sat and chatted during Christmas dinner, they snuggled up for stories and when the fun was all used up by the 27th, they, er, went in the bin.
Thinking that that makes me the stingiest mother in the country? Fear not, dear reader, I also made some playdoh. Not just any old playdoh, this was glittery playdoh, with poms-poms for a hat, and googly eyes and weird red squares stuck on. I mean, look! Aren’t they marvellous?
But wait, there’s more. I also gave the gift of rice. Rice that I had dyed yellow with my own fair hands and added glitter to, and ginger, and orange peel and that I plonked a load of yellow toys that we already had into. Ta-da!
It really was a multi-sensory joy, let me tell you! I mean, what self-respecting toddler doesn’t want a load of old stuff his mum has cobbled together from around the house?
Of course, there is a serious point behind all of this. Last year, it was estimated by YouGov that the average family spent around £800 on Christmas. Now, I don’t know about you, but couldn’t £800 be much better spent elsewhere? Like on your financial freedom? Is the January hangover really worth the Christmas spend? Honestly?
Related post: Sorry kids, I won’t be paying you through uni
I made the joke above about the fabulous toilet roll holders going in the bin on the 27th, but they actually did. And that’s not because my children are ungrateful or that I am an ardent declutterer, it’s because young kids don’t have long attention spans. They get what they need from a toy and they move on.
Of course I will qualify that by saying it isn’t true of every toy – some do last the distance. My kids play with the train set I had when I was a child for example because it’s good quality and provides lots of open-ended play. But so much of what comes into the homes of young children becomes clutter or landfill and I don’t want that.
Financially, I don’t want to buy things for the sake of it and environmentally I don’t want to play a part in the issues of pollution, over-consumption of resources, and landfill.
Top-tip for new parents: start as you mean to go on
If you don’t want to get into a situation of having to spend loads on your kids as teenagers when their stuff gets really expensive, then don’t make a rod for your own back in their early years. It’s as simple as that. If you shower them with gifts just for the sake of it, then they will come to expect it. Trust me, £50 spent on a toddler when it includes the kind of homemade delights above goes a long way. £50 spent on a teenager, even one who has the memory of being given toilet roll holders in their recent past, goes virtually nowhere.
If that all sounds like I don’t enjoy Christmas, you’re wrong. I love bringing the decorations down from the attic, foraging for holly and ivy, baking and all the associated delicious smells, I love the chance to pause and gather the family round in what is a difficult time of year in many ways and I love the fact that Christmas also marks the start of the lengthening days. All of that costs almost nothing. And I also happen to think that financial security and independence will give far more joy than any material gift ever could.
Now, I know you’ll all be chomping at the bit and desperate to get going on your own homemade joys so you too can enjoy the delights of a tight-wad Christmas, so here is the playdoh recipe that I use every time and has never let me down:
- 2 cups of flour (use supermarkets basic own brand)
- 1 cup salt (again, the cheap stuff. No fancy cooking salt needed here)
- 2 tbsps vegetable oil
- 2 tbsps cream of tartar (this can be expensive in the supermarkets and you need quite a bit for playdoh so buying in bulk is a money-saver. This is an affiliate link)
Mix these dry ingredients together then add any dry extras such as glitter or spices from the kitchen (whole cloves are great for Christmas playdoh).
Add 1.5 cups boiling water with any food colouring added to this.
A note about the food colouring – it is worth getting concentrated food colouring for playdoh as the ones available in the supermarket don’t generally give a vivid colour. This link here (affiliated – means I’ll get a small payment which will go towards blog running costs if you make a purchase) takes you to a pack of 8 concentrated food colours which work really well in playdoh. You could of course just buy the three primary colours and mix your own.
Mix the whole lot together. Please be careful, the oil mixed with the boiling water means it takes a long time to cool down. Don’t let your small person play with it until you’ve checked it’s cooled right through.
And that’s it. Add some sparkle and let your imagination run wild.
I could get all teacherly here and talk about the benefits of being creative and of using your imagination but I think I’ll leave that for another time. Have a Google if you’re curious
I’m still deciding what the boys will be getting for Christmas this year although I do know Thing#1 will be a getting a jumper lovingly made by me (if I ever get round to finishing it, of course).
Enjoyed this post – why not pin it for later?
So what about you? How do you handle the pressure to buy buy buy at Christmas?