Christmas & Holiday Gifts Create Emporiums at School for Kids to Shop
the kids go shopping
Every year a few schools have what is called an Emporium for the kids at Christmas. What is that you ask? I did too the first time we were at a school that held one. It's a Christmas rummage sale just for children to shop at.
It's great concept; it's a learning experience for the kids on so many levels, and it's an opportunity to clear clutter from your home just before the holidays. I think every school should have emporiums for the children to teach them the value of giving thoughtfully, but it's a parent driven effort so the parents have to be willing to take it on; I think it's worth it.
opportunity to clear clutter
To get ready for an emporium you ask parents and kids to go through their homes and see what they have that they are no longer using. The items will be given as gifts so they need to be in good working order, not damaged, and clean; and obviously no inappropriate materials. Think about how you would feel unwrapping the gift on Christmas morning in the condition you are giving it and it's usually a good indicator if it's a good gift.
One of the great things about the emporium is that the kids shop for everyone on their Christmas list so almost anything goes. The bigger the variety of stuff the kids have to chose from the better their shopping experience. Need ideas? Jewelery, books, tools, movies, kitchen ware, pictures, games, toys; if you own it chances are someone else would like it too, and the kids will know.
Another thing that I've seen done that can be prepped ahead of time is wrapping paper. The kids make wrapping paper using big sheets or rolls of paper. Classes make it during art time or as a special project and they can get really creative. Alternatively you could ask for donations of gift wrap in January for the next year. If you send a note home before the Christmas break chances are people will put aside extra paper instead of throwing it out, or packing it for next year.
Wrapping the gifts on the way out is to me a brilliant idea. It means they are actually done with their holiday "shopping". They get to put the gifts under the tree and mom and dad don't have to take on more work helping the children - they are done. Watching the kids leave school with bags full of wrapped gifts and the excitement that is exchanged when they meet their parents is beautiful.
Volunteer parents set up the day before the big event usually in the school gym. Some schools organize the stuff into boxes as it comes in so sorting on the day is easier. Some do it at the last minute. Basically it's like setting up a huge store. Tables around the edges and in the middle give lots of room to place items on and under.
Items are usually color coded for pricing, which is kept very low. There can be posters made and placed around the gym so kids can check their finances. Usually costs are between 10 cents to $2, and there is always room for negotiation.
Shopping baskets can be borrowed from a local super market and maybe they will donate paper bags with handles for the kids to carry their gifts home. Locate the baskets at the entrance and the bags at the cashier.
Parents were told to send the children with $5 and mine came back with $2, 10 gifts and the biggest smile ever.
Classes are called to come down one at a time or one grade at a time. Some schools start with the older grades and work their way down. Kids are given baskets as they come in and told how long they have to shop, "check out", and have their gift wrapped.
As the kids wonder through the room it is interesting to see them shop. Some are in and out in lightening speed, but not most. Most are very thoughtful and take their time; pick up items and check them out before making a decision. Some of them consult with their friends and some know when they have the perfect gift.
They all enjoy the opportunity to shop without their parents over their shoulder. It's a great opportunity for kids to make there own choices based on their interpretations of what the people on their list will like. It's a small step towards independence and they love it!
The older kids usually buddy up with the younger grades and help them shop. This is a wonderful scene to watch. The young children have lists and as the older kids are asking about the people on their lists they lead the kids to areas where they may find something special for that person. It's magical communication happening all over the room and it brings chills to see how kindly the older kids deal with the younger ones.
every school should have an emporium
What do you do with the leftovers? Some schools let the volunteers have a chance to buy after the children are done then ... then they will open the doors to the public or parents after school, keeping the prices the same and giving the adults the last pick at the bargains.
Being a volunteer parent at the event gives the opportunity to be part of the experience and watch the kids shop, have fun and make magical decisions! (you may have to take a coffee break when yours shops ;O).
I think every school should have an emporium just before the holiday break so kids can have this opportunity to spend little and give lots. It sounds like a lot of work but if you get organized from the get go, it doesn't have to be complicated. It's a great learning experience for the kids - they actually walk away understanding the value of reusing and re-gifting.
It's an experience that the kids take with them and treasure; every child I know talks about their emporiums years later and I encourage every parent to consider starting one in their school.