how to avoid having materialistic children

Show Them You Can Have Fun on the Cheap

Playing with your kids as often as you can without shelling out big bucks helps teach little ones that having a blast and spending cash are mutually exclusive, says Susan Kuczmarski, author of “Becoming a Happy Family: Pathways to the Family Soul.”

“Dance with each other. Sing loudly with each other,” Kuczmarski suggests, as ways of having low-key (or on-key!) fun. Try making a painting together, with each family member getting a portion of the canvas to work on, or simply enjoy a game of cards. The possibilities are endless—and so are the benefits: teaching kids that having fun and feeling good have little to do with acquiring items.

Make Gratitude a Habit

Ask your kids to name something they’re grateful for every day, suggests Nancy Shah, a psychologist specializing in parenting. It’s a ritual she practices each night with her own two children. “I ask them to tell me three things that happened during the day that they were grateful for,” says Shah.

Focusing on life’s positive experiences builds happiness, Shah explains—a crucial weapon in the battle against covetousness. “Materialism comes from a state of dissatisfaction or unhappiness, and looking outside yourself for happiness and fulfillment,” she says. “If we focus on creating kids who are happy and fulfilled, by definition they won’t be materialistic.”

Reward Kids With Special One-on-One Time

Did your child behave especially well in a demanding situation, or complete a tricky project or tough chore? Instead of rewarding her with the latest branded toy, Walfish recommends treating her to a shared experience that’s more special than regular playtime, say a visit to a museum or a day hike and picnic in an area you’ve never visited.

Rather than congratulating your child with stuff, you are rewarding her with human contact and new experiences, Walfish notes. She’ll feel great getting your undivided attention, and she’ll learn to value interactions with loved ones and the excitement of doing something different.