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Hunting for gifts at the Burkeens

Story by Jessica Toren Photography by Vicki Hunkler

The holiday season is a busy one for young families. Between family commitments, work functions, and school pageants, it can be difficult to teach children what the season is truly about. The Burkeen family has found a way to do just that.

Betsy and Scott are parents to a blended family with twin 13-year-old boys, Blake and Alex, and a 3-year-old daughter, Abby J. They changed their Christmas routine a few years ago after noticing that the children were not always overly thankful for every gift they received.

"We noticed our children were not always appreciative of all their Christmas gifts. They played with big items, but often smaller items, like DVDs, were left on the floor. We wanted them to appreciate each gift, no matter the size," Betsy said.

"We also wanted our children to be thankful and appreciative of what they receive and realize how blessed they are. We decided to limit the number of gifts to three for each child because Jesus received three gifts at his birth," Betsy said.

Betsy decided to create a scavenger hunt for Santa's gifts with age appropriate clues for each child to find their gifts on Christmas morning. These gifts are also wrapped in unique "Santa paper" to make them more special.

"There's not too much prep time involved. I use the same letter each year and change the clues," Burkeen said.

The letter has four simple rules for finding presents:

● All kids must read their clue before anyone can begin searching.

● You must find your presents in the order of the clues.

● Bring the wrapped present to the family room for everyone to open together.

● No running, hitting, jumping, etc.

"We just love it because gifts will lose their value, but our children will cherish the memories of how they got their gifts. It still keeps the gift finding process fun. It also makes the Christmas morning experience last longer and we get to spend more time as a family," Betsy said.

The children also enjoy finding their gifts in unique places around the house. "Abby J talks about it often. She still says, 'Remember that time I found a present in the oven, Mom?'" Betsy said.

Betsy is very happy with how the scavenger hunt works each year. "We know our children look forward to it as much as we do and their attitudes about receiving presents and understanding the true meaning of Christmas are wonderful," Betsy said. n

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