It can be such a challenge in our consumer-driven culture to remember the gifts that our kids and others want the most -- the gifts of time and focused presence. This can serve as both a value-centered choice as well as a recognition that the less stuff we accumulate, the more time and space we have to actually appreciate what we have (less cleaning, maintenance, etc.).
If you are looking for ideas on how to make your gift-giving more intentional, start with these five tips on how you can give great gifts that will truly last.
1. Let gifts focus on supporting interest areas. Depending on the interests of your child, this can look different. It could be classes, activities, workshops, or tools such as binoculars, s magnifying glass, knitting needles or s bug box. I love to support my kids in pursuing their passions, whatever they might be, and this is one time I allow myself to get a little more extravagant (particularly if I am fairly certain that it will have some lasting power). I also think it is vitally important that gifts be of good quality. I don't believe in giving kids 'lookalikes' like fake binoculars or poor quality art supplies that don't actually perform well. They are frustrating to use and don't truly support what it is that the kids are hoping to do with them.
2. Let gifts be practical. Especially with younger kids, practical gifts can be really fun and exciting! Gardening tools, kids kitchen tools, new clothes or shoes or a raincoat are all great gifts. I love buying practical gifts for my kids. It is an expense I know I will need to make anyway, and with it being a birthday gift, I feel justified spending a little more to get an upgraded version that I know will last really well -- and that my kiddos are going to love!
3. Let gifts be experiences. Whether this be a membership, class or gift certificate to try something new (like paint pottery or go to a trampoline park!), most kids love to explore and try new things, and once again, it is an opportunity to offer an experience that may be outside your everyday budget.
4. Let gifts be time. I think it is so powerful for gifts to focus around time. Kids clearly crave focused time with their parents, and it is always an appropriate gift to give. (And how powerful to show them from a young age the power of giving someone your focused attention, love and presence because that fills gaps that no present ever will!) When possible, I highly recommend taking kids out one at a time. This allows you to tailor the time specifically to the child and the space to feel as though attention is truly focused on them without siblings competing for the limelight.
5. Let gifts support the way you want your children to view themselves in the world.If you have worked with me or followed me for any length of time, you know what a proponent I am of parents being really strongly in connection with the inner dialogue of their children and what it is that you want your child to know about herself in the world. For instance, if you want your child to view herself as self-sufficient, what does that mean for you? Cooking himself a meal? She can hammer a nail and saw wood? He can sew on a button? Give gifts that support them in being these things, whether that be kid-sized kitchen tools, sewing supplies, small wood shop tools (or, if you're brave like me, a real toaster oven they can do their own baking in, with supervision, of course!).
Keep it simple! One to three gifts is plenty when they are thoughtful and perfectly suited to the recipient. Young kids are happy with fairly minimal toys in general as long as what they have supports them in creativity, open play and purely connecting with other people and the natural world! Allow yourself to see the world through their eyes, choose wisely, and keep it simple so they can appreciate what they get without overwhelm.
At times it may feel like you're swimming against the tide when you see other kids' toy rooms, advertisements and toy stores. Allow yourself to look inward to decide what is 'enough' for you and your children, and if necessary express your values to friends and family so that they can understand and appreciate your need to not accumulate endless plastic 'stuff.'
What do you think? Do you use any of these strategies in your gift giving? I'd love to hear your ideas and perspectives!