It’s so exciting to receive new gifts - both for the giver and the receiver. But too often, the very same item that induced anticipation and delight, very soon turns to clutter and remorse - why is it lying around the house, getting tripped over, broken or untouched within weeks if not days. And our children, and ourselves, are onto the next shiny thing to give us our next dopamine hit.
Materialism, entitlement, clutter ― these first world “problems” seem to be a mainstay in our industrialized, privileged lives - but there are many steps we can take to ensure that the gifts we buy for our children truly facilitate a healthy, creative and deep play ― and that they last again and again (or that they’re not designed to last in the first place.
Here are the four types of gifts that can help intentional parents, like you and me, put our money where our values are - without giving up the joy of giving.
To view these ideas in a visual format, and to send out to friends, family or share on social media - here is a PDF gift guide with links included. I hope this helps make the holidays more mindful and beautiful for you!
The gifts in the guide are divided into “Big Gifts”, “Family Gifts” and “Stocking Stuffers” but of course, you’ll use them in the way they apply to you.
1. Perishable: gifts that ‘run out’
Gifts that are used, and then used up make excellent choices for promoting creativity without accumulating clutter. My personal favorites for this style of gift involve the raw materials themselves, rather than elaborate kits that are designed to be built or played with in only one particular (and “correct”) way. I prefer to have materials like clay, beads, and paints at home and primarily offer them to my children in an unstructured fashion to promote their own exploration and creativity. Of course, if we’re really stuck for ideas we get our inspiration on Pinterest, but we start open-ended.
Big Set of Pastels
Peg Dolls for Painting
Bigger Peeler Beads Set
Markers that crystallize on windows
Chalk Board Markers
2. Heirloom: Gifts that ‘last forever’
The second type of gift I love to give and receive is an heirloom piece. Something that might last forever or at least be used for years and in many different capacities. A key thing to look for is something that can be enjoyed by different age groups and genders, something that is really well made and stands the test of time. You also want something with a timeless design and purpose (nothing faddy!) - consider - would I have played with this as a child? Will my grandchildren play with it in the future? If so, it’s a winner.
Plan toys dolls house
Wooden rocker boat
Reindeer Recycled Tire Swing
Vintage ride on car
Lego (classic box)
Tegu Magnetic wooden blocks
Plan Toys Family Dolls
Dressing Up Costumes
Doll House Items
Pull along toys
3. Experience: Gifts that ‘happen to you’
Experiences are incredible gifts to bestow because they really have the capacity for transformation. Plus there is zero clutter (win!). Experiences aren’t always the first thing we think of with gifts because we like to have a tangible, touchable item in our hands - and for kids receiving the gift of an experience might seem too abstract. But I think it’s important to get our children used to the fact that we should feel grateful and lucky for the opportunity to see a show, hear a piece of music, have quality time together or take a trip. Even reading books together can be categorized as an experience and I’ve included some of my all-time favorites here.
Tickets to a special show
Tickets for a trip
Subscription to music or podcast
Audio books (Stewart Little, Charlotte’s web, Winnie the Pooh, Ramona)
Books (Llama Llama, Piggie and Elephant, Iggy Peck Architect, Madeline)
Tickle match tokens
Tickets for a bus or train ride
Extra books at bedtime tokens
Game of tag
4. Tools: Gifts that ‘enable your learning passion’:
Just as adults enjoy receiving exciting tools to advance their hobbies or trades, I believe tools make an excellent gift for children. I personally don’t favor any plastic pretend tools because there’s no reason that children can’t use the real thing - of course in an age appropriate, safer, smaller version. Tools as gifts send the message: you are capable, your work matters, you can create and I believe in investing in you.
Little Bits Electronics
Tuffo kids rain suit
Curious Chef Items
Go ahead and download this beautiful gift guide, with links included, you can use it to send to friends and family who want ideas for what to gift your children. I hope this holiday season brings you true, mindful joy and connection with those you love most.