Monday, September 25, 2006

Making Do on Mondays: Alternative Gifts

We've all been to a young child's birthday party haven't we? You know, the kind where piles and piles of gifts are dutifully placed in front of the young receiver... who usually opens them up and rushes to the next gift without doing much appreciation of each gift given. First of all, I think that most of us can agree that kids don't NEED a lot of gifts. The more they have, the harder it is to appreciate WHAT they have. Simplicity begets gratitude in a way that hoards of toys can not.

That said, we all want to acknowledge the child in SOME way right?! I mean, clothes are nice, but somewhat disappointing to kids if that's all they see on their birhtdays. It's fun to see the smiles on their faces and their eyes light up when they unwrap something... in fact pretty much ANYTHING novel. So here are some ideas for gift giving that help cut down on the standard "twaddle" in a typical child's room and still offer a bit of fun. So you no longer need to feel obliged to go out to Toys R Us anymore when you receive a birthday invitation. Please add your own ideas if you have them as well!

  • The cardboard box. Kids delight in boxes. One of the best gifts I've ever seen given is a giant refrigerator box. The child was totally overwhelmed with excitement and immediately forgot the other gifts waiting for him. He saw it brought in and his eyes got huge and he immediately crawled inside it to explore while all the other kiddies at the party began their imaginings with it too. You can cut out windows or "sun-roofs" and color it like a rocket ship... anything your want. Or you can just give it plain and let the child do with it what he wills. Once it gets old and beaten up and loses its novelty, parents won't feel guilty about throwing it away (errr... recycling it).
  • The garden kit. Buy a cheap packet of cucumber seeds or some other simple, quick growing plant. A tiny planter pail and a little shovel. Joy and education all in one.
  • The coupon book. Make up a fun, decorative coupon and give it to the child for something exclusive to them alone. A special trip to the ice cream parlor. Or any meal they want for free. A trip to the movies, etc. These are best for kids over the age of 4, who tend to need something immediately gratifying for a gift.
  • Books. I know, it should go without saying. But books are a treasure that can be opened all the time and parents are often reluctant to buy new books because they can be spendy. But beautifully illustrated books are something that no one usually can complain about.
  • Slippers. It sounds silly, but there is something about slippers and kids. Not only are they practical, but they are just fun to wear if you manage to find silly ones (best found around Christmastime).
  • Customizable anything. You can buy a plain white t-shirt and some paints, or socks and little buttons, sequins or yarns. Kids can have a blast decorating their own clothing and it encourages creativity too! Another cheap thing to do would be to find some smooth river rocks and wrap those up with some paints... so the child can paint their own garden rocks.
  • A big box of anything. Kids are impressed with quantities. I witnessed it today. Give a child an old keychain and it's not too cool... but give them a huge bag full of random keychains (you know, the freebie kinds you get at vendor booths all over the place) and they are delighted. This is especially true if they can clip some together. Other boxes full of neat things could include buttons, cookie cutters, colorful paper or wallpaper samples, paper kiddy cups (the kind designed to be near bathroom sinks), pretty much anything that allows for creative imagining or activity.
  • Stilts. Best for at least 4 years of age and up. You can make them out of big coffee cans and some light rope... or you can go all out and craft some simple wooden stilts. Either way, it's a sometimes forgotten activity that kids always love.

-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA


one of us :: 11:20 PM :: 0 Comments