We are incredibly, immensely blessed. We have what we need: food, clothes, and shelter. We have what we want: toys, books and, especially for Gideon, cars. We have, as my mother-in-love likes to say, “an embarrassment of blessings.”
So, the practical question – the one that’s on many people’s minds for the little people in their own lives – is what do I give?
The popular answer right now is experiences. Buy swimming lessons or a membership to the science museum. Fly them out for a shared vacation or take them to the planetarium.
But, especially for toddlers and preschoolers, it’s just not as rewarding or fun to give them something like that (as much as their parents – and they – might appreciate it when they actually use it). Because, you see, little kids are very much in the moment. They aren’t weighted down with such mundane questions like
“Where will we make space for that?”
“Don’t we already have something very similar?”
“But you’ll play with it for 5 minutes and then discard it, never to think of it again”
Alas, toddlers often cannot be won with logic.
Is there a balance? How can you still win that gleam of triumph in the child – that sharp gasp of excitement – but not perpetuate the cycle of stuff?
Here are some thoughts that I had.
Buy things that can be consumed
There are lots of little things that bring joy to a little heart that often need replenishing.
Crayons, paints, and other art supplies
Snacks (this is a big favorite in our house!)
Buy or make something logical to go along with your “experience” gift
If you’re giving swimming lessons, buy them a fun floatie to wear to lessons.
If you’re buying a zoo membership, buy a special lunchbox with their favorite animal or cartoon character so they can help pack their own lunch for their special zoo trips.
If you’re going to teach them to bake, make them their own special apron to wear while they cook with Grandma.
If you’re flying them out to the beach, buy them some funny sunglasses and a cool hat to wear (or maybe a new backpack to take on the plane).
Make it useful. And it will be used.
Buy high quality books
We love to read and we read voraciously: Board books, picture books, poems and songs. But there is a big difference in quality in random books at the dollar store and a really good, thoughtful children’s author. Not sure about what to buy? Ask some young moms what their kids love to read (your kids/grandkids will probably love them as well). Or ask a teacher or librarian what they recommend (there’s nothing that gets us quite so exciting as recommending good books!). Still unsure? Here are some authors we really enjoy right now:
Anna Dewdney (the Llama Llama books)
Alice Schertle (the Little Blue Truck books)
Bill Martin Jr. (Think Brown Bear, Brown Bear – he’s written much more!)
Donald Crews (he writes about all kinds of vehicles)
James Dean (the Pete the Cat books)
Mem Fox (Hers are especially wonderful and fun to read aloud)
Buy what they ask for
Sometimes, as a parent, you put off buying some items you know a kid will really want or need, because Christmas is coming up. (Obviously, I am not advocating going without a coat for the month of December “in case” you get a coat for Christmas). But perhaps a new bed and bedding or new shoes and socks or a replacement barn with fun animals or some newly inflated balls are needed. So just ask the parents of the kids you want to buy for. After all, they know what’s missing from their kiddies’ collection. You might just get to be the bringer of exactly what those little hearts have been yearning for.
This last is most important, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you bought them a Disney Princess collection or a box of goldfish crackers – you chose to spend your time with that little boy or girl. By giving that child your time and presence you are communicating something very important: that he is greatly loved, greatly valued, and worth expending effort for.
So, perhaps this little list can be a help to you – or perhaps you have more ideas to add! I’d love to hear them.
God bless you as you bless those around you with thoughtful (and fun!) gifts. I hope you are as blessed as I am – to be surrounded by people who not only love your kids but who are thoughtful and purposeful as well.