A friend and I were chatting the other day about the difficulty of managing “unwanted” birthday gifts.
No one likes to look a gift horse in the mouth of course, (we all love gifts!) but it can be difficult to receive things that compromise your family beliefs or desires.
We were talking specifically about the challenge of presents for children.
It can be really difficult, can’t it.
My friend has a young daughter, and is striving to keep her childhood filled with wonder and magic, rather than the teenage concepts of Justin Beiber, makeup and the perfect body of Barbie. Recently, her daughter had been to a few school friend birthday parties and my friend was dismayed to see 5 and 6 year olds being pampered with full beauty treatments and makeup application and Barbie addictions!
My thoughtful friend wanted to do something a little different, something that would help retain the magic of childhood just a little longer, not just for her daughter but for all the children too. (Her party ideas sounded great)
She was also hopeful to do something to prevent the whole make up/Barbie/nail polish/Bratz doll/plastic toy/licenced images thing from taking too strong a hold just yet….
You know what, I really believe that every parent/adult has good intentions.
Someone creates a party for their child based on what they believe their child wants or needs- a Superhero party, a makeup do, a high tea, jumping castles, pony rides…. Mostly, everyone just goes with the flow of what is common in their world. And, lots of us are super busy so having the time to think/do something a little uncommon might just be too much extra work. But, no matter what kind of party/food/activity/giftbag is on offer, it is all with good intention.
Present buying is the same.
We all go to the shops and try to buy something we think the birthday child would like.
The thing is, in our society, we are led to believe that all 6 year old girls really do want Barbie dolls, make up, Dora the explorer pyjamas and nail polish. If we look inside any junk mail catalogue, this seems true.
So, if we believe differently, or want to do something a little out of the ordinary,
we really do have to speak up.
How we do this without seeming rude or ungrateful or demanding or judgemental or just plain strange is the difficult thing.
The thing is, it may just really be a simple matter of gift giving re-training.
It may be that we include a small hint on the bottom of the child’s birthday invitation.
Perhaps something along the line of “Please note that our house is a commercial and licenced toy-(eg Superman, Barbie) free zone”.
(I do think if you have strong feelings about a “thing” -eg no plastic…environmentally-friendly… A “Wiggle/Dora/Bob/Barbie” free zone…- it really is helpful to be specific.)
It might save everyone a whole heap of embarrassment or awkwardness or feeling uncomfortable.
But rather than putting out a big NO, (not much fun, is it??) we can give positive hints on what the child/family does love!
“We love handmade! Crafty kits and craft materials are truly appreciated gifts”
“Tom loves Masterchef. All cooking inspired gifts will be much loved by our budding chef”.
I know I’d much rather buy or make something that will be really appreciated, and I love forewarning if there are any special family traits or cultural values to honour.
It is kind of like turning up to a vegan party with a plate of sausage rolls, or as I once did, turning up with a six pack of beer
(I didnt really drink but thought this was an appropriate thing to do) only to find out it was a alcohol-free house!
(I put the beer in the fridge before I knew, and spent all night mortified that someone would ask who it belonged to!!)
I’m pretty sure most mums or gift givers would be more than happy to ditch Barbie for a baking dish and a rolling pin, if someone gave them the idea. What do you think??
But there must be other alternatives to gift giving too.
I always like the idea of giving a gift of time.
That is, giving a familiar child an apron and chef hat or a bowl full of ingredients with a recipe, and a promise to come and bake cookies with them on the weekend.
I have given my nephews a package of 7 rainbow colours of fleece and they both came and felted with me one holiday. My nephew Finn felted and sewed a set of clothes for his Polar bear toy, as well as a small bag to keep his treasures in.
It is like double gifting- not only do they receive the gift, they receive the joy from making something themselves! Not to mention a bit of company and one-on-one conversation time with an adult friend/relative. This kind of thing could be a great way to inspire a new kind of Grandparent/family member gifting….
Here are a few random gift ideas:
a gardening trowel and shovel, a bag of soil and some vegetable seeds/flower bulbs to plant in the garden
a hammer, a small packet of nails and some planks of pine to make a tool box
a rice cooker and a sushi making kit
a double or yearly pass to a family fun park, one for the child and one for the accompanying adult
a train ticket and a new lunch box- one that will be filled on their day trip to the museum
a craft kit filled with knitting wool, knitting needles and a pattern to make something special together
a set of measuring cups, a bag of flour, salt and cream of tartar to make play dough or salt dough for modelling
This last one is just a ruse so I can show you my cutest kitchen purchase ever!
A set of flower measuring cups! from “The Greenhouse” shop in Byron Bay.
I couldn’t resist!
I spent the day in Byron surrounds yesterday (I looked at 8 open homes- a big feat!) and ducked into town for a “Cardamon Pod” curry lunch and my favourite rose lassi! Woops, nearly lost my train of thought…
Anyway, on my way back to the car, Ned and I spotted a wonderous shop window and just had to go in!
The shop is called My Toy Shop
Shop 3, 27-31 Fletcher Street (Cnr Fletcher and Byron Street)
If you really are after a toy gift, Jodi has the cutest selection of fabulous, quality, well made and handcrafted toys of all kinds.
Tree houses, dolls, a whole selection of wooden trucks and cars that Ned found hard to resist and kitchen sets like wooden plate/cups, teasets, home corner paraphrenalia and even felt food.
It was like being in a toy treasure trove.
I have to pop back to have a look at the recycled plastic trucks (they were sold out!) I’m after for the sandpit. Wooden ones just don’t cut it with wet sand.
If you are down that way, definitely stop by and visit sometime!
With Christmas just around the corner, you might just find that special, one of a kind gift.
And please, I’d love to know your thoughts on gift-giving, especially the most challenging kind.
What is your take??