Friday, November 19, 2010

Family gifts inspire imaginative play and memory-making

Our Christmas list this year includes 13 children who range in age from 7 months to 13 years – nine nieces and nephews and our own four children. When there are so many children, with such a wide age range and such divergent interests, it’s challenging to buy gifts that are personal, meaningful, and that stay within our budget.

To give personal and meaningful gifts that the children (and their parents) will appreciate, we try to focus on family gifts. Instead of spending $15 or $20 per child, we choose to pool the money we’ve set aside to buy a gift that is of higher quality and that the entire family can enjoy. When it comes to settling on exactly what we’ll buy, we use a list of focused questions. First, of course, we have to ask: “Does the gift fit into our budget?” Then we ask, “Is the gift built to last? Does it have multiple uses? Will the recipients enjoy the gift over a period of time? And will the gift help the recipients to build memories?”

It may sound like a tall order to answer yes to all these questions, but we’ve found plenty of gifts over the years that have fit the bill. Last year, for example, we bought a restaurant-quality waffle maker for the family with a trio of teens and tweens. And while it may not have been an awe-inspiring gift to a 10-year-old boy, I know he’s already eaten his weight in home-cooked waffles. His parents save money and no longer rely on boxed waffles from the freezer section. Plus, the gift gives this family the opportunity to build memories by starting a tradition of Saturday-morning waffles.

This year, we plan to continue giving family-focused gifts for our nieces and nephews. For the youngest recipients on our list, which include boys ages 2 and 7 months, we plan to buy a set of wooden, interlocking blocks. It’s a gift that will allow the unsteady hands of a toddler to build curved walls and tall towers. The boys and their parents will be able to play together with these blocks for years to come.

Art supplies, including scented colored pencils, bright beeswax crayons and tempura paints, are on our list for another family with two children. For yet another family, we’re giving games that suit the ages of the children and that will allow them to play with or without their parents. Still another family with girls ages 5 and 2, who love to spend time in the kitchen with their mother, will receive a gingerbread mold for making their own little villages and an accompanying storybook about gingerbread men.

We plan to apply the same principles to the gifts we buy for our own young children, focusing on quality gifts that they all can enjoy together. In the past, such gifts have included a wooden kitchen and a giant pop-up tent, both of which have inspired many hours of collaborative and imaginative play.

Though we’ve not made any final decisions about the gifts we’ll give them this year, we do have a few ideas that include a play parachute, an “ice cream ball,” where you drop ingredients into a canister and roll it back and forth until you make ice cream, or some new additions to their collection of dress-up clothing.

Birthdays and holidays can be rich opportunities to invest in the lives of the children we love. Ultimately, we hope our gifts will spark their imaginations – or perhaps help them discover a talent or interest that can bring them joy for years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment