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The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Him
The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Her
There are alternatives to showering your kids with gifts they don't need on their birthdays...
Maia’s ninth birthday just passed. It used to be an occasion I dreaded a bit. She’d receive heaps of toys and I’d need to find a place to put them.
Use some of these birthday perks to shake up your childs birthday!
When she got a bit older I always thought we’d steal an idea from some of her friends and throw a charity party. We’ve been to several through the years—the recipients have been as diverse as the SPCA, the Children’s Hospital and a Wild Bird Sanctuary. And the results have been great—the kids feel good, the charity benefits and you don’t end up with more stuff you don’t need.
The key with charity parties though is getting your kid onside with the idea. If you just impose the plan on them, it kind of stifles their own natural generosity. In Maia’s case she loves the idea of contributing to a charity, but she could never quite reconcile this with the idea of not getting presents.
Presents are fun, she told me.
The solution, for Maia, seemed to evolve naturally. Ever since she was really little she’s loved the idea of making gifts. My most precious gift from her is a small decorated box that she filled with ‘a million kisses.’ I just need to open the box for a kiss (if she’s not handy).
But the homemade gifts that a mother loves are not quite the same calibre as something you might give a school friend. And her carefully handmade creations used to just end up accompanying the purchased gift for her friends. This year though, Maia and her friends changed the rules. They decided that they weren’t buying gifts for each other and all their presents needed to be found, made or re-gifted from things around their homes.
Initially I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out. But we’re now several birthday celebrations into the plan and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Maia and her friends enjoy giving, or getting, presents more.
And it’s not that 9-year-olds are capable of spiffy Martha Stewart-ish handicrafts (although I’m sure I could download fabulous directions and sit down with Maia and make something, but I think that would miss the point). No, what’s been cool is how thoughtful and creative this plan forces them to be: Maia received a prized copy of an early edition Nancy Drew book because one friend realized she loved the series, while Maia spent hours decorating a notebook cover and copying quotes about friendship along the bottom margins for a friend she knew loved to journal.
When I asked Maia why she loves these gifts so much she couldn’t really explain. “Mom,” she said, “it’s just cooler. Okay?”
Maia and her core group of friends came up with the idea but they’ve found it an easy one to share with friends. They’ve done most of it by word of mouth—by simply explaining that making, finding or regifting gifts is cool and it’s what they’re doing now.
If you and your kids decide to give this a try, it might be handy to note it in a birthday invite though. And be sure to warn your kids about what is off-limits: One of the more surprising gifts that Maia received was a wedge of cheese. It was a type of cheese she had really loved while on a playdate, but the owner of the cheese had no idea her daughter had wrapped up what remained and given it away.