The following guest post is by Professional Organizer Liz Jenkins.
My daughter and I are cruising the aisle at Target last year on the hunt for the birthday present we need TODAY (you know . . . Barbie, My Little Pony, Polly Pockets, etc.) and then it hit me. Besides the fact that these presents cause piles of clutter and seem to be sort of a cop out (go to big box store, get plastic made in China, get gift bag, stick in bag, give to recipient), it also goes against my grain which is to be thoughtful and mindful about what I purchase.
She and I had the discussion that while these things were sooooo cute (her words), all of the plastic packages and wrapping end up in the trash, all of the little parts quickly break, and the abundance of stuff kids get is rarely played with, it was mostly the lack of actual care given to the choosing of the gift. So we’ve decided that our new mission is to give a gift that not only do we really believe the recipient will enjoy, but also one that doesn’t involve more STUFF that has to be stored.
In that spirit, here a list of great gifts that don’t involve stuff:
- Movie tickets (you can get them on Fandango and don’t even have to leave the house – saving gas and time) – this is my number one all time favorite!
- A trip with the gift giver to a place both would enjoy such as the zoo, children’s theatre, science center or aquarium. (We received tickets to Junie B. Jones at the Nashville Children’s Theatre for my daughter’s birthday and went with the friends that gave it – we had a blast!)
- Make a movie on the computer of pictures of your child and the friend – Windows Movie Maker lets you add photos, captions and titles – then you can burn it to disc!
- An edible creation made by the gift giver such as cookies, bread or homemade candy.
- An art project made just for the birthday child, or a gift that includes all of the materials needed for an art project
- A gift certificate to a “make your own pottery” place or a place that offers classes such as cooking or acting.
- A gift certificate to a book store (I don’t consider books to be clutter when it comes to kids!)
- A donation in the child’s name to an animal shelter or charity that might speak to them.
- “Buy” them a star and name it after them (you can find sites on the web) or “adopt” an animal at the zoo.
- A gardening set with tools and seeds, or plants, and pots & soil if the recipient doesn’t have a place to dig in the dirt (this is “stuff” but useful and healthy).
While many of us are resistant to the idea of not giving stuff, suggestions such as these can make it easier, especially for family members. I think many grandparents or other relatives want their gifts to really be appreciated, and one way they tend to do this is to get things that are bigger and bigger.
My favorite suggestion for grandparents came from my friend, Namaste. She encourages her parents and in-laws to “buy” lessons (sports, dance, art, etc.) for a period of time. For example, if the grandparents pay for the ballet lessons, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Then they can come to the recital to see the results. Often, they just don’t have other ideas – hopefully this list will jump start a conversation – and reduce the amount of stuff that comes into the house.
The funny part is that when I started doing this, I was a bit concerned that other parents would think I was weird, but the gifts we chose were hits. It started sort of a trend in my “set”. Go figure!
Liz Jenkins is a Professional Organizer and owner of a fresh space :: home staging and thoughtful organizing, based in Franklin, TN. Visit her at www.afreshspace.com.
What other gift ideas for kids can you think of?