“You have enough birthday presents for him for ten years,” our friend’s son proudly proclaimed as he packed our car trunk full of old toys he was happy to pass along to our little one. And he was right. The generosity of friends has blessed us with more toys than my son could possibly play with in a decade, which is the way toys should work. Teach your child to treat them well and pass them along when the time is right. New toys aren’t terrible. Certainly, my son has plenty of those, too. Which is precisely why when I have to answer, “What does he want for his birthday,” I usually respond with, “Anything BUT another toy.”
Today’s reality is that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for gifts other than toys for a young child. In fact, branching out beyond another doll or car can turn an average birthday present into a great learning opportunity. Last Hanukkah my parents gifted their grandson a trip to the Please Touch Museum. What parent wouldn’t love a little help when it comes to admission fees that add up fast when mom, dad, and even siblings want to tag along? Other great ideas along the ticket line include movies, theater shows, planetarium passes or even a trip to the local Renaissance Faire.
Don’t forget to think seasonally when it comes to gift-giving. Now that summer is upon us, one of the things I’m looking forward to is getting my toddler outside in the garden. Why not ask for gardening tools and a few seed packets? A new swimsuit for the splash park or kiddie pool is always a great idea, as are a good pair of water shoes and a sunhat. A rake for the fall, a sled for the winter, or a pair of rain boots for spring are all fantastic ways to give the gift of the outdoors to a young child.
Another thing parents encounter constantly are lessons. Music, sports, art, gymnastics, you name it, there’s a class for children as young as newborns. Why not get together with a few friends or family members and chip in on a series of lessons? Parents, especially stay-at-home ones, will thank you for the gift that keeps on giving them something to do with their curious little ones for weeks on end.
School is also a good theme to gift around. With fall fast approaching, we’re using our son’s birthday to request everything from new clothes to school supplies. Sure, he’s only going to a mommy-and-me pre-pre-K class for two hours once a week, but hey, every moment in your child’s life is something to get excited about.
The best gift of all, of course, is your time. If you can’t think of anything else, consider yourself a gift worth giving to a beloved grandchild, niece or nephew. Set a date to come over and play, or take them out on an adventure as simple as a bike ride in a new park, or an afternoon fishing at the lake. There’s nothing they crave more than your attention and nothing they love more than getting to know you better.
There are tons of ways to give a child a fantastic birthday gift without ever setting foot into a toy store. Trust me, their parents will thank you.