Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gift-Giving is NOT my love language

My kids are just reaching the ages where they're invited to birthday parties regularly, and I have been spending a depressing amount of time in toy stores lately trying to find birthday gifts for the kids' friends (approximately ages 3-6) that are exciting, not cheapo plastic garbage, and a good value. How do you handle this? It's so time-inefficient to shop for them one at a time. What I'm saying is please tell me your affordable, slam-dunk kid gift of choice so I can steal your idea, buy 20 of them to have on hand, and get back to mothering my children. My family thanks you : )


texas mommy said...

I buy books.

We have a great 75% off book store here that usually has one or two gems everytime I go in (Eric Carle, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc for $4.00). I get a stack of 5 or 6 and keep them in a closet.

I don't buy toy gifts anymore, mainly b/c I wouldn't want them. Good quality books are great and if they already have it, they are easy to regift as well.

MargaretJDMom said...

I would second Texas Mommy's book can get great cheap ones at Marshall's and TjMaxx. I also would say get some nice colored pencils with a sharpener and some drawing paper and you can't go wrong. What child doesn't like to draw??

Right Said Red said...

3rd on the books. We buy books, specifically Tomie DePaola, and have a stack of them upstairs for B-days. I then hand them out accordingly. It can all be done online, and it totally saves my sanity!

Caroline said...

I also concur with books, with this caveat - bookstore Gift Card.
It allows the child/parent to pick out the appropriate (read: don't already own, approved subject/author) or much anticipated new read. It also saves time and guess work on your part as well!

Marian said...

The other thing we do besides books is purchase t-shirts/sweatshirts for the local sports team/university/high school when we find them on sale. TJ Maxx is a GREAT place to discover this kind of stuff, along with all sorts of great books and book gift sets. I once got about eight Very Hungry Caterpillar board books with tiny caterpillar toys in a darling Eric Carle illustrated box for about $7 a piece.

gretchen said...

Boodstore gift can't go wrong. It is so much easier than trying to find the perfect gift for each child. For my teen kid's down favorite for any teenager.

Melinda said...

I keep a box stocked with crayola products, stickers, bubbles, and play-doh, which I pick up every time I'm at Target. You can make a fun gift bag from these, and they are the kind of things that get used up so people can always use more.

Sera said...

Once again, another topic that hits close to home. Thank you for these discussions! We also do books, but I am having more trouble with the older kids who are beyond picture books. I love the bookstore gift card idea. I also love the art supplies idea. Both would be things I would happily receive into my home, so it passes the test for me!

Bethany said...

A friend of mine had, what I thought, was a brilliant idea regarding birthday presents for children in the preschool years. Snacks! Boxes of crackers, fruit snacks, even homemade granola bars or a special treat of little Debbies (if appropriate). These are items that the kids will love because they eat them as snacks, they're always stuff that the family needs and is probably always running out of, and most importantly they won't clutter the bedroom/toyroom or wherever the toys are.

I also ninth? books, especially for the school-ager whose just getting into those exciting chapter books.

Anonymous said...

Books are always a great idea. I usually go for something useful- beach towel with sunglasses, umbrella with raincoat or rainboots, art supplies, wooden puzzles, a little tool set for a boy... Something religious is perfect for a Godson/daughter

4ddintx said...

I've got to agree with the idea of books.

Something else that my kids love to both give and receive are magazine subscriptions. It can be done on-line, it is something the child gets all year, you can often find great specials, and what child doesn't love getting mail?

Another variation on the same theme is CD's to listen to in the car--either stories or music. The Beethoven's Wig CD is a favorite of my children and of the children we've gifted it to. One year I got a great deal on a book on CD at Christian Book Distributor--it was a picture book with the accompanying CD with the author reading. That was our gift at all parties for a year.

Julia A said...

For the 3-4 yo set: their own flashlight, with extra batteries. Buy'em cheap at the dollar store. An alternative: a plastic box with paper, cheap stationary, envelopes (gleaned from junk mail is fine), and a bunch of REAL two-cent stamps. Add a fancy pencil and you have a gift!

For school-age, we do little Playmobil sets for the boys (the $5 kind), and anything from Barebooks is awesome: blank board game sets, blank jigsaw puzzles, blank books, and fixed-price shipping. We order a stack of stuff once a year, and use it as necessary. It's extra nice because no one else gives this stuff!

For slightly older kids (10+) we focus on things that in and of themselves aren't expensive, but which the child would never get for him/herself. A small box of Godiva chocolates is a perfect example.

Staples or other office supply stores are also a good bet. A selection of your very own sticky pads is pretty awesome when you're 8 or 9 (or even 5 or 6).

A box of ribbon, pretty buttons, and other sewing accoutrements works well starting at about age 10. beading supplies are good, too.

Julia A

Joelle said...

Slightly different, but for children you know well: record yourself reading a story. This works especially well for nieces and nephews when you are far away! They will love hearing your voice as well as listening to the story.

Joanne said...

I like books as gifts too, but man we are getting a lot of books in my household, and a lot of repeats, too! I like to keep some gifts back that my kids get and re-gift them. We get doubles sometimes and frankly, I don't give my kids all the gifts that they get because they seriously could not all fit in my house so it's a win win. I also will give a small Target gift card, depending on the other gift. I recently regifted a playdoh fun factory thing (originally intended for my son, who never does anything but eat playdoh) and I gave a $10 Target gift card, too. I try and think of the kids but also the mothers, in these situations. We recently got new hardwood flooring in our upstairs and I had to buy rugs for my kids' rooms, which I paid for with mostly Target gift cards. I then wrote a note to the givers and told them what I did with them. As my kids get older, I hope they'll realize the fun of shopping and for now, their mother is. :)

Anonymous said...

I've always bought bathing suits, flip flops or towels for spring/summer birthdays. I try to limit the spending to $15 per gift. For fall/winter birthdays, I'll get a hat/mitten set or something like that. Socks, pjs are also a nice idea. Who doesn't need that? For older children, an Ipod gift card or Amex or Visa card works great. Having been doing this for awhile (my oldest is almost 14), I don't put too much thought into childrens' gifts. We average about 2 parties a month (4 kids), it tapers off by the time they hit 3rd grade or so. Webkinz are also inexpensive and the kids love them (esp kinder and 1st graders).

Mary Alice said...

Flashlight is an awesome idea, my kids are always trying to steal the flashlights!

I also love the idea of small playmobil sets, they would be great for any boy over 4.

Our local toy store has these amazing rings, they have huge jewels on them and my daughters go crazy for them.

For Catholics, CCC saint's lives videos or Glory Stories CDs would be good, and many people do not have them.

Also, when I know the family probably has a lot of books I give a book that is slightly too old for the child in the hopes that they will look forward to it as a read aloud, usually a classic like The Secret Garden or Heidi.

Mary Alice said...

By the way, perhaps you have the same problem that I have in that gift receiving is not my love language! Unless the gift is something that I really want or need it is really hard for me to be appreciative of it! Intellectually I know that this is ungracious and that the thought does count, but so often I just look at gifts for myself and my children as more stuff I have to deal with.

Catherine Hartel said...

I am SO with you! I hate shopping for toys. :) Books are great and art supplies... can't go wrong... great for boys and girls.

Karen B. said...

Books and consumables are always great gifts. We love Lakeshore (educational store) for quality educational toys, books or crafts. I like my child to be involved in helping pick out the present. It takes more time, but it builds character. You could stock up on some of their clearance items and let your child pick from those.

Also, giving an experience can be a wonderful gift too. You and your child can make a nice ticket, card or certificate to the birthday child for a special outing together (w/b-day mom included), which could be anything from ice cream to a trip to a museum, depending on your budget. If you have a membership to a museum or a zoo that allows you to bring guests for free, it won't cost you anything but time. Add in a homemade picnic lunch to complete the gift. This won't make it much easier on you, but the mom will probably think you are glorious for not cluttering her house with one more cheap toy. Also, you would need to talk to the Mom first to make sure they would enjoy the experience. Not only is this the best clutter busting gift idea, but it does something money can't buy - builds a relationship. Environmentally friendly and stopping over-consumption would be added to the positive list.

However, there are some drawbacks. What about the b-day child's siblings? His/her mom can't leave them home alone. I guess the mom doesn't have to come if you are close friends. Also, it is another item on your already overloaded calendar. Any suggestions? I like the idea, but it is not a simple one.

Kat said...

One thought: If you give a book, I think it's nice to write a personal note on the inside cover. I know this means that the recipient can't return the book then, but I still do it! It adds a very personal touch to the gift, and every time the child reads the book they will remember who it is from. The reason I say this is because the books I love reading the most with my children are then ones that have a personal note on the inside, or the ones where I can still remember who gave it to them. We always begin the book by saying - remember, Aunt B gave you this book for your baptism?

Flashlights are a great idea! I would add to the list: headlamp, binoculars, bug collector box, magnifying glass, all things that little boys LOVE! I can't help out too much with little girls yet :)

Last idea: Gift card to the local ice cream shop. A gift that child and parent will both appreciate :)

Barbara said...

I agree with many earlier ideas like flashlights, binoculars, magnifying glass, etc. My husband has been giving tools to our godchildren for a few years now.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned in detail is craft kits. Our local store (Michael's) has a 40% off one item coupon in the paper almost every week. Crafts are especially good for girls' gifts, but we've found some nice boy-stuff, too. When we find a winner, it gets repeated for a year (like another poster said). We've given MANY garden stone and make-it-bake-it sets, for example. We walk in, go to the shelf, pay, and walk out, usually having spent under my $10 party gift budget.

BTW, that party budget is pretty firm. My children have some pocket money (on the computer "kidbank"), so if they want to spend more on a gift, they make up the difference!

Kate E. said...

Ok I'm going to get quite specific, I usually do a book and toy combo. I try to do something a bit off the beaten path so there aren't duplicate issues.

I will also say as someone who has worked for years for struggling independent stores, that while you can get great deals out there at chain and discount stores, the little stores are the ones that truly give back to the community both financially and in other ways.

So here is my quick list all of which are under $20, usually under $15.

A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman and an umbrella.

Fall is Here by Lois Lenski and a rake (or any fall book, Lois Ehlert has a few nice ones).

Winter is Here by Lois Lenski and a snow shovel.

Harry & the Bucketful of Dinosaurs and a tube of plastic dinosaurs.

Elise Piddock Skips in her Sleep by Eleanor Farjeon and a jump rope.

Encyclopedia Brown OR Chet Gecko OR A-Z Mysteries OR Nate the Great and a magnifying glass.

And Nobody Got Hurt by Len Berman and a pocket baseball game.

In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen OR Van Gogh Cafe by Cynethia Rylant and an apron or rolling pin.

Any fun animal book and a little wooden animal from holtizger or nova naturals.

I could go on, but those are recent successes and some more obscure books. I stock up on oodles of them and have them ready for a nice range of ages.

Kevin said...

I love Amy Welborn's kids books on Saints and so do our kids. We like to give these as presents when invited to birthday parties.

Julia A said...

I thought of one more: a real stethoscope. If you homeschool you probably already know about; they carry a Bowles stethoscope which is $5.95. Buy half a dozen and use'em as gifts. They're not medical quality, but you *can* hear your heartbeat! Definitely a hit with the under-6 crowd.

Juris Mater said...

JACKPOT! Wow!!! You all rock. This list would get any mom through her entire childrearing years and then some. Come to think of it, I think I'll publish this list you've supplied, sell it, and then use the profits to hit TJMaxx and our local shops to stock up on gifts forever : ) Thank you all so much, both for the WONDERFUL suggestions and for the assurance that this CAN be done. Gift-giving can be time and money efficient. Yes!

Kate E. said...

oooh and I forgot, our local toystore gift wraps for I used to buy in bulk, get them wrapped and label them with a little circle sticker.

Now I am all eco-conscious and tend to wrap in my son's leftover scribblings since we would just throw that out anyway....but for the time-pressed gift wrap is the best!

Lori said...

For the 5-8 year old crowd we also love giving books, but along with the books, I give a BOOK LIGHT. This has been a huge hit with the families we've given them to this year.

Webkinz are great for 3-6 year olds.

Movie gift certificates.
Bookstore gift cards.
McD's or other local favorite kids' place gift cards.

Mary Alice said...

Kat, you are so right that an inscription makes a book gift so special.

In addition to remembering the giver, it means that over the years we know which books in our family library actually belong to someone.

If you want to write in a book but don't want to make it "unreturnable" you might consider including a book plate you make yourself which they can paste into the book. You could print out your message or write something and put double sided tape on the back. If you did this and we already had the book, I might well add your message to our old copy and re-gift the new one, and we would still think of you every time we read the book. Also, with true children's classics, i usually keep the book even if it is repeat. With six kids, we have worn through several copies of most board books, Corduroy, all the early childhood favorites.

To that end, consider board books as a shower gift, as well, because it will encourage early reading together and really, they will have more than enough newborn nightgowns.

Can I give one more plug to independant stores and say that the good ones are a great place to find really good books that you might not have read before? A good bookseller can help alot with this, and you may find some real gems. I shop independant and I still spend less than $20 on most gifts, and if more than one child is coming to the party I do not feel that is too much to spend.

For a little boy party, one awesome small car, like a SIKU car, would be a huge hit, they have super fun things like a tractor pulling a cow trailer with a tiny cow in it, a space shuttle, etc, not your typical matchbox car, and these can be had at an independant toy store for under $10.

I love the idea of treating a family to a playdate at the zoo, if you go to enough parties it might be worth getting the "family plus" membership just to do this!