Holiday Toy Catalogs. The annual deluge has begun. They’re filled with coupons, special discounts and early bird specials to entice you to buy yet another toy.
Don’t do it. Don’t even open those colorful, clever marketing pieces. Why not?
Ask yourself: Do your grands really need one more battery-operated toy? Or another stuffed animal, doll or commercial game to add to the heap they have on the floor, in their closet or on toy shelves?
Break out of the ordinary birthday or holiday gifts routine. Use these ideas to jump start a new approach to buying presents for your grandchildren…and give gifts that have long-term benefits and multiple levels of fun and learning!
As a grandmother of three (one school-age and two preschoolers), I’ve used these gift ideas for my own grands and as gifts for friend’s children. These gifts will encourage a love of books; share new worlds to explore; help create a love of life-time learning; and foster children’s overall healthy development (mental, physical, social and emotional) that is key to school readiness and also necessary for success in school and later life.
Use these ideas to start developing your own holiday and birthday gift lists. For nonreturnable items, confer with your grandchildren’s parents to avoid duplications and ensure tickets will be used. Try this approach: “I’m thinking of doing something different this year for holiday or birthday gifts. What do you think about…?”
Legacy of Literacy
- Magazine Subscriptions
Choose one that is age appropriate or perhaps based on the child’s hobbies or special interests.
Select your childhood favorites or those of your own children, when they were young. For an older child, choose a book series. Use pre-printed bookplates, easily customized on your computer from these sites:
Download or copy/paste these images. Print the free bookplates onto large, computer labels (6 to a page) that are available from retail and office supply stores and online.
By computer or by hand add your grandchild’s name and the year. Adhere label to the book, if giving or sending it directly. Mail customized labels to the parents to insert, if ordering online and shipping.
Children’s audible books on CD are available in retail stores and online.
Children can enjoy listening, while driving around town, on long trips with parents and even at home. These are great for helping develop imagination, as children picture the characters and story in their minds. Digital versions downloaded to parent’s smart phones, iPods or Mp3 players can be purchased with online gift certificates from sites like these:
• Birthday Books
Find a special book each year for his/her birthday. Base your selection on the child’s changing interests as he/she grows. Use a bookplate adding a handwritten note inside the book that this is part of their birthday book library. Birthday books will be enjoyable now, while you help create a family treasure to pass on to their own children and grandchildren.
Treasury of Childhood Memories
• Photo Album/Scrapbook
Create your own or purchase one with special pages and stickers included.
Let a school-aged child insert favorite photos and mementos of the school year, friends, special vacation, sports or school activities or hobbies. If it’s a scrapbook, include some purchased stickers and page decorations. For younger children, fill the book with photos of family members and label. This is a great way to stay connected, particularly if you don’t live near your grandchildren.
Family Memberships or Children’s Classes
• Give the family a children’s museum, zoo or aviary membership or even just one day’s entrance fees purchased by phone or online. When visiting, you could join them and see first hand how much they enjoy the membership. (Some memberships include discounted fees for grandparents.)
• Get gift certificates for children’s classes (dance, sports, art, photography, crafts), sports clinics or summer day camps. You may prefer to contribute towards the cost of these, if the fee is more than your budget allows.
• Pay for some free play time at a children’s play gym with mom or dad.
• Provide a family membership to the community or club swimming pool.
Add swimming lessons, bathing suits, floaties, etc. Confirm what type of pool toys or swimming assists comply with pool rules.
Group related items for your grandchild’s birthday or holiday gift following these examples:
• Purchase special event tickets. Imagine how excited your grandchildren will be to attend the children’s or music theater, puppet show or circus in or near their hometown. Find local events on the internet, check dates and prices. Before purchasing, speak with their parents to avoid scheduling conflicts. Then, let the ideas flow as you add something ‘extra’ to the tickets, such as local ballet theater tickets, new tutu, book about ballet; circus tickets, book about the circus, money for special treat or souvenir; puppet show, hand puppets, book on how to make puppets; children’s theater with a book related to the subject of the play or musical; or zoo or aquarium entrance fees along with nature, animal or fish DVD’s.
• Give tickets to a special activity or workshop.
Find out what your grandchild’s special interests are currently and ask their parents or search the internet for related activities, classes or workshops. Check out the website for their local art museum or performing arts center; sports facility; science, children’s or specialty (such as train) museum and even the local YMCA, YWCA or community center.
• Send money for a gift of a portable swimming pool for at home fun.
Send money, but let the parents select which one. If you prefer not to send just a check, download and print a gift certificate on your computer. There are many styles available for free download. Add bathing suits, pool toys, beach towels.
• Give books on a specific topic and add related items, such as a bird book presented with binoculars, bird feeder and bird seed or suet.
• Gift them with one-on-one lessons from you!
Select a children’s cookbook, child-sized apron, your favorite family recipes, and time with you learning to cook or bake. Purchase an inexpensive camera and photography book. Then, spend time together taking photos and printing them. Extras could include a photo album or photo editing software for older children. Lastly, share your hobbies. Buy child-sized knitting needles, yarn and an easy starter pattern and teach your grandchild to knit.
I know that my granddaughter and grandsons will receive more toys and things for holidays or birthdays than they really need or have space to store. These personalized and unique gifts are more than just presents to mark a special occasion. These truly are life-long gifts for my grandchildren.