Monday, December 03, 2012

buying gifts and creative play

This past year, as I have cleaned and organized various areas of our home, I have been quite bothered and dare I say, convicted of buying toys and gifts for our children for Christmas and their birthdays that have left us with a glut of barely used toys, all the while I thought I was being wise and discerning, much to my chagrin.

Our home is little compared to most families', but as I have learned in the five years living here with three young children, it's smallness forces me to keep only things we truly need and like best. So books are found nearly in every room and I constantly assess the kids' toys to only keep those that are truly worth their time and energy. In a way, I have begun to dread buying gifts for them, other than books and clothes of course, because the playthings found in most brick-and-mortar stores offers nothing that they really need to expand their imaginations and be creative in their play.

Several years ago I began to make homemade greeting cards for whatever occasion arose for friends and family. I invested in stamps and inks and stickers and paper, not really knowing what I would do with all of it. It has become a labor of love as I attempt to create a card that reflects my relationship to them and something that is unique as they are. I truly enjoy the creative moment and would say that it is a form of play for me as I design and arrange the cards just so.

A quick trip this past Saturday morning, to a large toy store left me quite disappointed as there was not a single item, save a bike, that I would have felt satisfied purchasing for our kids.  Nothing.
We already have all the good stuff and I am still weeding out all the not-so-good stuff accumulated over the years.

In less than two week, Kate turns five and although she is not developmentally five, she enjoys many of the same play items that a typical five year old would play with: dolls and strollers, pretend kitchen sets, dress-up clothes, etc. But we have all those items, so this year I expanded by search to more lasting play toys, like wooden tree blocks and a wooden clothesline stand from Montessori Services. The shipment didn't make it to my parents' home in time for them to bring it, but I know the items are ready for us after Christmas so in the meantime, I need something small for her actual birthday in two weekends.

We have enough items in our home, treasured from my childhood and Shane's, that I know our children can enjoy, older or handmade toys just as much as the newer items. And looking back as an adult now, I treasure those items passed on down from one generation to the next. Many toys made today are not worth the next generation's time, nor are they made to endure for that long. I know this, because every week or so I am super-gluing some cheap plastic back together and lamenting the money on poorly constructed playthings.

I would love to know your thoughts on this as well, so please share anything you like.


  1. Games are a favourite for us...there are some really good ones for little children...Vanessa can fill you in on a couple we've bought and enjoyed.

  2. oh and there is a really cute Melissa and Doug magnetic doll with clothes that Kate might love. email me if you can't find it and I'll look for a link...Mrs. Tiggywinkles sells it as does chapters.

  3. Heather,
    I so enjoyed this post~ right down to the card-making part! (Though I've purchased many cards w/in the past few years for lack of time to sit down and be crafty.)
    I feel much the same way that you do about gifts/toys. As for toys in our (also small home), Mark and I have tried to choose (and encourage) certain "sets" and then build onto those sets, rather than accumulate several random categories of toys. A few that come to mind:
    I have often stood in a store and felt the same way: I want none of this. I don't want to buy something just for the sake of getting a gift.
    It just brings me back to the value of a handmade gift: because there is a thoughtfulness factor there: thinking: not just the "What can I buy that would be age-appropriate?", but really thinking about the child and "What will she *truly* play with and enjoy?" Couple that with the time taken making it, and it is such a meaningful gift.
    It makes me grateful for our new-to-us last year Christmas tradition: drawing names and making one simple gift for the person whose name we drew.
    I've thought about my little girls lately, for what I can stuff into their stockings- and have considered making a sleeping bag or pillow for their dolls, or rice bags for warming up their toes in their beds in the winter (just like mommy has and loves). Maybe with your card-making supplies you could put together a little stationary set? Or gather up some empty food boxes from the kitchen and tape them up and wrap them up for her to play kitchen or store?
    Love to you, Heather.
    Blessings to you and yours,

  4. Thank you Niki and Stacy for all of your ideas. I'm so glad to have others who think the same and can provide inspiration.
    Love you both!


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