October 13, 2014

To the Parents Who Bought My Daughters Birthday Presents, and All Givers of Gifts to Children

My children worked on these mosaic boxes for SEVEN HOURS. Five hours in one sitting.
Thank you.

Last year, when I sent home invitation to SI and DD's birthday party, I was careful to include a not that NOBODY was under any obligation to bring my children gifts. Yet, everybody brought one anyway. So this year I included no such note, and the massive heap of presents my children received was genuinely alarming.

We're urban people. We know how limited space is, and how difficult birthdays and holidays can be for this reason. So as my daughters set to opening their mountain of generous gifts, I held my breath and hoped for the best.

The best is what my children got, and this is why:

Their presents contained almost no toys.

I don't know who started the fad of giving activities as a gift, but whoever did it... thank you as well.

So proud of their finished boxes
In the week since they had their party, my children have each spent approximately seven hours putting together their mosaic fairy jewelry boxes, four hours decorating new dolls, and more hours than I can count with their sticker books and box of watercolor pencils.

Of course this is something I want to do. Of course I relish the opportunity to actually accomplish household tasks. To vacuum the couch, and put away laundry, and do dishes, and start the crock pot...

And yes, write.

All of these things are normally impossible when my children are home, say, for a five day weekend encompassing Sukkot and a Monday where M absentmindedly took my car keys to work in his pocket.

My children are happily playing, but also learning, and taking pride in their accomplishments. They now have jewelry boxes they made themselves, to fill with their many little treasures. They now have dolls they've designed and named themselves, to have adventures with.

These gifts are helping teach my children independence, because they don't have all the same crafts to do. This afternoon DD is making stained "glass" hangings while SI is making a pillow.

These gifts are helping teach them to share, as they give extra parts and stickers and colored pencils to their baby sister, so she can join in the fun.

And yes, I recognize that these are still toys, and the yes, I'll have to find space somehow for the results of all this crafting. But they are also so much more.

They are experiences and memories, and the gift of pride and dedication and motivation.

These are gifts to my children not just for their fifth birthday, but for their lives.

So thank you, thank you to the dozens of parents who chose to get my children tasks instead of toys.

Thank you to all of you.

And to any of you parents out there, struggling with ideas for what to get strange children from your kid's class.. please. Do the other mom a favor. Give them an activity.

Please make this a trend that sticks.

 And as we enter the holiday gift season, please. Remember this. Remember that giving a child an opportunity to make something for themselves is greater than a simple object. It gives that object meaning- pride, and hard work.

And most importantly, it gives a tired parent somewhere a chance to drink a hot cup of tea or empty the dryer in peace.


  1. I love gifts like this! It's what we try to give instead of regular toys.

    1. On behalf of every parent with a child you've ever given a gift... THANK YOU.

  2. Crafts are awesome. Also remember that old crafts can mysteriously disappear...into landfills.

  3. Thanks for this wonderful blog! I love gifts and your ideas very much. Birthday Gifts | Gift for Girlfriend



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