I love when God just orchestrates things so I have a few extra hours to get things done. A friend ended up watching my two little ones today so our sons could play LEGOS (and argue about Battleship). I got to wrap birthday presents and now even have time to sit and write this blog post that I’ve been thinking about for weeks but haven’t had time to write!
I was sort of dreading getting birthday presents this year because I feel like we already have so much stuff that we don’t even have time to use. I prayed about birthday gifts and traditions this year for the first time and God gave lots of great ideas. Here are some I thought I’d share:
1. Special Birthday Book – I got a journal for my son and daughter and my husband and I wrote a note to my daughter (and plan to do my son’s tonight) on her birthday. We mentioned skills she’s learned this year, areas we’ve seen her growing, gifts we see in her, and verses we are praying for this next year. I really want to take the opportunity of a birthday to cherish the uniqueness of each of my children, not just let it be a day for gifts and cake. I want them to feel so important as a part of our family.
2. Post-It Notes with Encouraging Words - my husband, my son and I all made seven sticky notes (my daughter was turning 7) and put them all over the house for her to find when she woke up. The look on her face was priceless as she woke up and started finding all these notes with things we love about her. The ones from her brother were especially precious, since many days they doubt whether the other one even likes them!
This is mainly a gift of time. We probably spent two hours the night before my daughter’s birthday writing the notes and in the book.
3. Gifts that encourage a wholesome interest - Sometimes it seems like all the toys are violent, or battery-operated plastic junk, or just encourage frivolous things. We try to give books or toys that encourage a wholesome interest – this year for my daughter was horses, and my son it’s train tracks. We found several books on horses, and asked Grandma and Grandpa to give horse riding lessons (my daughter said that was all she wanted in the whole world) instead of a toy. She got a stuffed horse, a horse-shaped purse, etc. My older son surprisingly wanted wooden train tracks, but I jumped all over it because I think he will enjoy building intricate tracks and my younger son will enjoy lining up the trains. We found a Thomas train table with tracks, trains, buildings, etc. for $50 on Craigs List.
For toddlers, I love the Melissa and Doug wooden dolls, wooden fruit and vegetable and other foods (healthy) to play with, play-doh, balls, and stickers.
SOURCE: Lessons in something, Educational Stores (typically have more wood, better quality toys), Craigs List
4. Art/Craft Supplies - These are the kinds of things that encourage creativity. My daughter got play-doh, Grandma got her a doodle book, sometimes she’s had jewelry-making kits, paint, watercolors, and paint-a-birdhouse or model airplane type projects. For my son this year I got a real sketch pad, graphite pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, and a little art box to put it all in. It was fun to get to pick out some “real” artist supplies.
Fabric can be interesting for dress up. One year we gave my daughter about two yards of: floaty rainbow fabric, blue sparkly fabric, and red satin fabric. The fabric has been made into capes, dresses, tents, and room decorations and is still used.
SOURCE: Hobby Lobby or Michaels, JoAnns for fabric
5. Tools that teach a useful skill - For example, cooking, building, gardening tools. My son is turning nine this year, so I’m getting him kitchen knives and a cutting board to help make fruit salad and to acknowledge his growing responsibility to handle things in the kitchen. In the past we’ve gotten him a hammer, screwdrivers, duct tape, heavy string and other building supplies. I like that gifts like these encourage kids to develop useful, helpful skills, and not just look for things to entertain them.
In the past we’ve gotten gardening gloves, small spades and watering cans for both my son and daughter. My daughter has received cute aprons, pink spatulas, and mini-muffin tins for past birthdays.
For toddlers I LOVE to give mini-squirt bottles, cute broom and dustpan sets, and tiny aprons. They love to be big helpers.
SOURCE: Pier1 has great broom and dustpan sets, kids scrubbers, and other cute kids stuff. It can be pricey, but they often have an area for end-of-season marked down stuff. I get most of our friends’ birthday gifts at Target, not in the toy section, but in the cooking or tool section.
6. Books. I love these, but feel so behind with great books that we haven’t even had time to read yet that we haven’t done these as much lately. I like to get the more unusual ones that the library doesn’t have, like the missionary biographies at Grace and Truth or the easy-reader ones at Mardel. My friend had the brilliant idea of audio books, which I meant to do but didn’t get around to this year. She says they also do this at Easter and other holidays, and specifically mentioned Focus on the Family radio theater as being excellent. My sister sells Usborne and I can’t help myself at homeschool conferences and used book sales, so we’re usually covered on great books.
7. Coupons for Mommy or Daddy Time – We did this last year, but this year didn’t because spring is such a busy time for us I can’t think about adding another event right now. But things we have done in the past include: Date with Daddy to a regular restaurant, then a fancy one for dessert, laser tag with Dad, tea party with Mom, and I can’t remember what I did with my son! Something boyish, I’m sure.
One thing that has been completely magical to the kids is Moon Walks. I want to write a whole post about this. Twice a summer I get up at the unkind hour of five o’clock, grumbling in my head the whole while about how crazy this idea is, wake up ONE child, and take a special walk with that child as the sun rises. We live in the city, so we just walk to Quik Trip ( a gas station near us), but we walk hand in hand looking at the stars and moon, talking and listening, and then hear the “first birds of the morning” begin to sing. Sometimes we see ducks, geese, or rabbits. I try to ask my children heart questions and just connect with them. We then get juice and donuts (those nasty packaged ones that I think are disgusting but they think are the hugest treat ever) and walk home. This is honestly one of the things they remember and talk about and we should do it more but I hate getting up that early! I’m trying to rope my husband into doing it to double our moon walks without further encroaching on my sleep time.
Another related special time we do doesn’t have a name, but it’s Sit Up on The Fort, Snuggle In a Sleeping Bag, and Watch The Sun Come Up Time with Mom. Again, this involves getting up early (maybe that’s the appeal to them? I mean they are virtually never up when it’s still dark outside, and certainly not sitting outside on the fort). For some crazy reason we did this when it was freezing, thus the sleeping bag part. Anyway, my kids just shine with joy being there with me all alone and having that amazing experience of watching the sun come up. (If you go camping, this probably would happen very naturally. Maybe some day we’ll go camping again.)
My whole point with that is just: make a special time with your child. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Just a few hours of your sleep and a quiet time (maybe outdoors) with them is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give.
That’s all the ideas I have for today. What are the most special or well-loved birthday gifts you give at your house?