Kids often have so many possessions that gifts of toys and things, no matter how expensive and frequently requested, may not be all that special or long remembered. A more valuable and lasting gift is one that introduces a child to the arts, history or a grown-up experience. Making a date to go to a science museum, a play or a ‘high tea’ are great gifts that can be presented with a special card, certificate, or small token gift. Most kids will remember these gifts of time together for years to come.
12 suggestions for “time-together” gifts for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or birthdays:
The Gift of Reading (for 4- to 6-year-olds)
Make a plan to go to the public library to get a library card. Call your local library to find out at what age children can get cards. Follow up this gift with the promise regular visits to the library, and visits to story hours. Present a handmade certificate announcing the gift and a special time to go to the library with you to get the card. (More: Build a Home Library and The 100 Best Children's Books
The Gift of Travel and Adventure (for 3- to 9-year-olds)
You don’t have to travel the world to have an adventure. a ride on a boat, train or bus. Look for ferry rides or places where you can rent a rowboat in your area. Be sure the trips are safe for whatever age the child is and remember to bring along life jackets for both kids and adults.
For train or bus trips, take her on a ride to the next county or across town. Choose a less-busy time of the day so you’ll have plenty of time and space to look out the window and maybe even talk to the driver. The gift is the journey, not the destination. Combine the trip with lunch or an ice-cream cone at your destination, if you desire. When giving the gift, you can present a certificate for the ride or a brochure about the place, tied with a ribbon. (More: Traveling with Grandchildren)
The Gift of the Natural World (for 5- to 12-year-olds)
Take a trip to a natural history or science museum, or a nature park. Don’t worry if the child hasn’t yet become dinosaur-crazed, or insect-mad -- he may not know he’s interested until he sees what these museums have to offer. If you can afford it, give a year’s membership to the museum with a plan to visit the museum two or three times.
The Gift of Music (for any age)
Even babies can be introduced gently into our tradition and culture through exposure to good music. Play classical music during quiet time or playtime, or even at a low level during naptime. Buy the child, whatever her age, a cassette or CD of a classical piece, and listen to it with her.
Try Mozart, Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff. There’s no need to tell children who the composer is, or to point out the music’s finer points. Playing music often can introduce them to this pleasure, practically by osmosis. A recording of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite is appropriate at Christmas, and Peter and the Wolf introduces kids to the various instruments in an orchestra. (More: We Always Remember What We Hear as Kids - NAPPA Music Judge John Woods thoughts on choosing music for our kids.
The Gift of Live Performances (for 5- to 20-year-olds)
Introduce live theater or music with the gift of tickets to a concert or play. There are plenty of concerts and plays produced just for children (not to mention the puppet shows, magic shows, storytelling and more for toddlers and preschoolers). Include an after-performance ice-cream sundae or cup of cocoa is a good idea, because talking about the performance with the child is an important part of the gift.
The Gift of History (for 6- to 16-year-olds)
Every area of the country has something nearby that figures in local or national history. A trip to a nearby historical place gives a child a look at what happened or how people lived in your area before she was born. Giving her a book on the event or place before the trip is a good idea.
The Gift of Art (for 8- to 18-year-olds)
Take a trip to an art museum, exhibit, or gallery. Try not to be too ambitious with this gift, since even adults are known to get “art fatigue.” Make an after-exhibit snack or visit to the museum gift shop a part of this gift. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about the particular artist. If the exhibit sounds interesting or someone has recommended it, go and learn together. (More: Introducing Young Children to Art)
The Gift of Elegance (for 8- to 13-year-olds)
Invite a child to a formal tea. Part of the specialness is to be treated as a grown-up. Many hotels in larege cities offer afternoon tean but if nothing like this is available in your area (or it’s not in your budget), plan and serve your own special tea party.
The Gift of Tradition (for all ages)
You probably already have some family traditions. Why not start traditions that mark milestones in a child’s life and that he can look forward to? The best traditions are the ones that your kids will never outgrow. Many families make an annual holiday trip to an outdoor tree lighting, or a performance of The Nutcracker.
The Gift of Service (for all ages)
Even young children can get into the spirit of helping out at a soup kitchen or church fair, or packing up their unused toys and books to take to a charitable organization. They also can visit hospitals or nursing homes with you. To really make an impression on children, this activity should be a regular activity - once a month on the same day, for example. Showing children that giving of themselves not only does good in the world, but feels good to them, is a valuable lesson. If you do this activity with them, they will see that it is important to you, too. (More: Kids & Volunteering: Getting Started)
The Gift of Fun (for all ages)
Although fun gifts can be educational, they’re not the same as introducing a child to culture and history. Tickets to the circus, an ice show or ball game are all fun ideas. This is a great annual gift for a special child in your life.
The Gift of You (for all ages)
This gift is best presented as coupons for special times reserved for you and a child: an hour or two of reading aloud, baking cookies, learning the basics of sewing, making paper dolls, repairing a bicycle or hitting a baseball. Fit the activity to the age and interests of the child, and remember that a big part of the gift is your company. It’s the attention that she’ll remember the most.
Visit our local sites to find out more about story hours, museums, and holiday events in your area. More gifts from the heart:
Marilyn Jackson is a free-lance writer and journalism instructor living in Belmont, MA. From United Parenting Publications.