I know I spent some time this weekend thinking about holiday gifts for my family and friends. As an educator I am aware of the power of the toy industry and commercialism on our spending habits. A friend recently said that she avoided Black Friday sales after realizing that most of what she bought that day ended up in the yard sale pile at the end of the summer.
So what makes a good gift for young children? Sometimes it is not what is on the shelves (or online) at the major toy stores. Here are some ideas for saving money and giving gifts that spark creativity and thinking. Teachers can also think about these ideas for their dramatic play areas in the classroom or for community service projects to make for children in other settings.
Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment (TRUCE) has some great ideas for family fun at home or at school using easy to find materials. Ideas for forts, cardboard boxes, socks, playdough, etc. can be used as inspiration for a "kit" that you put together yourself. The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has a nice guide to commercial free holidays with ideas for "coupons" you can give. I know as a parent I like to receive coupons for extra dishwasher emptying, laundry folding, dog walking, car cleaning, etc. from my kids.
Assistant principal at the Capuano, Alli Franke, made this craft purse for her niece using a repurposed bag. Items like glue, tape, left over wrapping paper, stickers are easy to find at drugstores or Staples - the biggest expense was the zig-zag scissors and glitter pens. Dollar bins at places like Target or craft stores have inexpensive supplies you can add.
When my children were little they loved playing spy and superhero. We made them a spy/superhero kit (a shoebox covered with paper) with a small flashlight, magnifying glasses, safety goggles, sunglasses, a cape (piece of fabric or pillowcase), a thrift store baseball cap, old keys on a key chain, small notebook with a little pencil, carabiners that can hook onto belt loops to carry items - total cost usually around $10-15, sometimes less.
Think kitchen chef kit - whisk, bowl, little rolling pin, etc.
Think gardening - seeds, small pots, paint pens to decorate pots, soil, bulbs to force open during the winter, small trowel.
Instead of the toy store, think about the supermarket and hardware store as a place to shop!
Let us know if you have ideas we should add and I will put them up here and in the Family and Teacher pages above.
Science Kit at Home - ideas for making a home science kit.
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood - lot of good information here on how much advertising is directed at our children and the need for parent intervention, especially in talking to our children about toys that do more harm than good (think recent hubbub over the Barbie who tells us she needs help with technology from the boy doll).
Interesting piece, Hobbies in the Home on the toy industry and extolling the benefits of play and passing down one's interests to our children.