For the first year of our daughter’s life, we were one of those homes that had a carefully selected, thoughtfully chosen group of toys that our daughter played with. They were rotated regularly and all fitted into a small, cane basket that sat proudly in the corner of the lounge.
We would smugly watch her, nodding knowingly as she navigated her way through the Montessori inspired puzzles with effortless ease. We were in control.
Then her first birthday happened. We, of course, invited everyone that had helped us make it through the first year.(i.e. – everyone ). After all – this was a monumental occasion. We had made it through her first year., I won’t say unscathed, but we had made it through.
I remember standing at the apex of our L-shaped house on the day of her party and marvelling at the sheer Tardis like nature of our home, wondering how on earth that volume of people could fit in such a small space. I was overwhelmed that everyone we had invited had come to celebrate with us, and was stupidly shocked that people brought presents. I had overlooked that birthdays equal present.
And that was the end of that small cane basket in the corner of the lounge. The toys, books, and paraphernalia just multiplied from then on.
Then our second child was born and all bets were off.
In the intervening years we have done our best to control the sheer volume of things the children accumulate but what has not changed is the toys and books that are most loved are those that were given because they meant something to the giver or because they were a replica of something the givers family have loved, or played with.
This has implored us to do the same.
Being thoughtful about the presents we choose to give others has become important. Things our children have loved, would love or have made are how we roll.
Recently some of our favourite people have had birthdays which gave us the opportunity to put this in action.
Our first wee friend was turning two and was the youngest of three boys.
When our youngest was two, colouring in was one of her favourite things to do and one of the best most used gifts she received were thick crayons that she could hold (and not snap)
Along those lines, we decided to make robust crayons using broken crayon we had, moulds from a previous craft, and a heat gun.
As the moulds were meltable plastic (they were from a ‘make your own magnets’ kit the children had received as a gift, perfect for making the magnets but not a match for the heat gun) we melted the crayons down in a washed can we had.
They dried quickly and within an afternoon we had a unique gift for our wee mate.
We live an hour away from the city so where ever we take the children, it is usually a long drive. Our car is constantly filled with colouring books, puppets, dolls and the like, crammed into colourful bags, to keep them entertained.
The next two birthdays we went to we made “travel bags’ for the girls. Filled with colouring pencils, wooden dolls and notebooks, they are intended to be a ‘grab and go’ bag to make life easier moving with little people.
Both bags were customised to the child and both contained activities our children thought their friends would like.
One bag we customised by adding fabric appliqués and the second I made using an old skirt I had.
Both projects were fun to make, and the finished products were a joy to give.