Ready to rethink your xmas gift list?

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post covers some heretical ideas about gift giving around xmas time. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting, click hereOr for more about a Meaningful Christmas, have a look at a piece I wrote in November for the fab Families North West magazine here.

Read this sentence aloud
Please read slowly. “There is no such thing as a must have toy for Christmas.”

But there is a list of so-called “must have” toys for Christmas, according to Mumsnet’s top 10 info from the Toy Retailers Association.  Try not to be tempted.

Perhaps what worries me most about the top 10 is the extraordinary expense of these toys. It’s so hard to earn money at the moment, it seems crazy to spend on such sillyness. And where are the fair trade toys – what if some of these are actually made by children?

Other options
Gifts may be fun to wrap up, but I still think that being able to give children more time, or even just play with them, is the best present of all.

In early November I joined a radio show about preparing your family for a meaningful Christmas on Radio Verulam 92.6FM (presented by Friends of the Earth St Albans’ co-ordinator Amanda Yorwerth’s show Environment Matters) and found myself suggesting that three year olds and under really don’t need presents. You could just wrap up a cucumber with a few generous pieces of newspaper and your tot will probably adore unwrapping it. Then wrap it up again… I do hope the good citizens of St Albans didn’t choke on their tzsaiki.

One xmas my cash-starved daughters drew silly felt pen faces on their uncle’s log pile – a joke gift that he quite enjoyed.

Or you could try finding a practical gift for bigger kids – PJs, slippers, gloves, shoes, warm jumpers, wellies.

Or give cash
Do you remember that tremendous satisfaction counting up those cash gifts you slowly acquired from relatives over the year/s in a bid to reach a particular shopping target? It’s how I bought a Fleetwood Mac LP!

My 13 year old longs to have classy wellies or a pair of non school shoes – but the speed her feet are growing prevents me from feeling able to allow her to have yet more footwear. So she’s decided to save up. A fiver here and there would get most children the jeans, phone, iPod, game, book or clothing they have their heart set on.

There are lots more ideas in my book Homemade Kids – a whole chapter on gift giving!

Doggie Doo RRP £24

2. Fijit Friends RRP £54.99

3. Fireman Sam Pontypandy Rescue Set RRP £29.99

4. Kidizoom Twist RRP £49.99

5. LeapPad Explorer RRP £78.99

6. Let’s Rock Elmo RRP £69.99

7. Milky the Bunny RRP £59.99

8. Monster High Lagoona’s Hydration Station RRP £39.99

9. Moshling Tree House RRP £19.99

10. Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster RRP £44.99

Over to you
What are you going to give your kids or small relatives/friends? Can it be copied without a trip to a toy shop? Is going off-list a disaster in your family?

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6 Comments on “Ready to rethink your xmas gift list?”


  1. I must admit, I’m guilty of over-spending on my kids at Christmas; it’s the usual story of trying to relieve my guilt over not spending enough time with them! It’s so true what you say about spending time with them being the thing they mostly want. One gift idea for children is to make a little book of vouchers for them, things like ‘2 hours playing board games with Mum’, ‘1 hour at the park collecting leaves to make a picture’, ‘Permission for bedroom to not be tidied for a whole week’, ‘A cookie baking afternoon with Mum’ etc I’ve done this before for my children and they loved cashing in the vouchers!

    One funny story that my friend told me was that when her daughter was 6 years old, she received an obscene amount of presents that Christmas for some reason – every latest toy and gadget, and after she had opened everything up, she stood there looking bewildered at everything and finally said “Can I have a piece of paper and a crayon, I want to draw round my feet”. A good reminder that the simple things are usually the best!

  2. homemadekids Says:

    Vanessa: I like that voucher book idea. It’d be great for teens – and possibly even for my own mum! But your comment about the little girl wanting to draw around her feet makes me feel proper tearful, I do hope everyone learnt from the experience and next present giving was a bit less stressful. Nicola


    • You’re right actually, the feet story is quite sad, it’s a good one for me to think about when I’m Christmas shopping! The voucher book idea could also be something children give as presents, maybe to their grandparents, offering to do little jobs for them, or hugs and kisses, or anything really. I expect children would have fun thinking up what they could put on the vouchers.

      • Pete May Says:

        Genius Vanessa – my 10 year old might like to have a go doing this for her granny. Although I’m sorry to say her first suggestion was “how about a voucher for her to buy Moshling tree houses for me?” Luckily other suggestions were come over and stay whenever you like; help laying the table; help cleaning, feeding fish; making a pudding for her; making her dinner etc… Now time to retire to bed for a story! Nicola x

  3. a Says:

    I knew a family who always gave eachother tickets to events, concerts, plays, etc. When the kids got older, they would get two tickets, so they could choose a friend to come along.

    • nicola baird Says:

      Hi a – I think that is an inspired idea. It sounds expensive and a lot of forward planning, but such a lovely way to share experiences throughout the year. I’ve bought some tickets for King Lear in sep 2012 (already!), I think I might give them to my significant other. One present sorted, tnx.


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