I am reflecting on the nature of gifts.
I favor practical gifts, both for myself and others. Give me something I can use and I am happy. Children generally do not favor practical gifts.
My theory about children’s negative view of “needed” items: they view “needed” items as things they receive outside of gift giving, and therefore feel they have been cheated out of a “real” gift.
On the other hand, as adults, we buy our own needed items and it can be a bothersome errand. As I do most of the shopping for the family, I view a practical gift as a time saver (no shopping!) and money saver (I don’t need to buy it myself), plus a space saver (it will very likely already have a place in the home, especially if it is replacing an old item of the same type). That is a lot of saving! What could be better?
When it comes to children’s gifts on a budget, need can intersect with fun if one thinks creatively.
For example, if my kids need shirts because they grow like weeds, I give them gifts of shirts representing their special interests (Star Wars, for example) and these shirts become favorite shirts instead of rejected “needed” items.
Some of my favorite practical gifts I have received in my life include: soft socks for sleeping in, moisturizing cream and bath products, a GPS, cookware and recipes, blankets and bed sheets, Christmas tree ornaments, a CD of “calming” music, storage containers, a leather change purse, hand knit scarves and gloves and hats, and baskets with favorite food items.
I recently received a creative “family” gift from my sister-in-law: a “movie night” kit, with a movie rental card, popcorn, soda, candy and so on. Great idea, right?
I recently read about some special quilts given by a widowed father to his daughters, crafted from portions of selected clothing belonging to their late mother, so that they may feel close to her and remember her every time they use them. Sentimental and practical all at once.
My best gift giving advice: think of what will be meaningful and useful to the recipient. Don’t try to impress. Small and sincere does the job. We can all tell the difference between a gift that expresses the care of the giver and a gift that expresses, “Look at this flashy item I found on sale!”