All our celebrations happen to be smushed together in one part of the year. September is EldestGirl’s birthday, October is mine. November is YoungestGirl’s birthday, December is Christmas. TheBloke (TM) has his birthday in January, February is Valentine’s Day, then our wedding anniversary and Mothers’ Day are both in March. This year, all-gifted-out, we actually opted to skip both Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary. Meh, there’ll be another one next year. Probably.
Currently, we are in the Dry Spell of presents. This is actually quite good, as it lets me reflect on gifts that have been successful, and those which have been an absolute waste of money.
Links below are for your interest – in the interests of full disclosure, technically on the Amazon links I do make a small amount of money if anyone orders through them, but it hasn’t happened yet and I’m not holding my breath.
Last Christmas we tried to do a “no brand new plastic” rule. We broke this for just one small toy (EldestGirl asked Santa for Everest from Paw Patrol from Santa), but everything else plastic we bought was second hand.
Two of our biggest successes were the Paw Patrol Lookout Tower and the Paw Patroller, purchased for YoungestGirl’s birthday and Christmas, respectively, from local sellers. Each one cost about £10, and YoungestGirl wouldn’t notice (and wouldn’t care) that they weren’t new. The Paw Patroller came with almost all the pups, for an extra bonus.
She has played with these for literally hours. If I ever need to crack on with some work, all I have to say to her is, “Uh oh – the pups have a new mission; Rubble’s hurt his paw,” or some such similar unutterable guff, and that’s it. She’ll be whispering to herself whilst playing for up to an hour.
Buying stuff second hand is brilliant as a) no new plastic shit is going to landfill and b) if they don’t get much out of it, you can pass it on again. We will try and do the same this year.
I also buy quite a lot at charity shops. Both children have loved Orchard Games’ Shopping List and have probably played it for 20 hours each if you add it all together. I love it very slightly less. But it did only cost 75p, so I can’t complain too much.
About two years ago, EldestGirl was obsessed with these shitty things she’d seen advertised on TV – Bush Babies. They looked poorly-made and absolute shite, but she was desperate, desperate for Queen WankTufty or whatever she was called. Queen WankTufty cost at least £20 and had probably been assembled by a team of blind, badly-treated Liberian children.
Of course they were out of stock in the weeks running up to her birthday, so TheBloke (TM) left work early one day to drive to Argos in a town a good 45 minutes away in order to purchase one for her, to prevent the risk of her being disappointed on her birthday. Obviously and spitefully, they immediately came straight back into stock.
She adored it. She wanted more of them for Christmas. We bought her two more of them.
The worst thing about this is that we as parents can tell she will never bastarding play with them – she’s not that sort of child. YoungestGirl loves imaginary play, but EldestGirl just isn’t bothered – she would rather play a game, read a book or teach herself how to draw. But how do you explain to a six year-old that she’s not getting the toy she thinks she wants because you know better?
EldestGirl loves a magazine. I hate the plastic tat that comes on the front of it, and the fact that she might half-heartedly complete one activity, and then abandons the whole thing, thus chucking £5 down the drain.
For this Christmas we got her a subscription to National Geographic Kids. Not only does it arrive in the post each month without the plastic tat on the front, but she does actually read the articles, because she’s less distracted by the tat. The only drawback was when she saw a copy of the magazine on the shelf in W H Smith’s, she noticed it does indeed have the plastic tat if you buy it at the newsagents and she felt a bit cheated.
For me, I love the fact that she gets so excited every month when it arrives – and actually it wasn’t too pricey – I think we paid about £35 for 12 magazines, and it is a present that will last all year.
Too Much Stuff
Our house looks like Fisher-Price ran through it, broke a load of shit and then ran off, giggling. I am determined to bring fewer items of bulky, plastic rubbish into our home.
One of the presents we got for EldestGirl for her birthday was an animal experience. The girl loves meerkats (thankfully still loves meerkats, eight months later as we haven’t yet done the experience!), so in a few weeks, she will be going to spend half an hour in a meerkat enclosure where she will get to handle them up close and personal.
She’s the perfect age for this – a younger child would have been disappointed that her main present was in an envelope rather than a bulky toy with a bow on the top, but she has been able to look forward to this “when the weather is better” for months. I hope the reality lives up to the hype!
Be Careful What you Wish For
One of EldestGirl’s biggest Christmas successes was Monopoly Deal – a card game version of Monopoly, which takes much less time to play. It took a while to get her (and me!) up to speed with the rules, but it is actually good fun. The first few times.
She bloody loves it. She wants to play it all the time. YoungestGirl wants to join in. She’s much, much too young to understand the rules. She has tantrums. My back hurts from sitting on the floor. EldestGirl wants to play it every day, twice a day.
Readers, I hid the game.
Books, Books and More Books
Both children are bookworms. Again, charity shops form a large part of where we get our day-to-day books. Aside from this, Christmas and birthday hits have included box sets of Roald Dahl and Children’s Shakespeare (both massive wins for EldestGirl) and the Kipper books for YoungestGirl.
We tend to wait to make sure they like one of the books in the series (Matilda and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for EldestGirl; Kipper’s Snowy Day for YoungestGirl). The downside of this is that you end up with a duplicate if you buy a box set, but better that than buying a whole box set on a whim and finding out they don’t like it.
I remember being given a very generous £20 book token as a child (a fortune back in the 80s) and spunking it all on Chalet School books because I loved Malory Towers and someone had said it was similar. I hated those Chalet School books, and I can’t even think of them now without being cross with myself about how I wasted that book token.
Until they are about 5…
They are literally happy with anything. This year we got away with buying YoungestGirl stuff that she needed, as well as stuff that she wanted, because she has no perception of value. So she was exactly as excited about opening a brand new hairdryer and her own Tangle Teezer hairbrush (which she needed) as she was about getting a toy.
Exploit this. It doesn’t last long.