In my life I can honestly say that the giving and receiving of gifts has got completely out of hand. For some months of the year I spend literally hours choosing, buying and wrapping gifts – Christmas is obviously one such time, as is April/May where I seem to have a huge cluster of family and friends’ birthdays. Unfortunately I have to admit that in most cases choosing and buying gifts is a ‘tick box exercise’, in that I work out how much I should be spending and pretty much buy the first appropriate thing in my price range that I come across. This is simply an issue of time – I do not have enough spare to carefully research the gift that might genuinely enhance the recipient’s life. I like to think most people are happy with their gift but, as in most of the topics I have covered so far in Meaner Greener Me, I admit, I could do better.
So with my blogging aims in mind of ethical consumption and responsible waste disposal, I thought I’d go back to basics for some of the gifts I’ve recently given. What I really wanted to do was choose something appropriate, personal and source it ethically. I wanted gifts that actually showed we cared and that wouldn’t end up in the charity shop or bin.
The three most recent gifts I’ve given have been on behalf of my children so I wanted to involve them - teaching them about showing appreciation for someone as well as the pleasure they can get from giving. They have already worked out that there is a pleasure in receiving!
The first gift was for the teacher of a music class they have attended since they were babies – she was leaving and my children adore her. I think on such an occasion I’d probably buy a card and a small box of sweets worth £5 – £10.
I got the children to make cards from our craft box. I then decided to make a ‘star jar’ which was an amalgamation of a few ideas I’d seen around Christmas time in magazines.
We had a spare glass Kilner-type jar (a reasonably eco-friendly material), then I raided the craft box and found some sparkly stars which were Christmas tree decorations. I got some wrapping ribbon and some star stickers from Hobbycraft. My eldest child made some marshmallow cakes.
Here is the finished result.
It’s really not professional but we enjoyed making it and hopefully she isn’t reading this and wishing we’d gone for the shop-bought sweets…
When Father’s Day came around, we had to find a gift for the grandfather who has everything. Normally I would spend around £15 on such a present but I have been finding it increasingly difficult with each birthday and Christmas to find something that is special and that he couldn’t just have bought for himself.
This is a grandpa who has embraced his Grandparent role – he notices every little thing the children do and his pride and love for them is obvious to all. For something special, I felt I had to get the kids involved so I got them into the kitchen for some baking which they love. We made banana bread from this very manageable recipe and I wrapped it in foil which they helped to decorate with hearts made from scrap paper.
Not £15 worth of present as usual but we had a happy grandpa and proud kids at the end of the exercise (plus we managed to use some organic ingredients and most of the waste that resulted from the process was recyclable).
Finally we had to make an end of term present for the nursery staff. I feel very strongly about staff presents on two counts:
• I like to show the people who have helped look after my child our appreciation
• I absolutely believe the end of term presents should be about saying thanks and not competing with other parents on the amount spent.
On a roll (and perhaps running low on inspiration) we got into the kitchen again and made some fairy cakes for the staff coffee break. I wrote a thank you note for the bottom of the box we gift wrapped (badly – I am not crafty in any way!) and my wee one decorated it with stickers.
I gave them a print out of a small donation that we had made to a children’s charity as well as some pens that my kids had chosen for the staff room. Again minimal unrecyclable waste was created, although admittedly there was single use plastic in the pens – it was June though (not Plastic Free July)!
I’m not sure how easily ‘thoughtful’ gifting comes to me – I like a quick and easy solution and although I am doing more in the kitchen, I’m definitely not a natural baker. I am without defence, rubbish at craft… With my career on hold however, as a stay at home parent whose main priority is to look after small children, making things and thinking up present ideas is a great activity for them. My kids love to be involved in the planning, the creating and the giving of gifts so I think we’ll try and put more thought into our presents where time allows.
I do reserve the right to cheat every now and again though and grab the first thing that comes to hand in Toys R Us as long as it’s not triple wrapped in crap that’s destined for landfill…