Giving Resilience for Christmas

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Fri, Nov 29, 2013 - 9:08am

As older, hopefully wiser people, I thought we'd want to talk about how to gift the younger people on our gift lists something they could use, instead of something consumer-useless (but heavily advertised and therefore what they might want.)

For me, I like to get younger people things that reinforce values like hard work, logical thinking, and interests that might turn into careers or hobbies that will teach them skills. Here is some of what has worked for me in the past, but I am now dealing with married children and grandchildren, so ideas about other modern alternatives would be welcome.

  1. Newborns. Yes, you can also knit or crochet a blanket, but I've started giving cloth diapers. in the interest of being "green" the mom's on my list love these. I learned that no one much makes diaper pins anymore, so you are a hero if you include those.  Nursing mothers seem to love getting breast pumps, too.
  2. Toddlers & Preschoolers : Duplo-type blocks or other toys that foster brain growth, or anything that helps clothe them sturdily. We made a set of blocks out of cut up 2 x 4s with sanded edges: they were not brightly colored, but they were the "best set of blocks on the block." A hand-sewn drawstring bag to gift and store them in was much appreciated.
  3. Elementary School Age. Books, outdoor toys, and Legos. Every time they wanted a toy they saw advertised, I told my kids to get the Legos and go build one. Sports gear--like hockey sticks cut down to their size and carved with their names, or water guns and water balloons--get them outside. Camping gear like a pup tent and their very own sleeping bags or compass and orienteering gear got them away from the TV.
  4. Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers. Help with pursuing hobbies that might turn into careers. If you kid wants an inexpensive microscope it might lead to a career in medicine or science, so why not? Memberships to museums and zoos give the gift of education.
  5. Young Adults: I tried giving gift certificates for things like teaching them how to change their oil on their cars, or how to can things. Also books again. Ask them what they like to read.

What else to you all recommend? What's worked for you?

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Golden Age's picture
Golden Age
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Gift giving

I started giving gift cards last year and this is the method I will continue to use.  My first thought was, this is cold and uninterested.  But changed my opinion.  As a senior, and separated from much of my family, I cannot possible know what would suit a need.  A gift card let's them assume that responsibility and they can purchase what they want, when they want it.  One of my sons sends me a gift card to a restaurant chain and that restricts me to only using the card there when it is convenient.  So my suggestion is to give them a card that holds a sum of money, one they can use at their discretion.

Phaedrus the younger's picture
Phaedrus the younger
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1 oz Silver coins

Great ideas Wendy.   I've resurrected an old family tradition of giving 1 oz silver maple leafs for our Grandson.  Hopefully not only a keepsake but something of future value and a lesson in saving.

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Amanda Witman
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This comes up with every birthday and Christmas in my house

I always think about what will be useful and durable and practical, in addition to being "fun" and appreciated by the kids.

Over the years I've given my kids nice headlamps, flashlights, backpacks, new pillows, flannel sheets, jacknives, reading lamps.  They often get consumables in their stockings (writing implements, blank books, desk supplies, edibles).  As a family we've "received" (okay, at my whim) cast-iron waffle irons, a heavy-duty nutcracker, a "Galileo thermometer" for indoors, woodstove tools, an outdoor thermometer, stainless-steel water bottles.  Every year, we get a wall calendar and a puzzle that can be enjoyed by the family for days or weeks. 

I wish I could give them all very nice bikes, and hope to do that for one special birthday once they are at adult height.

More ideas:  musical instruments, books of tunes, sleds, skates, art supplies, good books that will be cherished...cast-iron dutch ovens and griddles and other items, sturdy household supplies like new towels...warm wool sweaters and socks, or knitting supplies and the promise of teaching...battery chargers and batteries...craft kits for making useful games and/or books of games or old-fashioned pastimes...juggling implements...anything that can be used to make homemade fun without electricity or electronics...

For babies and little kids, I like wooden rattles, wooden blocks, cloth dolls (like a "knotty" doll made of a washcloth, for teething), knit or felted booties.

Beautiful handmade things to inspire.

A craft kit for making "recycled" candles (= mold, wick, and instructions), or a soap-making kit that makes use of common ingredients.  What about an indoor tree, like a fig or citrus tree, depending on your location and their home's available sunlight?  Gardening tools, a seed catalog gift certificate for later in the winter? 

I also like Lehman's catalog for inspiration; a gift card there could be a great gift.

jtwalsh's picture
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Saving money without being Scrooge

                From my earliest memory (1956 or 57) my mother’s family comes together for the Christmas Eve Vigil celebrated by many Polish and Italian families.  After a huge dinner we would exchange gifts.  For many years every person gave a gift to every other person.  As we grew in number to over twenty-five people, the plies of gift boxes and the orgy of tearing off wrappings and opening items was incredible.  It became so chaotic that it was often difficult to tell who had given what to whom and who belonged to which gifts at the end of the night.

                With the onset of the latest recession in 2008, my eighty-five year old aunt, who is the matriarch, technically in control of family customs and celebrations, made a ruling about how Christmas Eve would be conducted.  She grew up the child of poor, immigrant, non-English speaking parents, with childhood memories of the deprivations of the Great Depression.  I think she had become appalled at the excesses of our celebration.  Using the reason that a number of family members were having hard times, she decreed that each person coming to dinner would bring one generic gift that could be received by a man or a woman.  It could cost no more than fifteen dollars.  The gift could be practical or it could be a joke gift.  It could be new or used, or homemade.  All packages would be put in a pile without a tag as to who brought the gift.  We then would do a Yankee swap.  Going from youngest to oldest each person would chose a package and open it front of everyone else.  They then had the option of keeping their gift or requiring someone else to “trade”.

                For the last five years the gifts have ranged from practical; like road emergency kits, home first aid kits, batteries, kitchen utensils, hand tools;  to spoiling gifts of movie tickets, restaurant gift cards, boxes of candy, coffee or tea; to outrageously funny and useless items.  Since everyone gets to watch each person, and has a chance to grab a gift from another person, the event quickly becomes fun and we are usually all laughing to the point of tears by the end of the process.  Instead of focusing on our own pile of stuff we are relating to and focusing on each other. The cost and stress of trying to find meaningful gifts for every person on Christmas Eve has evaporated.  We have been having fun in a way many of us have not shared together since we were children. I would not go back to the old system for a million dollars.

Joyous and peaceful holidays 


Eleanor Elena's picture
Eleanor Elena
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We can express our feelings

We can express our feelings with many ways like wishes,gifts,quorls,massages.massages is the one of them who tell us how to express our feelings and how to tell some one that we love is a event when we send christmas massages to tell and reminder the coming is a large collection of christmas massages to see click here

Thrivalista's picture
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For young adults

DS has a new love, who is a baker (among other things) and appreciates thrifty, homemade, and natural gifts (Yayy!). Its our first Christmas with her, so we're starting with lovelies that will introduce her to new ways of doing things. This year we're giving her an assortment of organic essential oils useful for cleaning, health and wellness, etc., and a pretty case to keep them all in.  Also homemade infused sugars (lavender, rose, lemon-vanilla) for her baking craft, packaged in attractive re-used jars.

So attractive, fragrant gifts that are also useful in practical ways.  They're not seeds or a rocket stove, but those are impractical for her current life. She's already got a BOB.

ElderFella's picture
ElderFella (not verified)
Curious and Sponge-Like

I'm brand new here. I haven't read the book or watched the video, but I "subscribe" because Chris' perspective is one I've been "hawking" for some time. [Not too many get it, though.] The first thing I did, after bookmarking the site, was to send a link to my son (aged 38)(joint custody of a toddler, a salesman living on the road too much) and his kid sister (age 36)(an elementary math teacher with two masters ) and her husband (a D-I-Y kind-of-guy who's flipped a house and taught her some skills, is employed as an environmental engineer, and has more skills than Carter has pills). They own an 8-acre piece of property in the rural woods, planted an orchard, raise chickens, will be gardening, etc., so I don't worry about them too much. They have two kids ages 6 & 4. His mom and dad live nearby and will be building on their property.  My son is another situation altogether.

I'm disabled, aged 65, somewhat ambulatory and sound of mind. I handle the shopping and cooking. My wife just retired (quit)  at the age of 63 (brutal commute, two-year stint fighting off cancer). She has not put in for Social Security yet.  She may have to go back to work. Right now, we are exploring what to do with her 401-K turned IRA. I've asked her to watch the video. I've subscribed to the newsletter. We've tried to find a way we can live on the same piece of land with my daughter but cost and zoning etc have prevented it. We are thinking we should sell the home in which we are "under water" slightly, write the check to get away from the burden and interest, and rent an apartment near them. To my way of thinking, if we can't find someone to join in with in converting one of the many old industrial buildings into a vertical farm, we should simply invest in them and their property, live nearby, help as we can, etc.  We're both formerly involved in high-end emergency medical stuff (she's a former trauma head nurse who joined an insurance company as a case manager and moved up the ladder).  have a degree in communications and political science. My expertise is in mass casualty and emergency incident management, and I developed a strong interest in performance psychology, empowerment, etc.  The kids were both elite athletes.  

What I've been working on is a variation of Fittt's "map/plan/allies" approach; I envision a family enterprise. So I have a lot of reading to do, and have to watch the videos. Lots to learn. Lots of work to be done.  But I suspect this is a place where I can find answers. 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Welcome to the site

Hello ElderFella! I'm so glad you joined us. I suspect this a place you will find answers, too. Many of us are in similar situations. I, too, quit a job with a two-hour commute, like your wife did. And we had to decide what to do with my 401K. If it's not covered in a WSID (What Should I Do?) just plug in a question to the in-site Google search tool.

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Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas to all ! Stay Happy.

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