This holiday season, mothers and fathers everywhere will wander through toy stores searching for items that will make their infant’s first Christmas a memorable occasion. But no matter what the parents purchase, the baby probably will spend more time playing with the box, paper, and ribbon in which it was wrapped. And no matter how enjoyable the events of the day may be, she will not remember anything specific for more than a few moments. So here are some ideas for transforming giving gifts to your infant from a potentially unproductive exercise into a truly meaningful experience with long-term dividends for everyone involved.
CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS. Rather than filling your child’s stocking to overflowing, consider contributing some playthings to a toy drive sponsored by a charitable organization. Although your baby may not profit directly or immediately, she eventually will be greatly enriched by participating in a family tradition that represents the true spirit of the season.
MONEY. Setting aside the money that otherwise would have been spent on additional toys makes a lot of sense. The future will contain numerous occasions when your child will be able to put that cash to excellent use. And every dollar invested now in a college fund, for instance, can grow into several dollars that may be desperately needed in a couple of decades.
COLLECTIBLES. Your infant will not be interested in starting a stamp or coin collection. But when she is older she may find this sort of hobby enthralling. And she probably will have something of an obsession with the year of her birth. So, for example, putting together a freshly-minted penny, nickel, dime, and quarter may not seem particularly special at the moment, but it may have enormous appeal for your child later on.
SCRAPBOOKS. Similarly, your child someday may be interested in putting together pictures, announcements, newspaper clippings, and other items representing her accomplishments and relationships. And the years before her own awareness kicked in will be especially intriguing. Instead of spending extra hours at the mall, you could do your child a valuable service by staying home and ensuring all articles of relevance are stored in a secure and orderly manner.
CLOTHES. While older children usually are put off by such practical presents, your infant will not be at all chagrined to receive a warm sweater or a wide brim hat. In fact, she probably will be thrilled to be the center of attention as everyone gathers around to take snapshots of her in the adorable new duds.
HOME SAFETY DEVICES. As unglamorous as it may seem, smoke detectors make a perfect gift for an infant. Bear in mind it will be several years before your child will be able to understand and follow instructions or otherwise have the ability to “take care of herself” in an emergency. Consequently, prevention is absolutely critical and greatly appreciated at this point.
AIRLINE TICKETS. It is unlikely your infant will develop a lasting relationship with any object you may buy. But she is capable of forming enduring emotional bonds with people. Therefore, setting up a trip to visit distant relatives (or using the tickets to bring them to her) will give your child the chance to establish and enhance important relationships that will be of immeasurable value to her for the rest of her life.
OPEN HOUSE. Likewise, a getting-to-know-you holiday party for your neighbors is an excellent notion. Today it is often difficult to develop the “sense of community” that fostered so much friendship, fun, and mutual support among young families in previous generations. Again, your baby ultimately will not derive nearly as much enjoyment from extraneous materials as she will from the human relationships that are forged over egg nog and cookies.
GET-AWAY WEEKEND. How about taking all the money you would have spent on superfluous toys and blowing it on a weekend package at a luxury hotel for you and your spouse? Sounds incredibly selfish, doesn’t it? On the contrary. Happy people make better parents, and the benefits of one get-away weekend can last all year long. So go ahead. Your baby may miss you while you’re gone, but she will receive a magnificent gift when you get back.
ROMP N’ ROLL CLASS. There is no toy that can compete with a Romp n’ Roll class when it comes to fun, fascination, and developmental value. And while even the most appealing and appropriate item eventually will end up in a closet collecting dust, the benefits of a Romp n’ Roll class will last a lifetime.