That's my adorable 7-year-old niece, modeling the hat we gave her, and her new cat from Santa.
When I started on The Compact, I was most nervous about what I would do for gifts. I was sure I could go without new stuff, but didn't want to be ungenerous with friends and family. Well, I had no problem with that this holiday season. Everyone seemed to enjoy their handmade, consumable, and used gifts.
That was especially true for our niece and nephew. She's 7 and he's 11, and the past few years we've loaded them down with gifts because my husband and I had both had done well financially. But sadly, I can't remember much of what we gave them. Tellingly, I can only recall a shirt for her with an embroidered butterfly on it that I found at a kid's secondhand shop.
We were a little worried about how they would react to this year's more modest, Compact-y gifts. This is what we sent:
For the 7-year-old girl, the hat was a regift. My friend knitted it for me a few years ago but it had always been too small and I thought it would look cute on my niece, which it does. She also got a bracelet with wooden beads that I made for her, a "like-new" used copy of "Little House in the Big Woods," and a DVD of "Sleeping Beauty," which I received as a work freebie.
For the 11-year-old boy, my husband found a super-cool African mask on ebay after our nephew had admired my husband's collection, and I gave him a "like-new" used copy of a book about race car drivers (his passion) and a handmade bag filled with foreign coins from our travels because he's a collector. My friend Tammy from The Frugal Musician made the cute "Robin Hood style" drawstring bag for me.
Their reactions to these almost quaint gifts? According to their mother, they loved them. She wrote that "in particular, the beanie and the booty bag with coins were winners." Ha! A handmade bag filled with old coins and a knitted hat!
He also loved his mask and she was very excited that I'd made the bracelet and seemed in awe when I told her my friend made the hat. She also said she'd been wanting to read that book but that it was always checked out at the library. How it warms my heart that little girls are still reading Laura Ingalls Wilder.
So do kids really expect expensive state-of-the-art gifts? I don't think so. Maybe it depends on how they're raised and where they go to school, but I think that kids still love old-fashioned toys like Legos, and thank goodness they still like books. I'm not a parent, so I won't go too far out on a limb here, but I think their attitudes about gifts and "stuff" are formed partly by our attitudes.
Sure, kids love video games and wii, just like we love our computers, ipods, and iphones. But they don't need or even want every new bauble that comes along if we show them there are other ways to spend their time and other things to enjoy.
The lesson? You don't need to have deep pockets to make children happy. Isn't that great news? Please share some of your favorite Compact-y or frugal children's gifts in the Comments section.