It’s always interesting to see which gifts my kids request for Chanukah, which gifts they end up receiving and then which gifts they end up actually using and enjoying. I tend to organize gifts into a few categories. There are gifts they need, gifts they want, gifts they didn’t know they wanted, but end up loving, and gifts that make things easier for ME.
The gifts I give them usually fall under the first and last categories. These are the clothes, pajamas, and new lunch boxes. I also bought the girls lounge pillows for watching tv, because I was sick of them fighting over my breastfeeding pillow. Even though these were things that the kids didn’t ask for, they all loved them. Win-win.
An extravagant gift that was requested was an American Girl doll by my five-year-old daughter. She wanted one very badly (Caroline, to be specific). So much so, that when the relative that had said she would buy one for her did not follow through, a different set of relatives knew how disappointed my daughter would be and ordered one on rush delivery. Thank God there are eight days of Chanukah! My daughter was thrilled when she received the doll, and does play with her every day, but I think it’s more of the idea of collecting the doll than the doll itself that is special to her. She spends a good amount of time looking at the catalogs and talking about each American Girl and her story. If those catalogs never came in the mail, I don’t think we would be in possession of Caroline. To even the score, these relatives also got my three-year-old a doll too; a large Cinderella doll that I’m sure cost a fraction of what Caroline cost. My three-year-old was just as thrilled.
Another semi-extravagant gift that was requested (by me) was Magna Tiles. To make it less extravagant, I only asked for the 32-piece set. It was given to all three of my kids to share, and they all enjoy playing with them almost every day. They play without my help and really use their spatial intelligence, fine motor skills, and creativity. I love love love Magna Tiles. Maybe we will go for the 100-piece set one day.
My fourteen-month-old son was given a huge set of wooden train pieces. He loves playing with the little trains and trucks, and his sisters love building elaborate tracks and towns. This was a great gift that all three kids will enjoy for a long time.
Sometimes the best gifts are the least expensive. My three-year-old’s favorite gift was a $3 set of plush cupcakes I found in the bargain bin at Target. My girls also loved all of the stickers and activity books they were given. I love how they are occupied for large amounts of time without intervention from me with those books and stickers!
Something they did not receive this year, but did receive a lot of in years past is technology toys in the form of Leapsters, Leap pads, tag readers, and other such products. While they are great products, and my kids did enjoy playing with them for a time, they prefer to borrow my iPad and use a plethora of free apps. They can watch shows, listen to music, practice math and reading, and play games. Just as they would with all of those kid-geared gadgets, but by using a piece of technology we already own. And by doing so, they are familiarizing themselves with how to use a piece of technology that is common to most of the general population today. I would advise parents against buying any of the Leapster and other similar products. They just aren’t necessary. If you don’t already own one, buy an affordable tablet and teach your children how to use it.
Lest we forget that giving is more important than receiving, I let my girls (ages five and three) participate in their school’s Dreidel Shop, which was both clever and adorable. The school sent home forms for each child asking who the child would be shopping for (gender, age, and relationship to child), and asking for $4 per gift. The profits were split between the school and a local charity. When I brought the girls to the Dreidel Shop, I was told to wait outside while a personal shopper assisted them in choosing their gifts, which were pre-wrapped. It was incredibly well organized. The girls had so much fun, and felt so good about being able to give each other, their little brother, their babysitter, and their father and I gifts of their choosing.
And as always, we try to focus more on the actual meaning of Chanukah, and less on the presents. If you ask my kids what they love about Chanukah they will first talk about being together with extended family, lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and eating yummy food before mentioning the presents!