Meaningful gifts for children

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How can something be meaningful in a world where we have so much? With careful observation and conscious consideration, I believe anyone can have the opportunity to be impacted by meaningful gifts. My children and I were blessed by such an experience one winter. As a single mom who was also attending school, I was struggling to make ends meet. I remember the fear I felt as the seasons began to change and the holidays were approaching. After observing their lack of winter gear in snowy Utah, a woman in our neighborhood bought my children winter coats. Through her observation, she was able to give an impactful gift that not only made a difference to my children, but also to me. Her thoughtful gift made a life-long impression.

While every gift may not have the same impact as my neighbor’s did, I believe that well thought-out gifts do have the potential to have a lasting impact. Thoughtful gifts can help to create treasured memories, build connections, or foster a child’s confidence. In spite of this, gift-giving for children can, at times, be challenging for both givers and receivers. We want to share some insights that others use as guidelines to help as you thoughtfully consider gifts for the loved ones in your life.

Giving meaningful gifts

Tangible and intangible gifts can both bring value to the recipient, be tailored to interests and needs, and make the recipient feel seen. Meaningful gifts can have a lasting impact for the giver, receiver, and even the parent of a child who receives such a gift . As you consider a gift for a child, @pattyrosemc suggested to “ask, how will this spark [the] baby’s imagination - if you can’t think of anything, buy something else.”

We gathered insights on gift ideas that foster growth and development for children from our Instagram community. When asked, 79% of respondents said they prefer experiences over toys. Experiences can be as simple as the gift of time and memories together, such as a camping trip. Other experiences can be combined with tangible gifts like a quilt that is used for storytime, a notebook with a letter to the recipient, or a stuffed animal to remind of a zoo experience together.

Some of the experience gift suggestions were:
    • Zoo memberships
    • Tickets to places like an aquarium or museum
    • An art or science subscription box
    • Nature observation items
    • Child-sized kitchen tools and a set aside time to cook together
    • A kite and a trip to the park
    • A musical instrument and a music class
The other 21% said they appreciate tangible items that foster growth and development. @nelsonninjas recommended that people “ask the parents! Nobody wants stuff they don’t need!” When it comes to toys or tangible items, melllellla said "I try to focus on minimalism and celebrate by giving one or two really meaningful, thoughtful, long-lasting items instead of a large number of poor quality gifts." These tangible items can bring a great opportunity for development or learning experiences for children.

Some suggestions were:
    • Wooden blocks
    • Books
    • Art related items (washable paints, dot markers, construction paper, stickers, etc)
    • Age-appropriate puzzles
    • A growth chart to track them as they get older
    • Magnets (tiles, letters, numbers, etc)
    • Balls
    • Animal figures


Requesting gifts that align with the way you want to parent

When our Instagram community was asked, 93% of respondents shared that their child had received a gift that didn’t align with the way they wanted to parent. It can be difficult as birthdays and holidays approach to know how to have a conversation about gifts with your loved ones who may get a gift for your child.

It is natural for parents, grandparents, and family friends to want what is best for a child, and that conscious concern extends to gifts for the child. Despite their united intentions, loved ones sometimes don’t see eye-to-eye on what makes something the ‘best’ for a child. With these differing opinions, how do you communicate prioritizing a child’s development when special days or holidays are coming up? While I am always grateful for the thought behind gifts for my children and the investment in their celebration or holiday, I also don’t want people spending money on something that isn’t a good fit for our home. Have you ever felt this way?

How to have the conversation with friends and family

When it comes to having a productive conversation while also respecting feelings, there are a couple different ways to approach it. Here's what our followers had to say about how they communicate with those close to them about gifts:

@xamybradshaw approaches the conversation by saying: “as parents, we aren’t a fan of traditional plastic toys…we prefer__ because __”.

Giving insight on your ‘why’ can be a helpful way to have the conversation. By giving the reason behind your gift preferences, you can help others understand more about your parenting methodology. Helping loved ones understand methodology or principles can help lay the groundwork for future experiences.

@kascondra mentioned telling people ‘If you need inspiration...’ and then would send over a wishlist that she prepared.

This can be helpful as it takes the pressure off the purchaser, and the receiver knows that items in the home will align with what is wanted in the home.

@anyaruthmckenzie and @nylex1 mentioned times that they have received gifts that they wouldn’t have preferred but they’ve been able to make them special toys that come out when grandparents are over or for long car rides.

This can give the toy a purpose while making it not accessible all the time. By making it a special toy saved for special times, you can also make a strong connection between the gift and the giver.

Large item group gifts

Another way to communicate about items that you feel will be beneficial for your child is to suggest a group gift. Sometimes desired items can come with a higher cost than people would be willing to spend individually. One suggestion is to invite your loved ones to get your child a group gift.

Lian shared her insights on group gifts and how she has tackled them. She shared suggestions such as emailing everyone involved, sending a link of the desired present, sharing about the cost, and asking contributors to gift whatever amount they feel comfortable with. Afterwards she suggests sending pictures of the child opening and playing with the gift and with a “personalized video thank you from [the] child to them.” I have sent pictures or FaceTimed to share my child enjoying a gift. Especially when the giver lives long-distance, I have seen this bring a greater depth into the joy of gift-giving.

Sprout gifts

Lian also mentioned a memorable gift was her son’s "learning tower -- he's now able to help with baking and cooking and he's gotten very good at chopping and mixing and mashing"

@samanthajhendrian mentioned how they avoided grandparents ‘spoiling’ their little one for their first birthday, by setting up a group gift with everyone pitching in on a Nugget.

The top 3 most giftable Sprout items suggestions were:

The Sous-Chef Toddler Tower
Lexico Book Display Shelf
Weaning Chair & Table Set


Book Display Shelf in bedroom 

Weaning Chair & Table Set at different heights

However you choose to communicate about presents with your loved ones, you can take the opportunity to teach gratitude to your child for people’s gifts. Reminding your child who gifted them a specific pair of pajamas or a book can help those items become special to your little one. When used, your child can mentally link the item to the gift-giver and make it more meaningful.

Whether tangible or intangible, giving a gift to a child can show that you support and care for them. By thinking about what gift would make a great impact on that unique child, you can choose a meaningful gift that is tailored to their needs and can provide lasting benefits.

Is there a way you’ve found success when communicating about gifts with loved ones? Or is there a gift that you’ve given or received that you feel fosters growth or development? Share below!

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