Friday, July 13, 2007

Day Nineteen - The Gifted Child

Rethinking the Gifts I Give

Note to Readers: OK, sorry yesterday's post was such a downer. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed with all the plastic and trash issues. I know this blog is supposed to be little daily tips, but sometimes reviewing the facts helps keep me motivated. Afterall , that's what prompted me to start this in the first place. I'm sure I'll post more on plastics, but today we'll get back to the tips. Thanks for letting me vent! Now back to our regularly scheduled program....

My son is four year olds and has recently started attending birthday parties for his friends. Before I "went green" I would usually head over to Target to pick up a Transformer, Child Golf Set, Webshooter or some other overpriced plastic toy, usually manufactured in China and shipped to the US. I then take it home and wrap it up in expensive, character-covered, one-time use paper and slap a plastic bow on top. Well all that is about to change.

Welcome to the era of "The Experience Gift" <ooooooohhhhhh>. That's right. No more crap that will be played with for a month and then lost, broken or not considered fun enough to play with anymore. From now on, these kids are getting an experience.

So for our upcoming party for Nicholas, I sat down and gave it some thought. Hmmmm, what would a 4 year old boy, totally into Spiderman, lasers and video games like? Tickets to the zoo? Nope. Time at the Batting Cages? Yes, but if he got hurt, I'd feel bad. Maybe an evening of pizza & tokens at Chuck E. Cheese? Absolutely! But I like his mom too much to do that to her. Then it hit me: Movies!

Nicholas had recently gone to the movies to see Spiderman 3 and his mom told me how he loved it and sat through the whole thing. I checked, and there are a couple little kid movies coming out in August that he might like. Also, our local theatre offers $1.00 kid movies during weekday mornings with $1.00 popcorns and sodas too. So I picked up $20 worth of "movie bucks" and grabbed a Movie Schedule there. Now for the presentation....

There's nothing a kid hates more than just getting a card with some paper in it for a gift. The concept of a "gift certificate" is kind of lost on them. So I went to Blockbuster and grabbed one of those big tubs of ready-to-nuke popcorn that look like movie theatre tubs (although if I was thinking, I would have asked for one at the theatre, bet if I explained what I was doing, they would have given it to me). Then, while I was grocery shopping, I found the big boxes of candy that you usually get at the theatre for -- get this -- $1.00 each! I then arranged the candy, tickets, schedule and birthday card in the bucket and voila! a cute little gift! All for $25, which is what I would have spent on a Spiderman toy, wrapping paper and card at Target.

The gift went over quite well and Nicholas even shared some of his candy with the other kids at the party. Hopefully he, his mom and his older brother will all enjoy the experience I gave him. I know I enjoyed putting it together -- much more so than I would have enjoyed wrapping up some plastic toy. So the next time you're gift-giving, see if you can give that someone special a "to-do" present, rather than a traditional gift.


The paper involved in all the movie bucks, schedule, and card are all recyclable. As are the cardboard boxes the candy all came in. The only thing I'm not sure about is the popcorn tub (although at our house, a cool tub like that is quickly converted into a magician's hat or container for Ethan's "collections"). The only bad thing in there was the plastic covering over the popcorn. Again, if I had it to do all over, I would have gotten just a regular popcorn tub at the movie theatre, which would have meant NO PLASTIC AT ALL.

Compare this nearly 100% recycable present with the average kid birthday gift: non-recyclable plastic, made in China and then packaged in more non-recyclable plastic (to be immediately tossed), shipped halfway across the world and wrapped in paper which, most likely, will not get recycled. That's a pretty good savings, my friend.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

It took a little more thought, but it was also lots of fun. If you need help with ideas, just do a google search for "gift experiences" to get the ideas flowing. For kids you can try the zoo, movies, local bounce places or playrooms, Blockbuster rentals, go-karts, mini-golf, ice skating, local events are safe ideas. For grown ups, maybe cooking lessons, restaurants, movies, skydiving, local attraction tickets (botanical gardens, historic stuff), spa time, etc. If you're buying for the whole family at Christmas, why not take all the money you'd blow on "stuff" and spend it on a cruise or visit to Disney or something? Whatever you do, just try to think outside the box (or plastic packaging). You'll have fun coming up with ideas and they'll have fun with the experience!

1 comment:

leslie said...

When you wrote this post, the whole lead paint on Chinese toys thing hadn't made the news yet, had it?
This should make you feel extra green, knowing you 'dodged a bullet', and urged others to do the same.
And extra extra points for jiggling people to be creative.