Skip the glut of gifts. Give the gift of child sponsorship, instead (okay, or “in addition to”). It’s easy and easy on the conscience, too.A lot (a lot!) of junk comes into our home. At some point, the earnest, natural wood, heirloom-quality, open-play toys that I favor lost out to the market-researched, test-marketed, proscriptive-play offerings from the toy-industrial complex that my 6-year-old favors. Forget marijuana as a gateway drug. I’d say Polly Pocket is a gateway to the crack that is Bratz, Barbie and their ilk. But I digress.
As I was saying, a lot of junk comes through our doors. Some of it gets cleaned off and sent on its way to donation bins in parking lots across the GTA, and some of just sort of disappears – under car seats, at school, in the playground and so on. Part of the problem is kids just engender a lot of waste, plus parents naturally have an instinct to show affection through gifts. (Hopefully, through hugs and play time and healthy meals and bedtime stories and investing in their RESPs, too.) But I think also in our culture, much as we pretend not to, we do monetenize, or put a price tag, on things like love. (“Does he love me enough to get me a one carat ring?”).
But one awesome thing I’ve discovered only recently is – and this bears with new research on the topic – donating it in honour of your kid is fun too, and gives you a high similar to a shopper’s high. I was trying to find a good gift for my daughter recently, when I came across the “birthday” feature at World Vision (worldvision.ca). After you click on “Sponsor a Child,” you can enter in a birthday. It pulls up matches of children around the world with the same birthday as yours, and you can select one to sponsor. Because Honduras is a country that we love visiting, I found a girl there to sponsor, who was born just one day after The Little Nutball. The perfect gift!
We can send cards and stickers to her (you’re not allowed to send toys b/c it could create jealousy) and while The Little Nutball wasn’t overly intrigued about the little girl who shares her birthday, this will probably change as she grows older and they exchange letters and pictures.
Did we still have to get The Little Nutball a landfill-destined present? I don’t even remember anymore, but probably yes.
But the really cool thing about Worldvision.ca is you can find gifts for any occasion, from ongoing child sponsorship ($35 per month) to one-off gifts like soccer balls ($30 for three), a goat ($100), Vitamin A tablets ($30), or educational access for a girl in China ($60).
If you start your birthday shopping by donating something in honour of your own child, BEFORE making your trip to Toys R Us or wherever, that mental calculator has already started crunching numbers and you’re less likely, I find, to go nuts on Mega Mallplex Barbie or whatever.