May 2017

So little ones love their little things, there’s no doubt about it …and their expectations are formed by their experiences of being given little (and sometimes not so little) gifts when they go to parties. The ‘party bag’ is a thing, a big thing, and it’s really difficult to break away from because no-one wants to make a child cry, even when we know that they really don’t need any more things.

Providing small gifts for a perhaps large number of children for most people means that the gifts have to be cheap, and that leads us directly to throw-away plastic – and a sugar fix. Over a good few years now of working in the space between, a) trying to keep the children broadly happy, given their expectations and experiences, and b) trying to avoid contributing to just massive amounts of waste, I’ve arrived at a handful of criteria for semi-ethical but realistic and not too exacting party bags or gifts:

  • does the child have to create something?
  • is there some connection to nature?
  • is it remade?
  • even if cheap (and of unknown ethics in terms of production), will the item last and actually be played with?

If the item satisfies one of these, or more, then it goes in. It’s imperfect, and it doesn’t break at all with social convention because I think that’s only something that you can do collectively or with the understanding of older children – and you do want their birthdays to be nice – so it’s a better than nothing/trying my best without being too dogmatic deal in sustainability terms.

Here are some of the things that I’ve tried or seen others try:

  • bird feeder kit with pine cone, string, seed and instructions
  • bulbs to plant
  • pavement chalk
  • origami rabbits made from old books (any animal?)
  • LED tea light and pyramid lantern kit to make up (see this historical post for a pic)
  • a transparent plastic (I know!) bauble, to find a natural world treasure to put inside
  • a juggling scarf (they come in multi-packs and are one of the most consistently played with, appealing across ages and open-ended toys in our house)
  • willow crowns (been meaning to do the star wands too – see The Stick Book which is a wonderful)
  • wooden castanets (anything that makes music?)
  • pond dipping kit with net, tray, credit card style magnifying ‘glass’, and laminated ID sheet
  • pixie wand kit with a bangle and long ribbons to loop and attach (see this post for a pic, very pretty in the wind)
  • beanbag or oaty/lavendar bag to make up (young children love scooping in the rice or beans through the hole)
  • books, pads and colouring pens or pencils are always nice
  • my favourite, poo, yep poo, coprolite (dinosaur poo) from the fossil shop (see the fabulous Mr Woods)
  • latest, were L’s handmade beach treasure necklaces (see pics) where he learned to do some basic wire-wrapping and use pliers, definitely one for the child who likes to work carefully with his or her hands (as always u-tube is teacher)

I would love to hear thoughts about party excess and just good ideas for wee gifts so please do comment below! x