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Gifting Your Time is the Best Gift of All

Sometimes, the best gifts are not store bought.  They aren’t the things that you can specifically tell someone a model number of or the details from a box.  Sometimes, the best gift ideas are experiences, time with one another, family history shared, and you…just you.  And asking for such things is most appropriate for any gift giving occasion.

Take my friend Mary, for example.

She is the loving grandmother of 6 (soon to be 7) grandchildren and loves loves LOVES to help encourage that little spark of interest each of them has.  On one granddaughter’s wish lists this year was a book.  Mary was pretty certain that her granddaughter had already read this particular book, so she asked her about having it on her wish list.

“Oh!  I want you to read it, too, Grandma, so we can talk about it!”

I cannot begin to tell you the sparkle that came to Mary’s eyes when she told me about this special request.  This simple gift idea of special time with each other is not one that either of them will likely forget.

Making a wish list is much less about listing items you feel entitled to receive and much more about helping us all spend less time stressing over gifts we want to give each other, create less waste, spend less money, and gain more time for the things around the holidays that matter most: spending time and creating memories with our family and friends.  When you have the opportunity to have a wish list item combine with that family time and memories, you find even more magic in the season.

A recent New York Times column by columnist and author Mary Laura Philpott noted her personal “resistance to materialism” when creating wish lists for kids.  Creating wish lists provide us with a valuable teaching moment for our children as well as ourselves.  In a time where younger generations feel much entitlement, we are given a chance to teach just the opposite to our kids.

As a mom of two, I understand the struggle of teaching our kids the difference between giving others ideas of what they’re interested in and having the children feel that they are entitled to receive these things.  I emphasize that the items they add that can be bought are just ideas and encourage them to list other non-materialistic items as well, especially if it is something that they can share with another person.

Here are some of my favorite alternative wish list ideas:

Experiences:  Art classes or outings, bowling, mini golf outings, trips to the movies, special trips to the library or park.  All of these are made better if the gift giver plans to take part in these activities with your child.

Crafts & Hobbies:  My inner crocheter and knitter is standing up and giving this a big YES!!  Anything that encourages our children to be creative is always a winner with me.  And it’s another great opportunity for that gift giver to spend special time with your child.

Sharing Family Photos:  Is there a special event happening in your child’s life in the next year?  My son is going to make his First Communion this year and I’d love for any family members to share with him any photos or memories they have of this same event from their lives.

Favorite Recipes:  They could be old family favorites, ones that have been passed down through generations, or one you just like.  A special touch would be to hand write the recipe on a card or sheet of paper.  This gift is enhanced even more when you plan time to make the recipe with the child.  My Great-Grandma Lavalle wasn’t one to let us help her cook, but I will never forget when she showed me how to make her baked pasta with cauliflower.

Share Family Stories:  We take so much time to live in the here and the now that we don’t always take the time to honor those who came before us.  Share your family’s history with your little ones to help keep the history alive.  Write down stories.  Set aside time to sit and tell them stories or teach them things you learned how to do when you were a kid.  Take a day and show them where you grew up sharing some of your favorite memories from being their age.

Support for a Favorite Cause: This is a season of giving and that giving can also be received.  Whether it be for the less fortunate in your area, animals in need of a home, medical causes, or other causes close to your heart, receiving a gift where you spend time supporting your family’s favorite cause is a gift that gives tenfold.  It’s also a great opportunity to show your children how good it feels to give to others.

Babysitting Time:  Okay…so this one is a three-for-one gift.  For the kids, you’re dedicating to spend time with them in their home, making new memories.  For mom and dad, you’re giving them the precious gift of time to themselves for a date night or for them to do something fun and just be themselves.  And for yourself, you get to spend time with these little ones whose lives you light up as much as they light up yours.

The beauty of Giftster is that you can list all these things plus other material things to your wish list.  It is truly universal, an electronic version of your handwritten list made for easy sharing with those in your family.

While Ms. Philpott’s comment of “God forbid someone show you generosity you didn’t explicitly request” stung a bit, that’s not the spirit in which Giftster, in particular, was created.

For the busy moms and dads like me, it’s a central place to organize not only all the items most wished for or needed for my kids, but also help me budget my own gift giving for gifts that will be most useful to others, especially when that family lives miles away.  For those who stress about gift giving, it’s a place where they can go for gift ideas as well as answer those questions about sizes, preference, even allergies to materials or foods.  It’s a gift giving lifeline for those who don’t always remember what their spouse or siblings mentioned for gift ideas, sizes, etc.  We’re happy to provide a tool to families that helps alleviate this stress so the focus can be less on procuring those gifts and more on spending time with one another.

What are some of your favorite time sharing gifts?  Share them with us here in your comments and on Facebook.

Oh!  And for those of you who are curious what book sparked Mary’s granddaughter’s interest so much, it is The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler.  I may just have to read this one myself!