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Naomi Simson family

I was recently asked back to Studio 10 and as part of the many and varied topics we covered was the “what do you do when told what to give as a gift” question. I know personally I struggle when my friends are getting married, and they say “we just want cash to go to our honeymoon.” I want to give them something that is memorable and special. Something that represents our relationship and how I know them… Okay so I want to be more considered than just ‘part of the gang.” And every time I do this, the couple delight in the surprise of the gift…and I always get a special thank you – which of course makes me feel great.

I’ve even found at Christmas that sometimes I get a note from a supplier saying “we would have given you a gift, but we donated it to this ‘cause’”. Now I am all for supporting causes… but if the gift was about building the relationship that the supplier has with me – perhaps I would have been able to select my own ‘cause’ for the charitable donation… then at least they would know a little more about what is important to me – and build the relationship.

One of the topics broached on Studio 10 was about  kids birthday presents, the parent ‘requesting’ what was an appropriate gift. And the concern is that it can also get expensive…

Some time ago, ran an article on this very question:  “Don’t judge me, but… I don’t want to get my nephew the birthday present his parents want.”

What I really liked about what this article explored, was the fact that kids are kids. Don’t you remember going to parties as a child where you arrived with a special gift (wrapped with love by your Mum or Dad while you eagerly watched on and asked if you could tie the bow) – that present could be anything – it was the unwrapping that was as important as the toy, book or game  inside. It is a ritual that encourages children to learn that it is not always about them. That giving something to another should be a rewarding privilege in itself. When you give ‘the perfect gift’ you feel so good about it…in fact giving is one the the cornerstones to our experience of well-being.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.53.20 pmWhat I truly believe in, and what I shared with the Studio 10 team, was that what we all want most above everything else, is time. We want the gift of someone else’s undivided attention – and it is this that we need to show our children through that example. If you feel compelled (and of course it is very hard to take the hard line with this when every other parent complies to the norm) to buy a present for someone else’s child, then do so but don’t spend too much on it. Inside the gift (be that some lego; a puzzle etc.) write them a small (hand made) card that says that you will work on the present and share it together – you are giving them the gift of time.

I remember giving one of my children a treasure hunt… a small jewellery box (and every time we went to the beach we would collect only pink shells (or bits of shells for the box)… giving the game – and teaching them how to play and having a tournament when you see them next time. Giving the dress up – but then putting on a play with them… so many ideas on the shared experience of gifts…. and of course you could always get tickets to a pantomime – and have a big day out…

Time is part of a great gift…. it is the greatest gift of all, your undivided attention… and to a young person how wonderful to give them such joy…. and this is something they will truly remember… the unwrapping of the gift and the time that they shared it with you.

That is of course why at RedBalloon, we are all about shared good times – giving to others an experience they will never forget. But you can well and truly come up with your own great experiences – if you give it time 😉

Reader Interactions


  1. Last Christmas I gave my children, aged eight and eleven, some of the money sent by relatives for me to use to buy them presents. Watching them think,decide and take responsibility for what they purchased as we walked round the toy department with them clutching their little purses was a formative experience. They loved having the freedom to buy exactly what THEY wanted. And they fully accepted that if they got bored of what they bought, that was part of the deal. (They didn’t – he plays with his Lego all the time, she bought yet another doll baby, but it reappears regularly dressed in different and sometimes inappropriate costumes.)
    I liked this solution so much I’m thinking of giving them ALL the money next year. this will have the double advantage of giving my children full reign to make their own selections, AND it will do away with the massive administrative task I face every year, as I’m sure many women do, of keeping a book on who sent what money, what I’m supposed to have bought with it, what I’ve actually bought because they sent it late, whose name went on which gift, whether Santa is meant to have brought any of these and which, who Santa is exactly and which child knows it’s me (thank god I get to drink the brandy and eat the carrots we leave for him), how much the gift cost and how much that person sent, whether that gift is shared between two people and how to explain this to the children. And fitting in Christmas things at the school, tying up jobs for clients, and helping out with my husband’s businesses as well.
    So yes, lots of lessons to be learned from gift giving – mainly that it’s the thought that counts, and we women seem to do a lot of the thinking!!

  2. Every year after the holidays I write notes to my future self… DO LESS. I love the idea of a treasure hunt as a part of the gift – particularly because that is what they will remember. It does pay to either find toys that are built well enough to pass along to someone else or gift experiences instead.

  3. This year we are focussing on experience gifts – like a recipe book for my daughter, and a “coupon” to spend time in the kitchen with me, cooking her favourite recipes. You are so right – time together is what most kids crave 🙂

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