Blog Article

A Grandparents Guide to Intentional Gift Giving

Written by Leona Bergstrom, Director, Re-Ignite

Using cut-up U-Haul boxes and a roll of duct tape, we created a container suitable to check in for our flight home. Inside it, we packed two enormous bear heads. Not real ones, of course. These were plush, soft, and very ugly pillows – Christmas gifts given to our kids by their grandparents.

Once back home, the bear heads occupied a considerable amount of space in each child’s room. Whenever we considered tossing the gifts, we felt guilty. So, when we moved across the country, they came along, when the kids left for college they hibernated in the attic, and eventually, they disappeared.

The image of giant pillows looms over me every time I consider buying a gift for one of my six grandchildren. I wonder if what seems irresistible to me will meet a need, thrill a child, or frustrate a parent.

Buying for the first grandchild was easy. Parents welcomed all gifts because they were still in that afterbirth euphoria. They tolerated our “right” to spoil the little one.

When the house overflowed with bouncing chairs, squeaky playthings, multi-colored gadgets – and more kids – attitudes changed. I noticed some of the treasures we gave were now on the garage sale table or in Goodwill bags. One shrieking toy fire truck mysteriously appeared back at my house.

Giving gifts to our grandchildren is something we love doing.

We can’t resist the request, “Grandma/Grandpa, will you buy this for me?” If we’re not careful, grandkids may begin seeing grandparents as dispensers of material goods. They may think Grandma and Grandpa will just buy them anything their hearts desire.

I talked with several seasoned grandparents to get other points of view. Nearly every one of them admitted to going overboard at times. (Who can resist buying a life-sized Chewbacca or battery-operated Barbie™ convertible?)

Eventually, all of us realize the importance of wise gift giving. Here are a few suggestions:

1. First, ask the parents for gift ideas. 

Seeking the parent’s input is particularly important for gift-centered events such as Christmas or birthdays.

Grandchildren may not need more stuff! Perhaps contributing toward “big ticket” items such as a bike or computer will have more value.

Do they have a hobby or sport you could support? Parents’ budgets may be too stretched to buy equipment or uniforms needed for baseball or soccer. Occasionally, we have paid the registration fee for sports leagues or swim lessons.

2. Know your grandchild’s interests and goals.

You might buy a rock and mineral set for a budding geologist, ballet slippers for your young dancer, or a backpack for your explorer. Again, parents know best.

3. Consider giving experiences rather than tangible gifts.

Memberships to the zoo, children’s museums, aquariums, and science centers will enhance and entertain all year long.

Give a ticket to the movies and a note that says you’ll take them! Grandchildren delight in solo trips with grandparents, whether to the mall, campground, or yogurt shop.

4. Share your artistry and hobbies by giving something you made especially for them.

One of my grandma friends delights in sewing things, especially matching dresses for her granddaughters and their dolls, and super-hero capes for her grandsons. She uses her abilities to create things that will delight her grandchildren.

5. Magazine subscriptions are the original “gifts that keep on giving!”

Every month our grandchildren enjoy receiving a publication that stimulates their thinking and expands their understanding of the world.

6. Other than a cool t-shirt, the gift of clothing may not thrill your grandchild.

My nephew once remarked, “If you want to give clothes, just give them to my parents.” On the other hand, parents may welcome your help to purchase new jeans, sneakers, and other necessities.

School clothes and special event outfits can be fun gifts when included as a part of a seasonal shopping trip with grandparents.

7. Think about helping your grandchild share a gift with a child in need.

Shopping from a relief agency’s catalog and buying a goat or a flock of chickens for the rural poor in Honduras can teach your grandchild about the world, and it will give you both a meaningful gift-giving experience.

Donate in your grandchild’s name. Or, find opportunities to give and serve together, such as buying coats for needy children or distributing blankets to the homeless.

8. Surprise your grandchild with thoughtful gifts at other times of the year.

An outing, a $5 bill, or a unique book may bring unexpected delight.

9. Give gifts that build memories and impart values.

Spending a lot isn’t the goal: developing a long-lasting relationship is.

Conclusion

Be creative, intentional, and sensitive in your gift giving. Your grandchildren will benefit, their parents will be grateful, and no one has to find a place for things like huge stuffed bear head pillows.


Leona Bergstrom has six grandchildren, lives in Seattle, WA, and is co-director of Re-Ignite (www.Re-Ignite.net). She and her husband, Richard, minister with Boomers, helping them discover passion and purpose in a new season of life. They are co-authors of Third Calling: What are you doing the rest of your life? and My Life After Work.

5 thoughts on “A Grandparents Guide to Intentional Gift Giving”

    1. Legacy Coalition Blog Team

      I have forwarded on your questions to Dr. Joannie. She will be able to give you some helpful advice. Praying for you!

  1. Great writing , Leona! So fun to read and so fun to have you nearby! We enjoy our times with you and Richard so just keep on with your work in Edmonds! We will see you soon but probably not until after our trip to Surprise, Arizona to visit our brother Jim!

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