Written by Judy Douglass, Author, Blogger, and Podcaster
December makes us think of decorations, family, food, giving and receiving gifts, and celebrating the redemptive birth of Jesus.
Just as God gave us the best of all gifts, we can give too.
Giving gifts is one of my favorite activities of my life. To friends. To charities I care about. To neighbors. To family.
And especially to my grandchildren.
The first words the grandkids, especially the younger ones, say to me when I visit them or they visit me: “Do you have a surprise for us, Jeedoo?”
And of course, I do. You won’t, however, usually find me giving the latest toy or “must have” item. (Though sometimes.)
I want my grandchildren to enjoy and appreciate the gifts they receive from me. But I also want them to have real value in their lives. So, my presents to them usually fall into one of these six categories:
My first gifts (for new babies, showers, every birthday, and every Christmas) are always books.
I offer variety—old favorites, classics, and new releases. Board books, picture books, beginning readers, and adventure series. The topics change from trucks, tractors, Star Wars, princesses, unicorns, horses, and fantasy.
I love reading to my grandkids, then letting them read to me, and finally just watching them read on their own.
Books provide amazing adventures, take them to exotic places, introduce them to real heroes, reveal life in another time, and let them see faith in action. They get to step into someone else’s story!
This is a broad category. Some grandkids love building and constructing so recent gifts have included Star Wars Legos, Lincoln Logs, magnetic tiles, and science experiments.
Jewelry kits and cooking (pretend or real) please some. Music of every kind is a hit. And I give art supplies galore—appropriate for every age, using every medium. They love painting dragons and cars and dinosaurs they can then play with.
Hand puppets play a key role in our frequent storytelling—lions and kangaroos and mice and koalas. The all-time favorite is a realistic alligator.
Costumes allow them to be superheroes, knights, ninjas, cowboys, princesses, or the latest pre-teen idol. A sand and water table has given them hours of wet fun on hot days.
One of my best gifts was the backyard playset (swings, a glider, a slide, a climbing wall, and a fort) in my backyard. They have spent hours playing together there.
Our very own bounce house has been a favorite, plus a slip-n-slide, bikes, a spring horse, and even a pogo stick.
Sports equipment is also great. So many balls of every kind, shoes and practice shorts for soccer, soccer goals, and a punching bag. They burn up some of that incessant energy, strengthen their bodies, and grow their skills.
I love to take my grandkids on fun outings.
Books stores and pet stores are always fun, and the zoo is fantastic—except I can’t keep up with them. Any place with a train or a carousel delights the younger ones. Science museum, children’s museum, even Chuck E. Cheese—we do it all together. And the beach (can’t forget the beach) with digging, splashing, running, and surfing.
I used to teach horseback riding, and have taught the basics when I could. I enjoy sharing my love of horses with them.
Living in Orlando provides so many attractions. Gatorland was a big hit—we have pictures of them on an alligator and draped in a python for memory.
One year’s Christmas gift was an annual pass to Sea World for all the local family members. Recently, the kids and their parents got passes to a climbing gym, which the boys love.
Any of these gifts can fall under the “time” category if I do those different activities with them. But sometimes time means a trip to Chick-fil-A, watching a movie together, or playing games on my I-pad. I love to just be with them.
When I’m with them I ask a lot of questions, looking for topics they are interested in. Often, they will tell me all about a recent adventure, a new friend, or a book they’ve read.
I also give them time they don’t really know about: I pray for them often.
This last category is one I did with my children, and am now doing with the grandkids.
I love to help them choose toys or clothes to give to someone else who can use them. I also give to Angel Tree in their names, providing gifts for children whose parents are in prison. Together we support a Haitian child through Compassion—they love writing to her.
I hope to expand this category more as more kids are old enough to understand their own giving.
Do I ever give a gift just because they want something? Sure. And I buy little trinkets and snacks when I go to visit them. But most of the time I seek to give life-expanding presents that keep on giving.
And so far they all still love their Jeedoo (which is what they call me). What about you? What could you give your grandkids?