Thursday, 20 August 2009

What's the perfect present?

In the aftermath of Renée's birthday party we have been left with an overwhelming pile of presents, some which we have yet to open (and yes I know I only have myself to blame because I did invite the whole class), but it really does seem rather a lot for a 5 year old. There are books, colouring books, colouring pens, paints, a computer(!), a paint your own tea set, a make your own bag, purse and cupcake set in felt, fairy wings, water bombs, a bug kaleidescope, make your own bouncy ball set, an enormous array of High School Musical 'stuff', a jigsaw, play dough, a make your own jewellery set. The list goes on. There is really nothing left that she needs (not that she actually 'needs' anything on the list, but you know what I mean).

Slightly digressing, but still on the point, my husband is in France at the moment. He's been working, but has now managed to meet up with his parents who we are off to visit tomorrow. And yesterday I received a text from hubby asking what Renée wanted for her birthday because the grandparents were off to buy a present. After much thought I texted back a really helpful 'There's nothing she needs. Can you think of anything? You decide'.

But during that lengthy thought process which resulted in absolutely nothing, it got me wondering what the perfect present would be. Last year as a 4th birthday present my aunt sent her a 'Grow Your own Butterfly kit'. I actually wrote a post about it, entitling it the Most Memorable Present ever given. Unfortunately I ended up offending the giver of the gift because I think I may have written something along the lines of;

Never buy a child a butterfly rearing kit for their birthday. Seriously. It may seem like a good idea when it's all prettily packaged in the shop, but once you've opened it, it's like a time bomb waiting to go off (or fly away in this instance).

In fact, I wrote exactly that because I've just cut and pasted it. The truth is, it was probably the best present she's ever received - at least it's the one that she's liked the most and a year later she still talks about how she raised a butterfly all by herself. But there's the rub...It wasn't all by herself at all. Oh no. It required rather a lot of parental intervention. And call me lazy (don't worry - you can, I am, and on top of that I also have a two-year-old who likes to disrupt), but my favorite presents are ones where there is no parental intervention at all. Take the bug Kaleidescope for example. It has a viewing window complete with breathing holes at one end where you can drop in any manner of bug and view it in detail through the kaleidescope. So far we've had a worm, a woodlouse, an ant and a snail under examination. And what's even more exciting is that I haven't had to do anything. It has kept Renée amused in the garden for hours and I haven't had to help her or attend to the present even for a second.

BUT. It's not all about me. Is it??

No. (Unfortunately not)!! It's about Renée. And after 3 whole hours in the garden with the bug kaleidescope, she wanted to do something else. What she came to me with filled me with horror. Make your own purse kit. Included in the kit is a needle...

So that'll be parental intervention then.

I looked at the instructions and gulped. A lot. Now if you remember, I'm not exactly a 'crafty' type of person - how could you forget the pom pom??? So to sit down and make a purse with all fiddly buttons and different stitches wasn't exactly my kind of present. But I am nothng if not a loving Mother and I will do anything to put a smile on my child's face. So I put my fears aside and embraced the challenge head on. And do you know what?

I really rather enjoyed it.
Just take a look at this. And don't tell me I don't spoil you with photos.

Have you ever seen blanket stich as good as this? Nope. Didn't think so...

So there you go. It seems that all I need to do is make a little bit of effort and everyone is happy. Next up, it's the make your own bag and cupcake set.

As an aside, we're off to France this afternoon to visit grandparents. I will try, try, try to post and comment, but if I don't, please wait for me. I'll be back...


  1. Aha, can you tell me what her best present was at aged 3? We're buying for Charlie's best friend and I have no ideas, so want to steal yours... cue evil giggle.

    I've posted up the poo carnival by the way, thanks for all your great stories - linked to them all! There are a wealth, if that's the right word, of stories up so if you're bored in France, come on over!

  2. Very good blanket stitch, could see a cottage industry here... hahaha oh I amuse myself. Best gift Top Ender ever got was a make your own Jewelery set. I had hours of fun with that...

  3. The bouncy balls kits are good. I bought Max one for his fourth birthday, and it was probably his favourite present, only a £5 as well.

    I tend to buy clothes, and then something the kids can make, then keep or discard. We have so many pieces of plastic, many with missing bits.

    Folding flashing scooter also went down well, and doesn't take up too much space for a ride-on.

  4. Rosemary got lots of crafty, make things gifts this year, none of which I would have thought of, but she's been really enjoying them. Peg people, wooden spooon people, hand puppets - I limit her to one a day, otherwise I would probably go insane. But I did find myself quite enjoying it, too. Especially all the sequins. Except when they went all over the floor and we had to pick them up.

    This year's two best presents were probably the sandpit and the play dough (sorry, Soft Stuff) set. They've both got repeated prolonged play out of them, and both enable me to blog while supervising (always a bonus). Last year's was maybe the trike (from her point of view, not so much mine, and spends far more time down in the basement than out on the pavement/at the park), or possibly the plastic food set, which gets regular use and is still going strong. One year? Can't remember!

  5. Wow, Emily, to me this looks like you are turning into a domestic goddess. I dind't even know that this is a blanket stitch. Very pretty.

  6. My girls drive me mad..the cardboard box is always the best bit of any present...especially if they can sit in the box (even at 14 years of age!!)

  7. Oh with five children I know those presents soooo well. My heart sinks everytime they get one! Yet as a child I used to love doing those things but I think it's the control freak in me, I could never be a teacher, I want to do it. Not watch someone else make a mess of it LOL. I like garden toys......

  8. Oooh..Very pretty. Well done you! and yes, that is THE most perfect blanket stitch I've ever seen. I always used to love, love these type of pressies. Unfortunately I was also renowned for getting carried away and forgetting it was supposed to be for the 'child' to do..Oops!...nothing much has changed if truth be told...Mmm, now when will Teenage daughter start her photograpy project?

  9. We still have a clay moulding Cars thing sitting on top of a cabinet. Because seriously? Think of the parents. Spot on.

  10. I am impressed with your sewing. I can't waitt to see ehat you make your god son for his birthday. A quiver for his arrows maybe.


    P.S I hope that you enjoy making the bouncy balls.

  11. You are a woman of many talents!

  12. Truly awesome. The cottage industry awaits you. And yes, I have rarely seen a blanket stitch as neat and blanket-like as yours (and I was taught to sew by a veteran from the Royal School of Needlework no less).

    Perhaps it's time to set yourself up as a seller on Etsy? 'Pompoms and Purses' anyone? Or even pompoms on purses. Or purses for pompoms...Oh the list is endless. Get that needle out again, pronto!

  13. Have a lovely time in France.
    The purse is lovely, you are getting very 'crafty'!

  14. The little purse is awfully cute.

  15. Oh I am very impressed. My girl had one of those for her last birthday and whilst I (begrudgingly) helped her and of course she lost interest half way through so i ended up doing all of it, I messed it up so bad and put the wrong pieces together and the stitch looked like it was done by my boy. She loved it nevertheless and still uses it - i cringe every time I see it! So let me just say, congratulations and let us know how the cupcake set goes.

  16. the present problem gives me a real headache. but would def like to know more about the bug kaleidoscope... which one specifically did you get? - i think betty would love something like that! have a great hol x

  17. Colour crayons and sticker books!

  18. Hey hon

    Seems like the party etc went really well. We did miss you though at the dinner, though everyone totally understands why you had to stay home. My promises to ring have amounted to nothing, twins'll do that to you!

    Love the purse by the way... I would pay good money to buy it as it looks very professional!

    much love


  19. Beautiful purse and you're very talented to have helped with that. I don't think I could have done. I really don't know what the perfect present is these days, it seems money is one of the favourites!!

    CJ xx

  20. The purse looks great! You sound exactly like me, although I have a son who both hates and lurves parental intervention at the same time. Hard to know if I'm coming or going! x

  21. Sparx - I'm a bit late in replying here so my suggestion for a presie would be useless I fear. But she was definitely into Dora at 3... not so much now! And yes, saw the poo carnival - well done you - have linked to it today - only two weeks late!! x

    Pippa - Ha ha yes - you amuse me too! What with the pom poms I could really do something useful with my life don't you think? And yep, R got a make your own jewellery set too and we even had a go at it yesterday but it required painting the beads and the paint didn't take properly and it all ended up as a disaster!

    SPD - Oh so that's how much my friend spent on the bouncy ball kit? Interesting! Haven't attempted it yet as it requires turning on the oven and what with a two year old around who likes to cause mishchief, I'm waiting until she goes back to nursery. But yep, we also have rather too much plastic tat too...

    Tasha - Yep - R got wooden peg people to make as well and she loves them - the only problem is that with Edie around as well it's always a bit difficult to do messy stuff...and ends up not being that enjoyable for any of us. And yep, definitely the best presents are the ones that keep them occupied so that you can get on and blog...sorry, I meant get on and do stuff around the house!

    Met Mum - Ha ha!! Yes, I truly am domesticated...I have to say though, even though the blanket stitch is stunning (!) it did take me a while to remember how to do it... a while being about 2 hours!! So not quite so domesticated after all...

  22. Frog - Ha ha. Simple taste is always best hey?! Yep, I was a cardboard box lover when I was little and I expected mine to be the same, but sadly they have never shown any interest! the plastic tat inside that's a different story!

    Chic Mama - You're so right. I think if I only had one child then I would enjoy the presents as much as them - but when you've got more than one (5 - I don't know how you cope) then it's almost impossible to find time to sit down and do them. Renée has been asking me every day to do the jewellery set painting - so we tried yesterday but I had to do it when Edie was asleep - and that didn't last long! Yes, garden toys are definitely the best!

    Brighton Mum - Exactly - poor Renée - I think she forgot the present was meant for her because I did it all myself!! (Was a bit worried about the needle). Can't wait until she has school projects to do!!

    Mwa - I know - I'm never going to work through all her presents - I think we must have some still left from last year. If I only had one child things might be different...but I don't!

    Charlotte - Ooh thanks for reminding me about Charlie's birthday!! Might have forgotten there (such a good Godmother I am)!! But yeah, I'll let you know how we get on with the bouncy balls - kind of waiting for Edie not to be around cos I know she'll get in the way!

  23. Jen - Oh honey I know. I know. It's not easy having so many talents and I'm trying to reign them in, really I am...but sometimes I can't help but boast!!

    Mamma Po - Ooh look at you!! Nothing surprises me about you sweetie. Your talents are endless. I'm sure my blanket stitch is nothing compared to yours. But yes, pom poms on purses - what a good idea. I shall get my needle out again quick...

    magnumlady - Back from France now (and Gloucestershire - we're ever so exotic you know)! Was good, if not completely and utterly exhausting and only a bit depressing with no time to blog!! But yes, I think I deserve a 'your blog is crafty' award now - that would make me chuckle!!

    Snowbrush - Why thankyou kind Sir...I did try awfully hard!

    White Ochre - Hee hee to your's not quite as easy as it looks is it?? You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the buttons are half hanging off on the purse!!! I'm not that crafty at all and I'm cringing too when I look at mine...

  24. Elsie - Yep, pressies are always a headache - we have yet another party in two days time and I haven't yet bought anything - still no idea what to buy! But Bug Kaleidoscope was definitely the best - it's in R's bedroom at the mo and she's asleep and I forgot to check the make before she went to bed, but I do know that it was bought at a zoo...if that's any help! It's the sort of pressie that I'm sure you can buy from one of those toy catalogues (the educational shool ones - can't remember the name but we always seem to bring them back from school and nursery).

    AMM - Yep, we love those too - keeps them amused for hours and needs no parental intervention at all. Perfect!

    Radha - Hello darling! Oh I felt awful not being able to make the dinner - have made a not to write a blog post about it - why you always end up letting friends down when you have children! Don't worry about the phone call - we'll catch up at some point. And not sure you'd pay good money for the purse if you saw it up close - photos can lie you know!!

    CJ - Of course you could have done it - if I managed it then you definitely could have done! Yep, money always good, although for a 5-year-old a little strange...R got a fiver as a present from one of her friends and it was the first time she'd ever got money (other than from Grandparents). Not sure it meant much to her and haven't yet taken her out to buy something with it...Money was always my favourite though - but that was when I was a bit older.

    Clarey - Yep - they reach that age when they're so independent that they just want to do it all themselves - but that is sooooo frustrating - especially when you know you can do it better yourself!!

  25. Hi Emily
    I recently discovered your blog via Twitter (your post on bi-lingualism caught my attention as I have just become a mum and hope to bring up my son bi-lingually in German) and have been reading through some of your past posts.
    I felt compelled to respond to this one as your comments about being left with an overwhelming pile of presents made me wonder if you might be interested in, a new website my husband is involved in to address this issue. The site works in a similar way to Just Giving and Oxfam Unwrapped; instead of guests buying material gifts they can donate an amount to one of 12 child friendly causes chosen by the birthday child themselves such as saving bumblebees or dolphins. As well as trying to reduce some of the throwaway consumerism that children’s parties seem to perpetuate, the site also makes organising parties a whole lot easier for parents with personalised invitations, RSVP’s and thank-you cards. It’s all free to use.
    Sorry if this is out of place but being in PR I sometimes can’t help myself :-)
    It’d be great if you have time to check out the site and let us know what you think.

  26. Stefanie - Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment. Congartulations on the birth of your son - I hope you have more luck than us with the bilingualism (I'm sure you will - most people do)!! Parties around the world sounds fantastic - I will pop over and have a look. I remember a friend of mine did that for her child's party a couple of years ago (asked parents to donate to a charity rather than buying a gift). Some parents did, but I think most stil chose to buy a gift (she gave them an option). I think sometime sit migth be hard - especially for parents who aren't to 'well-off' and they might not want you to know how much money they are spending on presents. Personally I think it's a fantastic idea. I will pop on over right this second... x

  27. Hello again, thanks for your feedback, hope you had the chance to check the site out. The amount you donate is anonymous which may make it more appealing to use for less well off families but i agree, it's not for everyone. x

  28. Stefanie - Hi - and thanks for popping back. Yes I did get a chance to check out the site - and I thought it was great - a fantastic idea and definitely something to think about for my chidren's next parties. The one thing I would say isn't for everyone is the fact that it's done via computers (which sounds silly coming from me who spends half her day on one). But I do know that a lot of the parents of my children's friends don't spend their life on a computer - and some don't even have them. I know - hard to believe hey? And often the parties are something little and parents buying presents leave it until the last minute and rush out on the day to get something. (I know this because I bumped into a couple of other mothers at the local supermarket on the morning before one of the last parties and we were all doing the same thing.

    There's been a big discussion on 'class' over at a blog I read (You've Got Your Hands full) and I think this would appeal to the privately educated, middle-class families who would be au fait with this sort of thing. And once one class member did it then it would seem ok for more to do it...

    The idea is great, the website is great and like I said, definitely something for me to think about for the next party. Thanks for pointing me in your direction.