September 13, 2007

Budget Birthday Gifts

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Talie ripped open a purple envelope with glee, her third birthday party invite in two weeks — it seems half her preschool class was born in the same month, but that's another story.

I'm all for a party, but my Yankee brain can't help dwelling on the material emphasis that's as much a part of the birthday package as perky balloons and frosted cupcakes. Not to mention that the cost of gifts can add up quicker than cars at a Maine Turnpike tollbooth on Labor Day weekend.

To help Talie, 4, understand that a gift is most meaningful when there's thought and heart behind it — not just dollars — we've started to make gifts ourselves, adding an inexpensive item to pair it with, like a box of sidewalk chalk or a fairy wand.

The trick was to hit on something her friends would treasure and that she would look forward to making. And it was sitting right on Talie's dresser: a miniature kid-made snow globe, brainchild of her clever preschool teacher.

It's blissfully easy to make. Start with a small, clean baby food jar, fill it with water, and add a couple of drops of food coloring until the water turns a jewel-tone pink, blue, or green. (In case you haven't noticed, there's something about water and food coloring that captivates kids like catnip does cats).

Then Talie drops in some little creatures or objects (she's partial to mini plastic unicorns and shiny hearts). Add a few pinches of glitter, and screw on the lid. If you want to get fancy, adorn the lid with buttons or a circle of fabric and some ribbon.

Sometimes I worry that the birthday girl or boy's mom may think us shoddy to arrive with a homemade gift. But when I see Talie's pride and then her pal's delight, it's all okay. When she's 10, no doubt it will matter more to her to give something from a store, but at least for now, I love the fact that she's sharing a little piece of herself with each swirling storm of glitter.

How do you celebrate without breaking the bank? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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Budget Birthday Gifts

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