As the holidays approach, so does the torrent of advertising for the latest and greatest gizmos, gadgets, and electronics. Commercials, magazines, and pop-up ads barrage us at every turn with deals on plastic toys and games that light up, make noises, move on command or feature popular cartoon characters. Well-meaning friends and relatives might want to give your child one of these trendy gifts. When asked about gift ideas, it’s important to graciously let them know what it means to be a Montessori family, and what sorts of presents you believe would truly benefit your growing child.
Helping your family understand what you DO want
Stacy Keane, of the Monti Kids Learning Team and mother of three, offers the following rule of thumb, “I use the phrase ‘child-powered, not battery-powered’ as a clarification to describe the sorts of toys and gifts we prefer. That’s because battery-powered toys create a passive state of learning. Child-powered makes them an active learner.” She likens the difference between Montessori-approved gifts, which are often made of wood and promote fine and gross motor learning and real-life skills, and seasonal holiday presents, which offer instant gratification and sensory stimulation “like offering candy or broccoli, junk food versus brain food.” We tend to gravitate towards whatever offers immediate gratification – that’s just human nature. However, as we all know, brain food is more beneficial than junk food in the long run.
Related: Why Montessorians prefer wooden toys
Steering away from screen activities
While friends or relatives might believe they’re expressing utmost generosity by offering to give your child a costly electronic device, you can kindly explain that they are not yet ready for these types of gifts. If they need further explanation (beyond that of Maria Montessori), you can allude to the most recent guidelines of the World Health Organization, which boldly convey the health hazards of electronic screen time for young children, namely, that infants under one year of age should never be exposed to electronic screens, and that children under four should not have more than one hour per day, “resulting in healthier adults.”
Montessori Gift Ideas
The easiest way to receive a gift that supports your child’s Montessori education is to create a wishlist. So when Grandma asks what your children want or need, you can make it simple for her by providing this list. If she offers to purchase a big ticket item, you might request a Pikler Triangle, Learning Tower, or Balance Bike, for example. Children under a year might enjoy a Walking Wagon or a Monti Kids Activity Gym. Story books, interactive books, and board books are always appreciated, as are gift cards from your local independent bookstore. Gifts that inspire outdoor activities are a great idea, too, and might include a child-size rake, wheelbarrow, shovels, or a T-ball set. Make an Amazon wish list or ask for a gift card for your next Monti Kids box. Montessori Services and their sister company, For Small Hands, include an array of age-appropriate gifts, all pre-approved by Montessori educators.
The Gift of Experiences—and Gratitude
Even more than material objects is the opportunity to spend time and share experiences with those you love. Memberships to the local aquarium, or zoo all make lasting gifts, as does a special day or afternoon adventure with a friend or family member. The gift of time and presence, when all is said and done, is truly the best gift of all.
If your child gets a present that doesn’t align with Montessori values, find something else to appreciate about the item or the act of giving. If you don’t wish to keep it, you may be able to exchange it, and if not, you can donate it to children in need. Consider letting your little one enjoy the gift briefly, then rotating a new toy in, and later donate it (she will most likely already have forgotten about it by then). Learning how to say “thank you” with sincerity is a skill in itself, something that we’re never to young—or old—to learn.