titus2.com: Food for thought

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I came across the titus2.com website a few years ago after friends recommended several of the books available from the Maxwells who are the authors of the site. I have since read and then purchased almost all of their books and have found them to be Godly, inspiring and practical resources.

Teri and Steve Maxwell’s Mum’s and Dad’s corners are a regular email that comes out about once a month on a variety of parenting, family and faith based topics. I enjoy reading them and find them food for thought. Often my initial reaction is something along the lines of “too extreme,” however I have found that when I have had time to think the topics through from a biblical perspective, I agree with them and realise that they are not “extreme” at all, just biblically based. The sad reality is that often our lives (even as Christians) have become so worldly and our attitudes so affected by our culture that a biblical way of life seems extreme rather than the other way around.

The latest Mum’s and Dad’s Corner has some great ideas about Christmas traditions and celebrating Christmas as a Christian family. Check it out here.

Christmas Gifts: Giving tools not toys.

Are your children’s bedrooms cluttered with plastic junky toys? Do you wrack your brains each Christmas trying to come up with gifts that are well made, will last and won’t add to that pile of clutter that they really don’t need? ‘Tools not toys’ is an excellent motto that we have tried to implement in our family.

So what are tools? In the words of Jill at the Sonlight Blog“Tools will encourage imagination, develop large and small muscles, and should get the child outside daily. Tools will stand the test of time, can usually be passed down from child to child in a family, and have a lot of play value.” Many traditional toys fall into this category as well as real tools such as those that you would find in a toolbox. Jill has an extensive list of tools for children at the Sonlight blog that is well worth a look.

She describes toys as “Anything that has batteries or makes noise that drives a mom crazy, if it is meant for the child to watch it rather than interact with it ….  anything that is cheap plastic and will break easily…. anything that is meant as an entertainment.”

Our children do have and receive toys that are definitely simply for entertainment value, but we choose to put our money into the more long-lasting, useful and educational toys that sit more in the tools category.

One specific idea we have implemented in the past is to give the boys toolboxes filled with tools as gifts for Christmas or birthdays and add items to these collections throughout the years. One aim of the toolbox idea is that the boys will learn to use the tools as they work alongside their Dad’s to tackle household maintenance and projects. We hope they will eventually leave home well kitted out to be able to attack the handyman tasks around their own houses, both in tools and skills learnt over the years.

Other tools we give are sporting equipment, handiwork and craft sets and equipment, imaginative toys,  books, wooden toys etc. Again, check out Jill’s quite extensive ideas list for inspiration.

Cheap Christmas gift ideas for kids: Treasure Rocks

If you are looking for an inexpensive gift idea for children this Christmas, why not try treasure rocks. Treasure rocks are made with a simple dough mixture that is baked until hard. The recipient uses a hammer to crack open the rocks and reveal the treasure inside; usually some coins, although any little item that would survive the baking process without melting would be suitable. For a more girlish result, you could paint a layer of glue over the rocks and add glitter. The overall cost of making the rocks is negligible and the amount of money you include in the form of coin treasure can be as much or as little as you like.

I like to give mine with a poem I have written (see below) and a little hammer as part of the gift, although this does raise the price a little. All the children seem to love them and hammering them open is lots of fun. Don’t forget to wrap the coins in plastic kitchen wrap or they can be very difficult to get clean before spending! For a gift that can be made for under $5 or even under $2, these are a winner.

You can find the recipe for treasure rocks (google treasure stones) on so many websites I didn’t include it here. I have modified the online recipe because I don’t have coffee grounds and while my rocks look great they are a little harder to crack open. Very little children needed help but my older boy was just dying to get in there and give it a bash – I’m sure he could have had them smashed to smithereens in a few minutes!

Here is my poem:

Happy Birthday dear _________
May these bring you much pleasure
Hidden inside is your very own treasure
Give them a smash and a bash, but DO NOT EAT!
These treasure rocks are yours as a treat
Hammer away with all of your might
To find your surprise, hidden from sight

The recipe I use:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of table salt
  • 1 cup of strong coffee (water if you don’t want brown)
  • glue & glitter to sprinkle over rocks if desired
  • coins wrapped in plastic kitchen wrap (Gladwrap etc.)

Mix the flour, salt and water or coffee together to form a soft dough. Form into balls with a wrapped coin in the centre of each. Bake at 120 degrees until hard. Paint with glue and sprinkle with glitter or leave brown.

Mummy’s Christmas Shop

Star of Wonder

Photo: David Pascoe

When it comes to Christmas gifts for siblings it can be a little overwhelming when there are many brothers and sisters to buy for. We often get the children to make gifts and that works well for older kids but the younger ones are a little limited in what they can do. None of the children buy gifts for the adults, they make cards and small craft gifts like Christmas tree decorations.

I like the idea of the children working so that they can give gifts to each other. It then becomes a sacrifice as they spend money that they have given up time and energy to earn or give up time and creative effort to make something. I am hoping this will help in our quest to get them to think of others at Christmas time rather than themselves.

We have previously gone out shopping with the children and attempted to find suitable small gifts that the children can afford for each other, however the logistics of this is becoming difficult and we can’t always find appropriate items they can afford. The solution: Mummy’s Christmas Shop.

I don’t know the original source of this idea, but it is very simple. I gather together a bunch of small gifts that are appropriate for each child in the family. Just before birthdays or Christmas, each child takes a turn to visit Mummy’s Christmas Shop and buy something they like for their siblings. Items are not priced so that I can use a sliding scale; cheaper for the littlies who’s earning capacity is small and a little more for the older children (up to what I paid for them) who are able to earn a reasonable amount of money.

I have told them about the Mummy shop and everyone is keen to start earning money so they can start shopping. (I’d better find some stuff to put in there!) I do the rounds of all the discount variety stores ($2 Shop, Red Dot, Crazy Clarks and the like) and collect anything that is suitable. I also know that it is likely that the gifts will be in the right price range if I buy here, although the quality is often poor so I am careful not to buy toys that will break quickly.

Some ideas so far:

Girls

  • hair lackies, clips, headbands and other pretty hair accessories
  • stickers, activity books, colouring in books
  • glitter pens, gel pens, pencils, crayons, textas, scissors, note pads, novelty erasers and other stationery
  • patterned sticky tape, glitter, glitter glue & other crafty bling
  • dolls clothes, dolls house items, pretend play accessories
  • funky socks and cute knickers
  • ornament, trinket box or knickknacks
  • lip balm
  • nail file
  • costume jewellery
  • craft sets (eg plain photo frame and gems to glue on it)
  • recipe magazine or cookbook
  • coloured bandaids and the “Nurse Nancy” golden book (A little more expensive than the others but both little boys and girls love this gift.)
  • fancy toothbrush

Boys

  • small boxes of Lego ( the individual person , motorbike etc for around $6)
  • giant marbles
  • funky socks & manly underwear
  • glitter pens, gel pens, pencils, crayons, textas, scissors, note pads, novelty erasers and other stationery
  • tools (screwdriver, tape measure, adjustable spanner etc)
  • anything army print (hats, lunchbox)
  • water pistol
  • nail clippers (Master 8’s nails are getting out of control – any teenage girl would be jealous!)
  • card games and mini travel games
  • bluetac (weird I know but older boys love this stuff)
  • torch (flashlight), LED keyring light
  • wooden glue and nail together craft kits (make a boat/car etc)
  • bird or dog whistle
  • fancy toothbrush

Toddlers

  • dinky cars
  • stuffed toys
  • balls
  • puzzles
  • dolly accessories
  • hair accessories
  • picture books
  • playdough and accessories (biscuit cutters, rolling-pin)
  • pet accessories (dog bowl, basket, brush) for toy animals
  • pavement chalk
  • paint brushes (see water play)
  • sand toys (buckets, funnels, spades, scoops)
  • bath toys and squirters

I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for inexpensive gifts so please leave a comment.