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.