For years my husband and I have debated the merits of a gift
card as a present. To him, a gift card
is perfect — it bestows on the recipient the freedom to choose whatever he or she
wants. Plus, it’s efficient: it’s always
the right size and it’s easy to wrap.
Me? I believe gifts should be a reflection of the care and thought I’ve put
into them. I want the people who get
gifts from me to know that I’ve thought about who they are and what they mean to
kids. Before buying a birthday gift for
a child, I do my research. Is she into
science or crafts? Does he do Star Wars or Harry Potter? It takes more time, more wrapping paper and
Then, my daughter got a $25 Target gift card for her
fifth birthday. After her party, as she
sat in a sea of books, princess LEGOs and art supplies, I have to admit that
the sleek card bearing the Target bullseye looked pretty good. I wasn’t sad that someone opted out of
picking out a gift for her to unwrap, play with for five minutes and then
ignore for the next 11 months.
Now I’ve come around because I’ve learned that a gift card
presents endless opportunities for teachable moments. Here are the top five:
1. Responsibility: Of course my daughter
wanted to run to Target as soon as she held the gift card in her sticky little
fist. “Not today,” I told her. “It’s your job to put it somewhere safe until
we go to Target again.” She didn’t like
my answer, but she understood that she couldn’t treat it like her other toys
that end up in the black hole of our playroom. She found a perfect spot for it on her bookshelf.
You haven’t seen agony until you’ve watched your 5-year-old daughter choose between plastic princess slippers and a glittery coin purse.
2. Math: Once we got to Target, my daughter decided she wanted to spend her
card over four different trips. That
spurred a rousing conversation centered on the mathematical limitations of a
$25 gift card divided by four visits. It was a grammar school story problem come to life.
3. Decision-making: You haven’t seen agony
until you’ve watched your 5-year-old daughter choose between plastic
princess slippers and a glittery coin purse. She paced, her little brow moist with sweat as she struggled with her
decision. It was the first time she
really understood the financial consequences of her choices and she took that
4. Empathy: My daughter, flush with her fully-loaded gift
card, was sitting in the cart next to her little brother, who did not have a gift card. It was impossible for her to ignore his distress
about not having a gift card. While she
didn’t offer to share her bounty with him, she did console him with hugs and
assurances that one day he too would have a chance to conquer the toy aisle
with a gift certificate.
5. Prolonged Joy: It’s been two months
since her birthday, and my daughter has already grown weary of her other birthday
gifts. But not that gift card, which still
has $11.00 remaining. She thinks
often — and out loud — about what her next big splurge will be. Rumor is she’s thinking of a Hello Kitty
thermos. I can only hope that the actual
thermos brings her half as much joy as thinking about it does.