Parent Presents: How Do You Do Gifts?

Over the years, I’ve approached holiday gifts for parents in different ways. When I taught the junior grades, I didn’t worry about having kids make them. Many made presents for their moms or dads at home. Some went out and bought them. But I no longer felt the need to give class time for gift creation. Kindergarten is different!

When I started teaching 19 years ago, I spent a lot of time preparing gifts for children. I remember one year when we made felt wreaths for the doors. The children’s handprints went on each wreath. I spent hours cutting out the wreath outlines, and working 1:1 with students to make their handprints. I think that our whole program went down for a week to get the gifts completed. Then I had to wrap each one of them, add the names, and get the presents ready to go home. In the end, the kids spent about two minutes on the project, which was largely my work. This didn’t sit well with me back then, but I didn’t know any differently. This is what people did. And I did, and still do, strongly believe that parents deserve something special from their kids for the holidays. So how do we make this possible, but have the kids own the work?

A few years ago, my teaching partner, Paula, and I purchased canvases, and had the children create a painting for their parents. This painting option worked so well that we continued with it the next year. Sometimes our painting provocation changed, but the idea stayed the same. Kids definitely owned the creation of these gifts, and we even taught them how to wrap their own presents. Some children made additional gifts for their parents, and wrapped everything up to bring home. The only problem was that there were still children not interested in making a painting for mom or dad. We could force it, and often did, but this kind of forcing is so contrary to an emergent curriculum that’s supposed to align with the interests of the child. I’m not necessarily saying that there’s a problem with teaching students that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do, but when the push for a present comes from us, do kids do their best work? If not, what’s the point?

It was with this thinking in mind that we tried something different this year. Paula and I looked at what our children love to do. There’s a definite interest in plasticine work as well as drawing/painting. We decided to provide some different provocations around the room to meet with these different interests. We also added in some loose parts, so that children could get creative and also make something entirely different on their own. Paula and I know that not all of our students celebrate Christmas, so we wanted some open-ended present option that would truly align with different holidays and maybe no holiday at all. Kids can always give people a gift just to say, “I love you!”

With many different gift options, it’s harder to keep track of which children have made presents and which ones have not. Right now, we have baskets full of gifts for children to wrap this week. We thought about wrapping earlier, and some children found some wrapping paper and looked to wrap just about anything for their parents …

but does this have them slowing down and really considering their present choices? 

This week then, will mean a lot of sorting, a lot of wrapping, and probably some gift creating for those that have not made something yet. We also have a special video message idea, which will hopefully provide a present option for those that are not as drawn to the artistic choices. Maybe art isn’t for everyone.

This holiday decorated city might be our best video background.

There’s a slightly more chaotic, less controlled feeling to this approach, and yet, I think there’s something special about kids owning these gifts. Shouldn’t holiday sentiments be coming from the children because they also want to send them? I hope that all of our parents feel loved and appreciated this holiday season — as they certainly are — but also in a way that is unique to each of their children. We support this creativity during the rest of the school year … why not during the holidays? How do you handle holiday presents for parents? Why do you make the choices that you do? As school comes to an end this week, I think that there will be a lot of gift wrapping and card creating in your local classrooms. Hopefully, no matter what the choices, there will be much joy in the making and giving of gifts.


2 thoughts on “Parent Presents: How Do You Do Gifts?

  1. I’ve tried so many things! Chocolate covered pretzels were my favourite. For the past several years I’ve had everyone make something to take home. It gets expensive! But I know they love having something to give. My biggest challenge is dealing with split families. This year we are each making 2 things and deciding on our own who to give them to. You’ve reminded me that I forgot to plan for wrapping!

    I think it’s important that kids get to have the feeling of creating and giving during the holidays. They need to step away from the “getting” and “want” for a while.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lisa! I never thought of a food item before for the holidays. The chocolate covered pretzels sound fun, but would probably need a little more adult support to make. Hmmm …

      For the most part, I find that kids are excited to make things for their families. Ensuring everyone has a gift, can be hard, but I think is also important. Maybe the key is too that we provide enough options that they will also overlap with children’s interests. As kids start to wrap this week, I think that additional interest will also be spurred. I wonder if others find the same.

      Happy holidays!

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