In October, I wrote a story about finding a safe and appropriate place to let young children have complete freedom to make choices for themselves at the pumpkin patch. It is based on the premise that children learn to make good decisions by practicing making decisions, not following directions.
Past the Pumpkin Patch: Gift-Giving
The pumpkin patch isn't the only place that is low risk, high reward for inviting a young child to have full creative license. Any time you wrap a gift is also a good time to stop trying to control everything and let your child do it.. Since October, this is the first opportunity our family has had for a blog-worthy
It was the day before Christmas. I had finished putting wrapping paper and labels on all the gifts I would be giving the next day. I turned to the box of bows and ribbons and thought, "I bet my daughter would like to do this with me." It was another opportunity to bite my tongue and let my daughter have free reign over something. (A rare thing when we are constrained by travel during the holidays.)
I invited her in to the gift-wrapping room. "Would you like to help me decorate the gifts with bows?" I asked. I imagined her choosing one bow for each gift, putting some tape on it, sticking it on the wrapped box, and being done.
My daughter looked at the materials: bows, ribbons, yarn, tape, scissors, and saw an opportunity to be creative. Luckily, I wasn't in a hurry and I could stand by, watch in amazement, and be her assistant.
She proceeded to surprise me with her artistic aesthetic:
- Ribbon was cut and wrapped only part-way around the box (the front, not the back).
- Some ribbon was sliced up the middle into two strips of narrow sparkle.
- Colors were certainly NOT coordinated with the wrapping paper.
- In fact, when yarn and ribbon were alternated to make candy-cane stripes across the entire package, the paper was redundant.
- Tape was used down the middle of things instead of on the edges or hiding discretely underneath things.
What resulted was a collection of completely custom-designed, hand-made adornments for our family. Treasures, indeed.
A Variety of Materials, Plus LOTS of Tape
If you're ready to hand over the job of decorating gifts to your young child then you'll need a couple of things:
- Patience (possibly in the form of a glass of wine while you watch your child work)
- An open mind
- Materials for decorating: stickers, ribbon, scissors, (developmentally-appropriate arts/crafts stuff).
- Tape. Lots and lots of tape.
Gift-giving is the kind of thing that happens year-round at birthdays, Thursdays, and holidays. I invite you to make time and space for your child to help make the gifts even more special, more unique, than you can probably imagine they could ever be.