In my recent quest to minimize my use of resources and save money I have found that I have really had a change in mindset when it comes to gift giving. In the past, I never hesitated to buy people $20 gift cards, brand new handbags, or the latest fisher price toy. “I mean, the people I was buying these things for are my loved ones and it was a special day and they deserved to have the nicest things.” Right? This has been especially true when it comes to the children in my life. I love children, and while I don’t have any of my own, the children in my life mean the world to me and I only ever want the absolute best for them.
That being said, anyone who has ever been around a young child on gift giving occasions knows that they are often lavished with presents from everyone who loves them and end up wonderfully overwhelmed by new things. The years go by and after only a few Christmases and birthdays that child you love has just about every popular toy of interest to them. Then what? Then one day, not too long after that special Christmas or Birthday, the toy inevitably loses its cool factor and gets put away. This is understandable, because in the end its a colorful piece of plastic and plastic is really only interesting for so long.
All of that being said though, the new toy buying process still wasn’t totally adding up for me. Don’t get me wrong the occasional new toy is a wonderful treat for a child and they shouldn’t be denied that! However, all of that new plastic, packaging, twist ties, and Chinese factory labor seemed like a large investment for something that loses its entertainment value in a matter of months. So, how do you give a child you love a gift that is nice and exciting but also respectful of resources? There are lots of ways. You can give them an experience (horseback riding lessons, a day at the beach, special time with mom and dad, their own garden,…), a used toy (many children will not know or care about the difference between a cool toy from a yard sale and a cool toy from Toys R Us), or you can make a gift (make their favorite treats to eat, make a dress-up box with old clothes…).
For this gift that I made I decided to go the experience/homemade gift route. This was an idea I found on another website (Click here for original page). I loved the idea because it brought back memories of the countless days I spent making forts as a kid and how proud I was with each new “trick” I found to make the fort more advanced. Building forts is an experience all kids should have. I liked the kit, specifically, because it used mostly recycled materials and was relatively inexpensive to put together, but it looks really cool and unique as a gift.
2 Flat sheets
3 Suction cup hooks
10 clothes pins
and its own carrying case
To put it together, I got two flat sheets at the thrift store along with a dinosaurs themed pillow case for the carrying bag. I got the hooks, rope, and clothes pins at Home Depot, and I used a small flashlight we already had but never use. I ironed the sheets and folded them nicely, took the suction cups, rope, and clothes pins out of their packaging so that they looked fort-specific and not like random things from Home Depot, and I made sure the flashlight had fresh batteries. Then I sewed over the top of the pillowcase and used a new white shoe lace I had to make a draw string top. Finally, I designed a “deluxe fort kit” tag to attach to the case. If you have card stock then I recommend using that. If you don’t you can do like I did and print the tag on paper and then glue it to an old manilla folder and cut it out. The whole thing (shopping and construction) only took me a couple of hours and it was very simple. If you have a sewing machine on hand, which I don’t at the moment, or an old duffle bag you can get more creative with the carrying case but this was the best I could do at the moment.
Hopefully, the recipient of this fort kit enjoys it for a good long while to come. If he’s anything like his Aunt (me), he will have some pretty epic rainy days with it. Which makes me very happy. On a final note, while money is not at all the point here, but rather maximizing use and enjoyment of resources, as a point of comparison it cost me $12.95 to make this kit. The top rated toys on Toys R Us for Boys ages 5-7 are all over $20 and other fort kits found online are all close to $40 or more.
Remember that kids care about fun, not about how much their toy cost.