Written by: Kendall A. & Lucia B.
Narrated in Al Bukhari, The Prophet saw said: “Exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love for one another.”
There is no doubt as to the joy that overcomes a person upon receiving a gift, especially a thoughtful one from a beloved person. In Islam, we are encouraged to give and receive gifts as a means of expressing our love for others. For Muslims, Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha are two particular times of year where gift giving is common; however, our gift-giving can certainly exceed these two dates for other special occasions in our lives. Yet, the big question remains: what types of things should we consider when contemplating what to gift to another?
For many parents, the pressure to purchase more and more toys that are often unnecessary and underappreciated is a never-ending rabbit hole that some of us fall into. There are the pressures of feeling that spending a lot of money on our children or buying everything that their little hearts desire are the only ways to show them that we love them. However, as Muslims, we are also encouraged to value what we have, to avoid materialism, and to live sustainably. In thinking about the type of children that we want to raise, in terms of values and ideas around giving and receiving, we have come up with a few guidelines that work for our families around gift-giving, and we hope that you too can benefit, in sha Allah. Some of the ideas here are completely free of charge and others have a variety of price points attached to them so that everyone can feel that they have the ability to give meaningfully. Feel free to choose what works well for your family as you navigate this process over the years! (Remember, you can share these ideas with family and friends who would like to give presents to your child as well.)
Gift Categories Galore:
- Dua. One of the best gifts that we can give to another person is a sincere dua for their health, faith, happiness, and wellbeing in this life and in the next. Never underestimate the power of a genuine dua for someone else, whether the person knows that you have made dua for her or not. Your dua could alleviate a person from something that you may not even be aware of and can certainly benefit both the maker and recipient of the dua. This is the case, because the angels say, “Ameen” to whatever we petition Allah for on behalf of another, and thus we are then the recipients of a similar dua to that of what we made.
- Donate. Help make the world a better place by making a donation in the name of the gift recipient to a cause that they love. Examples could include: a donation to an animal shelter, if your child loves animals or to an orphanage in another country, because your child likes to see other children experience happiness too. This is a beautiful gift, because donations can benefit a person’s afterlife by being a sadaqat jariah or ongoing charity even after the person passes away. In this same vein, planting a tree or building a well as a gift carries the same long-lasting reward in both the worldly and after-life sense.
- Invest. Help your child learn about saving and investing money by making a contribution to her future education fund or toward a big-ticket item that he is saving money to purchase on his own. Another form of investment can include coins or collectibles that increase in value over time.
- Experience. Expand your child’s world by offering her a new experience! Attend a parent-and-me cooking class, purchase a year-long subscription to a magazine or monthly exploration kit, register for a gymnastics class, pay for a museum membership, an audiobook subscription, tickets to a theater play, rock climbing excursion, etc.
- Books. Grow your child’s brain by sharing new literature! Does your child have a list of books that he’s interested in owning? Build his library by adding some new titles to the shelf that are always available at his fingertips! Books can include audio books, a kindle, or a series. Here’s a booklist that has made our wish list.
- Time. Spending personal and quality time with you is one of the best gifts, especially if you have multiple children! Create a one-on-one date to do what your child loves. Examples could include: going for a bicycle ride, a trip to the movies, ice cream at the ice cream parlor, fishing, or having a picnic together. As long as it is just the two of you and something your child loves, we’re sure it will be a hit!
- Personal or Hand-Made. Share something of value to you. Maybe it’s a family heirloom that has been passed down from generation to generation or that necklace or scarf your daughter loves. Feeling creative? Make something! Sew, knit or crochet, paint, bead, etc. a personal item for your child.
- Specific Toys. Maybe your child has a few specific toy items that he is interested in. If those items are sustainable, open-ended toys that can be played with in a variety of ways and you see the value in it, go ahead and get those two or three things. Toys are not bad; we just don’t want them to eat our homes alive, and we can’t find the way out!
- Family Gifts. Get something that the whole family can enjoy together, like board games for a family game night or (appropriate) movies for a family movie night. Adventures that the whole family can enjoy are also nice, like a staycation or vacation, horseback riding outing, visiting the zoo or farm, etc.
- Islamic. Provide things that boost your child’s love of Allah, RasoolAllah saw, and deen. Examples could include: DIY mosque building kit, plush dua pillow, an Arabic letter puzzle, etc.
- Tools or Kits. If your child enjoys cooking or baking, set them up with their own kitchen tools and apron to get started. Is your child into construction? Try a child-sized tool kit with real materials for exploration and production. A gardening set may prove to be another great option. Kits that produce an end product are also wonderful in helping children to gain confidence in accomplishing a task and building something meaningful.
- Outdoor and Gross Motor Skill Acquisition: These items are great for developing core strength, balance, confidence, and are a fun way to get children’s bodies moving. This category includes: indoor or outdoor swings, rockers, ride-on toys (scooters, bicycles, leg-push cars, skate board, roller skates, etc.), indoor or outdoor trampoline, jump rope, sports equipment, and push/pull toys.
- Imaginative and Construction Play. Unleash your child’s imagination, creativity, and architectural design skills with these timeless favorites: blocks (ex: lego, magnatiles, tegu, etc.), vehicles (ex: trains, planes, and automobiles), puppets, silk scarves, dolls, etc.
- Budget Friendly. These are things that you can make, print, or easily obtain at the Dollar Store, yet provide hours of fun: bubbles, chalk, homemade playdough or kinetic sand, stickers, folder with coloring pages, beeswax crayons or homemade rainbow crayons, erasable color pencils, puzzles, ribbon wand, latex-free balloons, etc.
- Seasonally Appropriate. Help your child get excited about the new season with a gift to fit. For summer: sunglasses and sun hat, floaties, and biodegradable beach toys. Fall: child-sized rake and warm-knit sweater. Winter: snow sled, snowsuit, and snow boots. Spring: child-sized umbrella, rain boots, or rain slicker or rain suit.
Need a formula to help navigate your gift-giving? Consider the following:
Something they want + Something they need + Something to wear + Something to read = Great, Well-Rounded Gift!
This formula covers both necessities and wants, as well as meets the checkboxes for what your child likes in each category.
Sustainability A note on sustainability: as consumers, we should aim to be conscientious in where we spend our dollars, whether that is supporting minority-owned businesses or other factors that are important to us. Purchasing products that are eco-friendly should be one of our considerations, as our children and the generations that will come through them and after will inherit the earth, in sha Allah. We owe it to them and to Allah to care for the earth in the best ways that we can. When considering a gift, we should look at how sturdy the product is and whether or not it has been proven safe for children’s usage. Eco-friendly and safe materials for children (and all humans) include: stainless steel, natural fabrics, natural hardwood, non-toxic plywood without formaldehyde containing glues, non-toxic paints, and lead free. Try to avoid plastics as much as possible, even when they claim to be BPA-free. It’s also worth noting that buying local and supporting entrepreneurs is more meaningful than pouring more money into big business.