Birthday Parties, Part 2

Featured Picture Book


(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

Clever Jack has been invited to a birthday party – for a princess. What on earth will he give her as a present? What would be “fine enough?” He decides on a made-from-scratch cake – made by his very own hands. He trades his ax and seeds for the sugar and eggs and searches for other special ingredients throughout the land. He even makes “ten tiny candles” – just right for the birthday cake of a 10-year-old princess. But, on his long and difficult journey to the castle, things happen – not so good things – ruining his cake. What will Clever Jack do? He uses his honesty and special way with words to give the princess a gift like no other. She loves it so much that she names Jack her new friend and asks him to be her honorable cutter of the royal cake.

Parenting Thoughts 

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Getting the Gift You Want

Dr. Mom:

I recommend that parents pay close attention to what the kids want for their birthday – that one thing they ask for over and over again – not just at the moment they see a commercial on TV, but at many other times over the days and weeks leading up to the birthday. That item can be the best present ever. And, it gives a very special message: “I’m listening to you. What you say you need is important.”

Darling Daughter:  I used to buy toys on super sale over the summer for E’s birthday in late fall. When she was small I could do that because she wasn’t being smothered by commercialism and hit with ads in all her TV shows.

I’ve had to break that habit of buying presents ahead of time on sale because her “birthday list” of items is becoming more fluid and changes weekly. Something she desperately wants over the summer will be long forgotten by birthday time.

That advanced shopping and stockpiling just leads to too many gifts – the ones on sale early AND the ones asked for at birthday time. It is a hard habit to break, and I must say I’m only half way there. I still stockpiled several birthday gifts ahead of time this year, but I’m shooting for no stock piles for Christmas – I plan to use only a current list, and that should reduce the numbers. J

Of course, sometimes requests are not reasonable for your family. It’s best to tell children that as soon as the request is made, so they don’t build up hopes that can’t come true. But in many cases, that one thing that is talked about is something simple – or could be simple if you thought about it simply.

For example, if a young child is saying they need a hideout, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an elaborate constructed item for the backyard. It could be something you make from cardboard for a corner in the family room or basement playroom. This is especially good for very young children. As long as they can play with it the way they want to, it doesn’t necessarily have to be made of the most fancy, expensive materials.

That one special thing could also be something so unusual that it is easy to disregard it and think it isn’t a serious request. Those are things that are especially fun for children. They often become the best gift ever.

For example, we gave Darling Daughter a box of desk supplies one year – rubber bands, paper clips, pencils, erasers, and pens. It’s what she had been asking for. We had home offices, and she liked to pretend she was an office worker just like her Mom and Dad. She loved her present!

Still LOVE office supplies to this day! I have to be very careful when I have to go buy toner for the printer – those pens, clips, and organizers just call my name. J

Another year we bought Lovely Little Sis crutches for Christmas. She had been asking and asking for them so she could play doctor with them. If I hadn’t stopped to think about it, I would have just ignored that request and reached for a fancy doctor kit. But, instead I asked myself, “Why not?”

I remember going to the drugstore to purchase the smallest sized crutches I could find. Other customers in the store were saying how sorry they were. They assumed I had a preschooler at home with a broken leg. For a while I thought the store manager was going to give them to me for free, because he felt so bad for me.

All of the “so sorry” attention was amusing to me knowing my daughter was just fine – she just loved to pretend. Once I explained that the crutches were for a perfectly normal, healthy four-year-old at home, we all shared a good laugh.

Just recently I saw an ad for a wheelchair, crutches, and arm and leg casts for dolls. I so wished that had been available for LLS. She would have played and played.

When it comes to your child buying birthday gifts for others. It’s a good idea to have ideas in mind before going shopping. Ask your child to talk about the birthday person. What do they like to do? What toys do they like to play with?

Don’t just consider what you can buy. Talk to your child about whether there is anything he could make as a gift. If you do decide to buy something, have your child chip in some money. It can be as little or as much as is reasonable for the size of your child’s piggy bank. The important thing is that he feels he made a contribution.

I need to start doing that!

Once parties are over, don’t forget the thank you notes. This has become a lost art. Only you as a parent can keep it alive. You will need to insist that your child do it and help him do it. Once it becomes a habit, the child will probably do it for the rest of his life.

The Gift of a Story

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A story can be a gift in and of itself (Be sure to read the featured book, CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE.) A story can teach. It can delight. It can develop the imagination. It can put you to sleep. So much gained from one small, easy activity.

Remember that stories don’t have to have words. Sometimes those without words can be the most fun for kids. They can make them truly theirs in a special way. The story they create from the pictures is not like any one else’s story. It is just for them.

Be sure to visit out blog everyday over the next two weeks so you don’t miss the fun activities that involve storytelling.(


Coming Attraction

Be sure to look for out November 15 post. It will be a collection of holiday gift ideas and traditions. The season is upon us!


Read All About It

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft


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  • thank you notes for kids

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