We may measure time in finite units of days, months and years, but those units are as malleable, stretchy and abstract as a ball of plasticine squished on a wall. The years will seemingly pass in the blinking of an eye for us older folk, but for our cherished little ones, they take forever. Two weeks of holiday might never end; six weeks of school break and it’s impossible to imagine ever going back.
That’s why you simply cannot overstate the sheer magnitude of a child’s birthday. It only happens once a year! That’s practically an age and, frankly, might as well be, such is its rarity and enormity of importance. Fortunately, we generally do pretty well at marking these most significant of occasions – and well we should. Get it right, and a child might go on to remember just how they spent their fifth, ninth or eleventh birthday all their lives.
We celebrate birthdays with foods, parties, friends and drinks. We celebrate them with music, dance, piñatas and games. Most importantly of all, we celebrate them with presents. But here’s where all those thoroughly good intentions and plans can come unstuck. They’ve already got the football, shirt and boots; they already have the pens, colouring book and novelty pencil sharpeners. They have comics, DVDs and posters; they have bouncy balls, train sets and Frisbees. Toys of all kinds shapes and sizes litter floors, cling to walls, lay hidden beneath beds and sofas.
So, what to gift the child that has everything?
1. Figurine gifts
Not a toy, but a work of art. Help get birthday girl or boy started in building a collection of beautifully crafted figurine gifts. They might be figurines of their favourite Disney character. They might be figurines of favourite action heroes. They might be figurines of favourite animals, imaginary creatures, robots. Original, personal and surely not what anyone else will be getting this or any other year, a figurine gift makes for a wonderful present.
2. A good book
From timeless classics, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, to modernish favourites, such as Roald Dahl’s The BFG or Richard Adams’s Watership Down, a good book isn’t just a way to pass the time, it’s a companion for life. Whether the book itself manages to last an active little person’s childhood or not, a classic story, its characters, adventures and fantastical worlds, will stay with them forever. Pop-up books are wonderfully engaging, and naturally there are plenty of more-recently published stories that also make for brilliant gifts, such as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery.
3. A board game
Anything but boring, board games would be better off named ‘fun games.’ The great thing about a board game is not only that you can enjoy it for, quite literally, years, but that you get to enjoy it with friends and family. Think all the great times you’ve spent on a Sunday afternoon sat round a table with Monopoly, Cluedo or Hungry Hippos – wouldn’t you want your gift to bring the same amount of joy to that special little someone?