This is not your typical affiliate-link-laden gift post! Like many parents, I am convinced my kids don’t need more stuff. They definitely don’t need more toys! In my mind, stuff and toys are synonymous with mess. I recently read a book about keeping an orderly home that made me feel even more sure of this. The author shares best practices her parents employed in raising her and her 5 siblings in the early 20th century (through the depression era). Growing up through the depression, she shares that each kid had very little, including just enough clothes for a week and just two pairs of shoes each. Having little, the author writes, made it easy to keep the house tidy– everything had a proper place. Things were neat and clean, and each child helped with the housework. The author acknowledges that raising kids now (the book was published in 2005) is much harder because we have so much more stuff. Too much stuff, if you ask me! There is no wonder that in this day and age, organizing and keeping tidy often means getting rid of stuff, too.
So when my kid’s birthdays roll around, I cringe at the thought of them being gifted more stuff. I’m grateful when I’m asked by friends and family what my kids would like to receive, or what they could use. I find it extremely thoughtful to try to give something useful. For us, that something tends to be related to bilingualism.
Bilingualism is a commitment that requires a lot of investment. Like many bilingual parents, it’s one area where I feel like we could never have too much help! It is one sphere where more stuff can actually be helpful. Raising bilingual kids takes a village. So when I’m asked what gifts my kids would appreciate, I often think to myself where are the current gaps or needs for our bilingual home? Bilingualism itself is about human connection, and my tendency definitely leans heavily towards human connection and quality time.
I know there are millions of parents in the same boat, so here is a list of my favorite gifts for bilingual kids. You’ll see that many of my recommendations here are time-oriented rather than thing-oriented. Whether you’re thinking about what to give a bilingual child, or you’re a parent wondering what you might say the next time you’re asked, I hope this list will help!
Gift bilingual time!
What do I mean by this? If you’re able, spend time with the gift-receiver and make a memory with them in the family’s target language!
There are so many special things you can do that would be really meaningful for a bilingual kid. Here are just a few:
- Take them on an outing (to the zoo, to a park, to a museum, etc) and only speak in the target language. Tell them it’s a special time to connect and take the target language for a spin!
- Sit down with them to play a fun bilingual game. Tell them you want to gift them a game that you can play with them again and again. Introduce the game, tell him or her what you love most about the game and why you thought it would be a good game for him or her. Looking for good games? You can find all our favorites here.
- Tell them about your experience with bilingualism. We all need examples and role models– be a bilingual hero for the gift-receiver! Share with them the answers to these questions:
- What do you love most about being bilingual?
- What advice would you give me for my bilingual journey?
- How has being bilingual helped you?
- What’s something about bilingualism you wish you would have known earlier?
- Why do you value bilingualism?
- Give a career presentation in the target language! Make it fun with a slideshow or a poster presentation! Share what it is that you do, why you do it, what you love and some of the challenges. Especially if you don’t use the target language in your day-to-day work, preparing this special presentation will be a good exercise for you and your bilingualism. Keep it age-appropriate and connect it back to the things you learned at the child’s age that are helping you in your work today. For the child, this exposure is priceless! Not only are they probably going to be exposed to so much new vocab, they will also be inspired to think about the amazing careers they might pursue one day, too. Getting to know this side of you will also help him or her feel closer to you. One of my favorite parts of our Lelu monthly programming is our expert calls (which I’ve written about here) where we get to hear from professions in STEAM fields we’re learning about. Kids love them and get so much out of them!
- Do a fun project or two with them in the target language! You already know Lelu is here to help with this! Lelu’s Spanish + STEAM kits make great gifts for bilingual kids because giving a Lelu kit is giving an educational experience! Lelu boxes are not intended to result in “more stuff,” they are best when used in-month and with others! (With the exception of the amazing games we include in each box, which will outlast any given month. There is such a lack of good bilingual games on the market, that bilingual parents will gladly receive more whenever possible.)
Gift Books in the Target Language
Again, my firm belief is that there is no such thing as having too many books in your family’s target language. I am overjoyed anytime my children receive a good book in Spanish. My kids have loved the Agus y Los Monstruos series and Roald Dahl books like Matilda and inspirational books like La lección de August: Wonder and encyclopedias like Animales (still only $5.67 at the time of this writing!). Just one book can add so much to a home library!
Here are my tips on gifting books:
- Ask the parent what types of books the child likes/is reading. Not surprisingly, parents have the intel on what their kids are reading/want to read. By all means, if you have a book series you have loved and want to share, it’s always nice to receive books that have touched others. But if you want to give something you’ll know they’ll like and use, ask the parent! You may hear:
- Go the extra mile. Gifting books doesn’t have to mean buying and giving books. One nice way to “gift books” is to loan them with the intention of reading them with the child! What do I mean? Go to the library and select books that you think would be a good fit for the child and then read them together! Make the book reading an experience, a happy memory. Tell them, “I went to the library and thought of you. I picked out these books so we can read them together.” This is such a sweet way to share your love of bilingualism and books. Then, once you’ve read the books, you can return them to the library and there’s no extra stuff to worry about back home.
Your most precious resource is time because time is the only resource you can never get back. Therefore, gifting time, giving of yourself, is the most meaningful gift. Support a child’s bilingualism by being their bilingual friend and hero.
I can’t remember what my Tia Concha gave me for my 9th birthday. But I’ll never forget when Mrs. Marty invited me over for an afternoon of swimming. I still remember the chicken wings and grapes she got for us to snack on. That afternoon, she made me feel special and cared for. Her time spent with me was the best gift. When you have the opportunity to give to a bilingual child, there is no greater gift than quality time in the target language.