Summer is almost upon us, and that means holidays and Christmas too… I do take a little comfort here in New Zealand that we don’t break out the decorations and paraphernalia at the end of August like they do in the supermarkets in the UK, but all the same, it all starts so early, doesn’t it?

I have decided this month to give you some alternative ideas for children’s gifts from family that are not material possessions. I’m thinking the junior version of The Total Experience – perhaps without the price tag and slightly less adrenaline.

The fact that I live on the North Shore in Auckland means that for November, I was able to gain entry to MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) in Auckland for free. I went with my nephew and his friend. It was great for an outing in the sunshine. The boys had a blast and loved seeing all the different modes of transport. But it got me thinking: If we had to pay for that outing, we would have felt compelled to stay for hours and hours. As it was, the boys got a bit tired and there was a relatively imminent meltdown heading our way, cue calm but rapid retreat to the car – my nephew was asleep before the traffic lights changed…

Many public attractions like zoos and museums have special ‘friend’ passes that let you go as many times as you like during a year for a fixed price- for example, at MOTAT, the normal entry price is $35.00 for a family of up to four children, and the annual pass is $65.00. Even if you only go twice in that year it makes it good value for money. And when you feel the need for a hasty retreat, you can leave without feeling like you have wasted your money…

I understand that this is easy enough if you live in Auckland, but
are there places near you that could work like this? Zoos, wild life parks and sanctuaries may all offer annual passes- here is a list at zoochat.com or New Zealand Tourism – you might be surprised about some of the places close to you.

If that doesn’t take your fancy, how about something in the form of a local class? Something like Jumping Beans, Chipmunks, a swim class or another indoor class- especially for those wet and wild days when you would otherwise get stuck inside. They are great for letting all that excess energy out and also getting you talking to other adults.

For older children, how about cooking, surfing or tennis lessons, kickboxing or other forms of sport or recreation that stretch your purse strings. They can be expensive for families but Granny might like to contribute to this kind of gift. One never knows where it might lead, Masterchef anyone?

For those of you who like to actually give a physical gift, I can’t help but suggest books and I was going to mention that amazon.co.uk has free shipping to NZ… but I just looked and fishpond.co.nz also has some really great prices on the Julia Donaldson books like The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Room on the Broom, Tabby McTat etc…. I love them as much as the Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd because they rhyme, so the littlies can join in, and they’re a good laugh too.

And if none of the above take your fancy, a fail safe option for under 3s is Duplo (big Lego) – They play with that for years and years! I mean that as in, my dad still plays with it…

So, here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. May it be safe and fun and full of joy!

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Jayne has over 18 years experience in caring for children and has worked in both New Zealand and the UK. She has a vast range of expertise and can offer help and advice if you are struggling with your children. You can read more about Jayne on her website- Everything But The Stork. Jayne writes regular columns for Kiwi Families and will also answer your questions about babies and children

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