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Not all gifts need to be things, bought from a store and then wrapped. Here are some ideas for doing gifting differently.

Giving to others

It might sound like a cliché, but giving to the less privileged is very rewarding. There are plenty of organisations in South Africa that enable you to sponsor a child for a fixed amount every month.

Children of the Dawn, for example, cares for Aids orphans and you can contribute a small sum every month, which pays for their school fees and other necessities. You regularly receive a letter from your sponsored child and you also get to write to them. This way your child can contribute with his own stories, photos and drawings, or help choose a Christmas gift and school stationery to send to the sponsored child. Your child will learn loads from his new pen pal.

Gifts that keep growing

Plant a tree or start a new herb garden or veggie patch with your child on their birthday. You could even make this part of the party entertainment – hold a ceremony and hand over the plants or a watering can and a signboard that reads: “This is Inno’s garden”, for example.

Gardening with your child can be a fun and much-loved activity – something she may never outgrow. Plus, she’ll enjoy watching her gift flourish, and will also learn about taking responsibility for caring for her plants. You could try a pizza herb garden by planting oregano, basil and parsley or a scented herb garden with geraniums or lavender.

Planting a tree has more significance than you doing your bit for the planet. Traditionally trees have been planted in many cultures in honour of an accomplishment or an important day such as a graduation, wedding, retirement or the birth of a child. Remember to plant an indigenous tree, which is suited to the climate in your area.

Be creative

Start a family scrapbook with memorabilia, photos, found treasure, and so on. Countless memories are built during the formative years and should be captured. It may be wise to start this book a few years in advance and then present a book of memories to your child on a birthday when he’s old enough for you to continue working on it together – this also gives you the opportunity to give the gift of time.

Help a furry friend

There are numerous ways to help animals in distress in South Africa – just Google “adopt a pet South Africa” and you’ll find a host of legitimate organisations that need your help. You can give a pet a home, sponsor money or goods, adopt the animal virtually or volunteer your services.

Organisations that regularly have volunteer programmes or fundraising initiatives are the SPCA, SANCCOB and The Society for Animals in Distress.

For a rainy day

Your child might not appreciate it now, but starting a university or education fund for their future is something they (and you) will be pleased about come their Grade 12 year. Plus it’s an excellent answer to requests for gift suggestions from faraway (or near) aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Surprise in the post

A magazine subscription is a gift that arrives in your postbox every so often, and few things excite children as much as receiving a parcel in the mail. Sports magazines are very popular with older children. ZigZag covers surfing with a dollop of lifestyle thrown in the mix. Plus there are magazines focusing on rugby, cricket and soccer – perfect for young boys. And remember, your child can also give any of these gifts to another child for their birthday.

Marina Zietsman

We’ve got some more great ideas for thoughtful presents for children of every age, and special and unique gifts of joy and Valentine’s day gifts that children can make.