Kids get creative with Christmas presents for parents

Kids get creative with their presents for adults, handing out handwritten notes, self-made crafts and experiences

Kids, both nice and naughty, get presents for Christmas - regardless of the warnings about staying on Santa's good list.

When young children give presents to their parents, however, some of the adults feel uneasy.

Some are concerned that their children might be influenced by the rampant materialism of the season. Others emphasise the value of things not measured in dollars and cents, such as being considerate or helpful or just sweeping the floor now and again, for goodness' sake.

But, as the following stories show, young children can have vastly different attitudes towards money and the giving of presents.

Spending money on Christmas gifts can be a mark of maturity. This whiff of grown-up glamour may be undercut, though, by the places children shop at, such as sundry shops and petrol stations.

They have no wheels of their own and cannot take public transport by themselves, so they buy presents at the familiar places their parents take them to, sometimes surreptitiously, while the grown-ups are running errands.

For children who have yet to receive pocket money, handwritten notes, homemade crafts or even found objects are the way to go.

Some kids even give out "experiential" presents instead of more tangible objects - right in step with trends in the adult world.

One thing is certain, when young children give presents, smiles will grow even wider this festive season.

Wrapping up empty cookie tins and packets of snacks

Twins Elliot and Janelle Wong, who are seven years old, were the first to put their 10 Christmas presents under the tree early this month.

Their enthusiasm is infectious. This is the first year they are giving presents - which they mostly made themselves - to their parents, aunt and two sets of grandparents.

Elliot says that they probably "forgot" to give presents last Christmas as they were only six years old then.

A lot of thought has been given to what each family member might want.

Janelle pasted a "Hand Made Accessories" label on one of the presents, after checking the spelling of the words with her grandmother. She had noticed that some women in the family like wearing jewellery.

Another family member's present involves, intriguingly, a cookie tin that was lying around. The children say they washed it first.

Another relative is receiving a favourite snack for Christmas. The twins took one of several small packets of snacks, which probably came from the kitchen, and simply wrapped it up.

It reflects a practical bent to their gift-giving. They had also asked their mother, Mrs Edna Wong, 39, to buy a kitchen utensil as a present for someone else on their behalf.

Mrs Wong, who owns an English enrichment school, is married to scientist Julian Wong, 41.

To keep the proceedings hush-hush, the children have been wrapping the gifts in their room while their parents are at work.

Wrapping presents is the most difficult part of Christmas, says Elliot. The trick is to keep it simple. "We mostly wrap things in a box shape," he says.

Dipping into his savings to buy his family Christmas presents

Jeremiah Pang lets his younger brother Josiah be a co-giver of the Christmas presents he buys for their parents, Mr Derek Pang and Ms Janis Lim. ST PHOTO: VENESSA LEE

Jeremiah Pang, nine, had been giving his parents hand-drawn Christmas cards since he was about three. It was time to up the ante.

Over the course of the year, he has conscientiously put aside one or two dollars every week from his daily allowance.

Shortly after the year-end school holidays started, he decided to use the $75 nest egg to buy Christmas presents for his parents and younger brother, six-year-old Josiah.

He asked his parents for permission and his mother, Ms Janis Lim, 37, helped him set a budget.

Ms Lim, a stay-at-home mum, wanted him to have some savings left over.

It proved to be an opportunity for Jeremiah to learn about financial limits.

Early this month, he accompanied his mother to a store that sold cosmetics and asked her: "Why is make-up so expensive?"

They had earlier decided on $10 or less for each gift and most of the beauty items cost more than that.

It is an open secret within the family what Jeremiah is getting each of them.

Based on their likes and hobbies, he decided on a cartoon figurine, a set of newspapers and some chocolates.

He had set his sights on a type of chocolate sold in the convenience store at the petrol station he frequents with his father, pilot Derek Pang, 44.

Josiah wants to give presents too, just like his big brother, but Ms Lim says, maybe next year.

Jeremiah is generously letting his younger brother be a co-giver of the presents because "Josiah has no pocket money yet".

Handmade gifts for all occasions

Foo siblings (clockwise from left) Renee, eight, Emmanuel, two, Shanice, 10, and Nathaniel, six, like doing craftwork. With them are their parents, Mr Samuel Foo and wife Diana. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

For the Foo family's children, the giving of handmade gifts and cards is not limited to special occasions.

Mrs Diana Foo, 35, likes doing craftwork and her three older children, aged six to 10, have followed suit. Over the years, they have made items such as necklaces stringed with dried pasta and rainbow loom bands, a rubber-band craft.

The fourth sibling, two-year-old Emmanuel, was carefully pouring pine tree-shaped glitter into a snow globe that his siblings were making when The Sunday Times visited the family recently. The children particularly enjoyed making Christmas snow globes as a festive activity in 2014.

Such homemade items are liberally disbursed to family members and friends on occasions such as birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day as well, and, sometimes, simply for fun.

The children have an eclectic approach to gift-giving. Special occasions can be marked by shows they put on, involving song, dance or puppets. Once, they wrote Christmas cards addressed to God.

Renee, eight, recently gave her parents and siblings a voucher redeemable for a massage by her.

Mrs Foo, who works in digital marketing and who has a blog focusing on art and craft, often tells her children that the gifts are unnecessary.

"They can help me by tidying up at home or just being obedient," says Mrs Foo, who is married to Mr Samuel Foo, 35, an engineer.

As she cannot bear to throw their craftwork away, finding the space to store the pieces is a challenge.

For many children, moving away from giving homemade presents is a sign that they are growing up.

Eldest child Shanice, 10, gave beaded items she made during the family's Christmas celebration in 2015. She is now old enough to feel the pressure of social reciprocity.

"If people give me gifts, I don't want it to seem like I'm just taking. It's better to give something back," she says.

Last year, she spent $23 of her savings to buy stationery for her family members and more than 10 relatives for Christmas. "I thought it would be fun to go on a shopping spree like an adult," she says.

Continuing a tradition from home

Mrs Hershey Regaya with her husband, Mr Jess Regaya and her children Lorenzo, 14, and Sofia, 11. PHOTO: HERSHEY REGAYA

I’ve challenged them by saying that, instead of material gifts, presents can be in the form of a card, a prayer or service for someone.

Mrs Hershey Regaya, on steering her children from consumerism during festive gift-giving.

Siblings Lorenzo and Sofia Regaya have had a mixed record when it comes to giving Christmas presents to their parents.

Seven years ago, their family of four moved to Singapore from the Philippines, where Christmas gift exchanges were part of their family tradition.

This had flagged in Singapore when they no longer celebrated the occasion with dozens of relatives.

Inspired by those memories, Lorenzo, 14, and Sofia, 11, wanted to give their parents small gifts for Christmas in 2013 and 2014.

"As the kids in the family, we like to celebrate festive occasions. We like to discuss such things and prepare for them," says Sofia, adding that buying presents for their parents is a way of showing their gratitude.

They do not remember all the presents they have bought, but their gifts for their mother have included a comb from Sofia and a coin purse from Lorenzo.

Their mum, Mrs Hershey Regaya, 44, recalls Lorenzo's gift more vividly than Sofia's because of the way he had wrapped it.

In 2013, he wrapped the purse, which was decorated with dragons, in scrap paper, rather than wrapping paper, and cocooned it with copious amounts of sticky tape.

She had seen the purse before - among knick-knacks at a "dusty" convenience store near their home that no one seemed interested to buy.

Her response was the kind of complicated approval parents display when their child presents them with a self-made misshapen mug.

"I didn't want to discourage him because he was beaming, but I was really tested by the saying, 'it's the thought that counts,'" says Mrs Regaya, a programme manager at Family Life Society, a non-profit organisation. She is married to Mr Jess Regaya, 53, a site supervisor in a construction company.

Lorenzo adds: "She was very convincing at the time. She looked really happy."

Mrs Regaya adds: "There's always this issue of being carried away by consumerism during Christmas.

"I've challenged them by saying that, instead of material gifts, presents can be in the form of a card, a prayer or service for someone."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 24, 2017, with the headline 'Gifts from the young'. Print Edition | Subscribe