I recently read a post on Facebook that gave me lots of pause for thought. It was on a well known mums forum. Someone had written a message saying it was almost her daughter's 11th birthday, and what were other folk buying their similarly aged children.
The overwhelming majority of responses mentioned clothes (usually particular brands and labels), jewellery, shoes and hair accessories. The things we use to adorn a body and to invite comment about appearance. There was nothing to feed the inner life of the young girl. No mention of toys and things to play with. No mention of a book related to an interest or passion. Nothing to spark the imagination or encourage creativity. No challenge to the intellect. Is it just me? Does this attitude not make you feel incredibly sad and perhaps a bit angry?
The constant focus on a girl's outward appearance, especially with regards to gifts and presents, was one of the key reasons I felt there was a need for After Alice Ltd. Providing a dressing up box that only has princess dressing up costumes, and then firmly declaring that that child 'loves to be a princess' is a limited take on imaginative play. It provides the answer before it asks the question. If she chooses to be a princess when there is also a spy, chef, vet and astronaut costume, then maybe they have a point.
Don't get me wrong. My girls love a new fluffy jumper. They love a shiny necklace. I don't mean to criticise anyone, and I understand how hard it is to get decent gifts that the birthday child appreciates. But birthday gifts should reflect the whole girl. Her inner world as well as the outer appearance. Otherwise you run the risk of her feeling that her beautiful mind, her beautiful courage, her beautiful kindness, is not as important as a beautiful face and body.
So what could you get, maybe you ask? Well just in case you are looking for great gifts for almost 11 years olds and you would like some inspiration, I have picked 5 treasures from After Alice Ltd, listed below. And there is not a pair of trainers in sight.
1. Celeste bracelets
Jewellery doesn't have to be off limits, but how much lovelier is it when you make and design it for yourself? This lovely kit teaches a new craft skill and results in a gorgeous bracelet they will want to show off.
2. Keep the magic!
They don't have to stop enjoying magic just because they are in double digits. Give them a beautifully crafted grown up set like the superb Magicam Magic Compendium. This is a great hobby for encouraging talking confidently in front of others, performing to a group and it is excellent for rewarding perseverance (tricks don't work, if you don't work at them).
3. Light that spark
We love STEM pursuits at After Alice Ltd. You don't have to wait until school lessons for your child discover their passions and interests. There are so many great kits to enjoy at home (and only a tiny number have the potential to ruin the carpet). Be led by your child's interests and try and harness their enthusiasm with the right choice of gift. For example this Doorbell Making Kit will appeal to an 11 year old desiring a little more privacy and a little less uninvited younger sibling.
4. Go back in time.
It is a truth universally accepted that if you have a gorgeous stationery set, you will put it to good use. We all know that nothing beats a penned letter. Emails? Texts? They speak of brevity, rush and getting something over with. If someone has sat down, and really thought about what they want to say it touches the receiver on a completely different level. It could even make their day. We love this boxed notecard set. For the quality of the paper, the simplicity of the design (good for all kinds of occasions) and the luxurious envelope. Sending off one of these as a Thank you Card will make everyone feel good.
5. Come together
Every birthday and Christmas should involve a new game (well I think so anyway). This is not just a gift for the child, it is a gift for the whole family. A great game brings everyone close, away from screens and the other demands of busy family life. Yes your child is growing up and maybe sometimes it feels like they are growing away from you. Fun pursuits you can regularly enjoy together, keeps the connection, and let's face it, with the teenage years looming that can only be a good thing. We are very fussy about the games we stock. We play them all, and if we wouldn't have them (in our ridiculously crammed) games cupboard, then we won't have them on After Alice Ltd.
Forbidden Island is a goodie (for players 10 years +). I particularly like it as it is a 'cooperative game' which means you are all on the same team so you either all win or all lose (this can be a novel situation for siblings usually stuck in competitive rage against each other). It is exciting and has stunning graphics, which never hurts. It definitely feels like a grown up game, so ideal for children who don't want to be seen engaging in 'younger' pursuits.
So there we have, the tip of our iceberg. It was very hard to just keep it to 5 suggestions and these are obviously general ideas. If you are stuck and would like some advice, please do get in touch. We love to hear from you and thoroughly enjoying talking about gifts.