Homemade toddler Christmas gift: a story jar

I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now – it started in January as something very personal to fill that ‘post baby book’ gap where my little one’s formative years risked disappearing into hazy memories and blurry iPhone snaps. Somewhere to capture the bits and pieces of my family life and the things we all got up to. Since then it’s evolved a bit to be very much my lens on our year – where I like to capture moments and memories through the personal projects I’ve worked on, things I’ve cooked for the family, and experiences I’ve shared; so that it might be interesting or useful to other people too.

This is a little project that I wanted to share as a way of writing down a few little memories about my own childhood, and A’s as she nears 3 years old.

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Having a birthday shortly before Christmas hasn’t yet reached the annoying stage for A; but for the past two it has been a little bit overwhelming, as it all merges into a fortnight-long festival of parties, family, events and so, so many presents. Such a lot for a little person, and more than she can ever appreciate. You might have read before my previous post on ‘minimalist parenting‘ – we’re not ones for lots of ‘stuff’ either.

We’ve talked before about having a ‘half birthday’ summer party for her, and dissuading relatives from buying her gifts in December, but we always mention it too late, and we know loving people love to ignore well-meant instructions in any case.

Instead, this year we’ll mark both her birthday and Christmas with low-key family gatherings and a few, small gifts (there’ll be a cake – there’s always a cake at the slightest excuse); but as a parent I want what we give her to be meaningful, without being extravagant; and ideally something that will last for a decent part of the year.

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This year I have decided to riff on an idea from my own childhood. This year has been the year A discovered stories. Her appetite for being read to from her bowing bookshelf and weekly library books besides, is insatiable. But when I tire of ‘Three Little Pigs’ for the billionth time I pull a trick from my mother: “a story about the day”. A short made-up tale pulling some of the key features or toddler dilemmas from our day together in 2 minutes with an obligatory happy ending before I sink into the sofa for the evening.

As with real books A is enthralled at any story with relatable details: a character that goes to nursery just like her, or one with a suspiciously familiar name. It gets better if something unlikely happens in a place she knows. She even makes slightly surrealist requests now – “A pretend story about Daddy, and a FISH!”.

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I’ve combined this idea into her Christmas present this year – a story jar. Little wooden discs with words and phrases – some familiar, others more magical. My idea is to ask her to pick 2 or 3 to be the subject of a bed time story. It took all of 10 minutes out of an evening and a few pounds to make; I’m hoping it will remind me to engage with her fully more often and give us many lovely stories and moments over the year to come.

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