Every year around, oh, Valentine’s Day, I start to feel a little motor go off inside my head that increases to an ever-annoying whirrrrrr about the time Target breaks out its Easter paraphanalia (which, let’s be honest, is like two days after Valentine’s Day). That motor runs in a psychotic frenzy because, as a mother of three, I have six very important tasks to accomplish, and with very little time and almost as little cash: find three different outfits for my kids to wear on Easter, stuff three different baskets. It’s all so… exhausting. Easter is now mini-Christmas, no?
My mom always did an amazing job of making the holidays relaxing and fun but special, nonetheless. And special, to me, as a child, was knowing that I would, in fact, have an Easter basket with a few goodies waiting for me on the kitchen table Easter Sunday. It wasn’t the meaning of Easter per se; or was it? Easter, of course, is all about getting an unexpected, undeserved gift, right? So in my mind, as a mom trying to teach my kids the truth of Jesus on Easter – and every day - how can I create “special” without going overboard?
My solution: choose items to fill those baskets that aren’t going to end up in Goodwill piles or the trash can in a week. Or a few hours. We live in a gigantic $1-section-world, where we can find lots of junk to fill lots of spaces, but this year, I decided to do stuff that, well, doesn’t feel like the fluff that I so often toss in with haphazard anxiety. I made lists. I worked hard to narrow it down. What I discovered is that sometimes, what makes “fluff” become, well, “fluff” is that it’s given in a very haphazard way. When we give with intentionality, sometimes that “fluff” becomes not only “stuff” but more like sweet treasures, things my kids will remember not for how important or valuable the objects were but for how much their mom had wanted to make them smile. So, here’s a peek into what’s going into our baskets this year:
1. Personalized anything.
My kids – and I’m assuming all kids – love to see their name on stuff. Sometimes that stuff is silly, I’ll grant you, but sometimes it goes a long way. For example, this year my kids are getting personalized placemats from one of my favorite Etsy designers. I choose the imaging I want and she creates a lovely, plastic, wipe-me-ten-thousand-times-after-I’m-covered-in-spaghtetti table topper that my children literally race to the cabinet to get out in the morning. Winner.
2. Flip flops.
Okay, it sounds silly. But honestly, there’s nothing that says “spring has sprung” like a fun new pair of flip flops. Buy ‘em at Target, Walmart, Walgreens… they’re aplenty, and they’re cheap. And know that when you stick them in their baskets, they’ll enjoy them all summer long.
3. Hair ties and new brushes.
I don’t know why, but my kids – well, I guess mostly my girls, although my son does enjoy brushing his own hair – seem to oooh and aaaah over my hair brush and my hair ties. Especially my oldest, who’s nine. I don’t mind sharing, but it’s nice to give them one of those uber-colorful bundles of brand new rubber bands that you can buy at any drug store for, like, $2.99. It’s nice because it’s cost-effective and because they’re excited and because it packs an Easter-basket-ish bang for its buck: major pastels for minor dollars.
4. Water bottles.
As flip flops equal warm, spring-y breezes in our house, water bottles equal summer. And summer, although in theory quite a while away, is close enough in the minds of my children that we’re already discussing pool time, camp time, etc. And when mom thinks pool, mom thinks “I’m thirsty…” (and having to get up to go spend money I don’t have on drinks that are red and sticky). The perfect solution is a water bottle for each of the kiddos, somehow distinct from the others so that it’s exactly them, providing you with hours of relief from, “She has mine!” and “No, that’s mine!!!”
5. Bubbles, frisbees, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk.
Okay, this might feel a little more like fluff. But we all know there’s nothing quite like bubbles to create hours of fun for any kid. And when the soapy stuff runs out, there’s frisbees, which my children can’t throw to save their lives, but which they’ll spend hours attempting to throw. Sidewalk chalk, while somewhat, well, chalky, is a great way to entertain outdoors and keep them away from the t.v. – and the kitchen. Ultimately, the greatest thing about all of these options is that they usually have a long shelf life: meaning that after my kids enjoy them, we can put them up in the garage for another day and voila! Easter basket goodies become goodies for the 4th of July!
6. Easter books.
I may be an old-fashioned weirdo, but every month, we switch out the books on my daughter’s book rack on the wall in her room to reflect the holiday or the season. Easter is no exception, so one of my go-tos for their baskets is a new book for each of them to “contribute” to the Easter library. I try to buy something that is reminiscent of the particular stage they’re in – so this year, my two year-old son is getting an Easter board book. The best part is that each year, we open them, read the little note on the inside, and the kids love seeing which books belonged to them and how much “older” they’ve gotten. “Mom, I would never choose a board book NOW! But will you read it to me again?”
This will be my one actual product plug. No, I don’t work for this brand, no I don’t plan to (although if they’re reading, seriously, I would be dynamite at marketing, see?!?) – but we own a lot of these sweet stuffed animals, and my kids can’t get enough. Easter for me, again, is about zero fluff, so my husband and I had a long talk about whether that should include fluffy. I felt that nothing says “Easter basket” like something soft and sweet to cuddle, and since real, live chicks weren’t on the agenda, these are just about as good (maybe better, when you factor in the no-feeding and no-pooping parts). Jellycat makes adorable, super-soft little ducklings and bunnies that will delight any set of little hands – and they’re easy on the wallet . Tie a sweet pastel ribbon around its neck and you’ve got a “pet” they’ll not soon forget (and consequently won’t have to be flushed or buried in a shoe box).
I know. I know!!! But one thing we’ve been focusing on in our house is overflow. This means that unless something causes our children direct harm or has been declared criminal in some form or fashion – be it by the U.S. government or just the government of mom – we try not to say “no!” just because it’s convenient. Candy, for the most part, is criminal. Teeth-rotting, hyperactive-coma-inducing criminal candy. But on Easter, it’s not. On Easter, we get to walk away from the guilt. Isn’t that Easter’s message, after all? Not indulge, indulge, indulge – don’t hear me saying that. But rather more of a “don’t call unclean what I’ve called clean.” I think Jesus would actually love sitting down to a bag of much-beloved M&Ms with my four year-old.
Each holiday season allows me to teach my children by doing something tangible that they can understand through action, not just through words. Easter is no different. I don’t know where the baskets originated, but I do know that in filling them, my kids get to experience overflow, that notion that we get what we don’t deserve, what we didn’t even ask for, and sometimes, what we dared not hope was possible.
I want my kids to see that, through Jesus, their cup truly does overflow. Through Him, we have an inheritance that’s sweet and satisfying.
Even if, for a toddler, that means that today, her cup runneth over… with Skittles.
What are some of your favorite intentional Easter basket fillers?