Let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s hard to remember who gave you exactly what. Did Aunt Ann or Aunt Kayla give you that set of towels for your wedding? Was it Uncle Joe or Uncle Zev who gave you a gift certificate to the local ice cream parlor on your 15th birthday? It’s not that the gift is not appreciated or enjoyed, it’s just that time tends to bring forgetfulness. What does tend to persist though, surviving the ravages of time, are memories of moments steeped in laughter, or of experiences quite out of the ordinary.
Prolonging the suspense experienced by a gift recipient, or turning it into a game of sorts, is one way to achieve something out of the ordinary that is likely to delight. Alternately, there are also ways to present your gift, packaging-wise, that make a gift memorable for not just what it is, but for how it was received. Clearly this is not something you can do every time you give a gift – the novelty would soon wear off, eroding the joy and “memorableness” of something designed to be just the opposite of that – a surprising, delighting experience. Instead, we suggest you deploy this arsenal of presentation tactics on special occasions – a 21st or 50th birthday, or a 1-year or 10-year anniversary for example. Then, not only will the event be memorable for the occasion itself, but for how it was celebrated.
Here are several ideas, in varying degrees of complexity and involvement, as to how you can turn the act of gift giving/receiving into a marvelously special experience in its own right:
Make a visual impact:
PACKAGE IT WITH CANDY: if you are mailing a gift, forego packing peanuts and bubble wrap – use candy instead! Whether you get individually wrapped peppermints (great for Christmas gifting!), snack-size bags of Cadbury mini eggs, chocolate coins (tops for Hanukkah!), or a selection of your recipient’s childhood favorites, candy can be your packing material. Our only caution: do not use chocolate candy in the summertime – this has the potential for very messy results!
MAKE A DIORAMA: we first saw this when a childhood friend’s mom made an advent calendar this way. Affixing small boxes on a larger piece of cardboard, she transformed those little boxes into houses which, taken together, became a beautiful winter village scene. Each door and some of the windows had numbers on them, corresponding to the day on which they were to be opened. And, behind each little opening was a small ornament or gift for the child who was the day’s designated “opener.” At the time, we thought this was pretty genius idea, so set about making one too. The building of the village is fun – but seeing the delight of those tasked with opening it is even better! This is something that can be done not just for Christmas – for example, the eight days of Hanukkah, twenty doors/windows for a 20th birthday or a 20th anniversary, and so on. If you are really ambitious, you could try to replicate the recipient’s hometown or a scene that has personal meaning to them.
Build the suspense:
A TREASURE HUNT: one of our all-time favorites in the “unique methods of gift presentation” category is to organize a treasure hunt. So much so, in fact, that we’ve already written a blog post solely devoted to discussing how we go about crafting a treasure hunt. Suffice it to say that our opinion on this one is unwavering and we’re still big proponents of the treasure hunt as a suspense-building, delight-giving method of presentation. Do check out that post for additional details and treasure-hunting tips and inspiration!
A STRING MAZE: a string maze is a bit like Twister in that it can provoke a lot of physical humor and gut-busting laughter - alternately, there are plenty of opportunities for romantic entanglement, both figuratively and physically! The concept is pretty simple - attach a gift to one end of the string and then start unwinding all over the room or house - even better, if there are multiple recipients, cross and intermingle strings (but don’t tangle them!) so a bit of collaborative effort is required. Pro tip: if it matters which person gets which gift, be sure to mark the starting end of each string with the correct recipient’s name from the get-go so no confusion arises. String mazes have the benefit of being affordable and not too time consuming in terms of set-up. Moreover, no string goes to waste, so long as the recipient re-rolls the string as they go (no scissors allowed!). A variation on the string maze theme is to create a “laser” maze where the string fills in for the lasers - think Mission Impossible or Entrapment - and your recipient has to go all Catherine Zeta-Jones or Tom Cruise to get to their gift, ducking and diving around strings, starting over if they touch a “laser.” Amp up the humor by playing appropriate music and/or film your recipient in their “action movie.”
A LIFE-SIZE GAME EXPERIENCE: continuing with the gaming motif, consider creating a life-size game experience. Depending on how complicated you want to get, this one may involve some woodworking or crafting skills. Games that might be worth emulating include KerPlunk, great if you have several recipients, with the person releasing the least number of balls getting first choice from a present pile (and so on in ascending order). A life size maze would also be a pretty fantastic, a once-in-a-lifetime experience – created with dollar store sheets or, if you have access to them (and a few sets of helping hands), hay bales. Other games that might be fun on a grand scale are Chutes and Ladders (especially if you already have a cloth tunnel for the kiddoes and a ladder in the garage) and, if you can figure out how to rig up a buzzer system, Operation. This fellow seems like he might have done it!
A PHYSICAL CHALLENGE: for more of a physical challenge, may we recommend a scavenger hunt, or (even more strenuous) an obstacle course that your recipient(s) must complete in order to “win” their gift. We’re not necessarily thinking boot camp level exertion – the potential for adding some silly parts to an obstacle course (e.g. trying to apply make-up while running to the next station and/or doing a Charlie Chaplin walk, complete with hat and twirling umbrella), would be too hard to resist! As for scavenger hunts, they can often be themed around the recipient themselves or around their present – for example, if you are giving a kayak or fishing rod, you can design the hunt to take place outdoors. Consider listing the items to be scavenged in such a way that your recipient works their way closer and closer to the water’s edge, setting the stage for you to present your gift in the place where it will be used.
TIMELY GIFTS: last but not least, there is the explicitly suspenseful method of gifting on the hour (or some other increment of time). If you have several gifts to give, this can be a fun way to spread out the delight. Mark gifts with the time they are to be opened – perhaps kicking things off with some smaller, funny tokens and working your way up to the pièce de résistance. A gift with many components is also a good candidate for this method of presentation. So, for example, the first gift your recipient opens might be a lipstick, then a compact, then a keychain, then a wallet, then perhaps that purse they have been eyeing for months. Or, perhaps you start with a packet of Big League Chew bubble gum, followed by a baseball, then a hat or t-shirt supporting the recipient’s favorite team, and, for a grand finale, a pair of tickets to a game.
We hope one or more of these ideas hit the mark. Let us know if you try one and how it works out – or, if you have a great idea you’d add to this list, please let us know - we’re all ears!
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