Have you ever stopped to think how often we spend money on something not because we really need it, but because we are made to feel somehow inadequate if we don't buy it? If you wear the same shoes for two seasons, you don't look good enough. If you haven't changed your cell phone in such and such amount of time, you aren't up to date with the latest technology. If you never eat out, you are a cheapskate. All of which, of course, is a crime!
Not long ago, I was contacted by a lady who wanted to buy a certain gift for her children, but because she felt it would mean spending a bit too much money, she ended up using some resourcefulness and creativity and making it herself. Her children loved what she did, but later she felt guilty for refusing to open her pocket and buy the brand-new, commercial, perfect-looking version.
There is a whole industry built around children, from babies to teenagers, with a seemingly endless stream of products and services - which we are supposed to buy, if we want to be good parents. Or so they would have us believe.
But you know what? The people who are behind promoting sales of brand-name children's toys, clothes, and various "development enhancers" are interested primarily in your hard-earned money! Wrapping us in guilt for not being able to afford this, that and the other material possession for our children does not serve us or our children - it serves the interests of those who work within the industry.
For many generations, children have developed just fine without having their own private rooms, fancy toys, and new clothes. They had simple home-made toys and games, many siblings and cousins, and early, active involvement in family life. Have you ever thought why today, when so much effort is put into "child development", it takes so long for people to become mature? In my opinion, this is at least partly due to children's early separation from their mothers, lack of siblings, and early institutionalization.
Children need mothers who are ready to put in time, effort, love and devotion, and actually be there for their children. A simple toy you make for your children, or a game you make up together, is much better than buying a fancy gift you can't afford.
My observation is that children get tired of toys pretty quickly, and it doesn't matter how expensive they are. When we are talking about something you made, your children will know Mom made it just for them, and they will know the time and effort you put into making a gift for them. This will teach them, from an early age, to appreciate the value of work and everything that goes along with it. When I was a child, a hat or sweater that Grandma made was worn with extra care, because I remembered all the time she spent with her pair of needles, knitting away. It also taught me a link between a ball of yarn, a pair of knitting needles, and an item of clothing. No such kind of educational experience is attached to store-bought products.
"The best" is not the shiny, new, brand-name things sold in stores. Not if you would have to go out to work and spend less time with your children in order to buy those things, or put your family under a financial strain. I believe with all my heart that love, nurturing, family time, creativity, contact with nature, good reading and simple entertainment are the best - but of course, it's not a popular choice, and not one that is promoted by those who would otherwise have your money in their pocket.