Margaret and I had a discussion about what to give to our 14 year old Stanley for his birthday present. There are multiple toys out there that would please him, from video games to electronics and almost any kind of remote control, but they don’t last and they only provide short-term pleasure. We’d rather give him something that will provide longer-term happiness than a toy that only gives short term “distraction-type” pleasure.

The 2 possibilities we talked about were:

1. A banjo

2. Karate class lessons

BanjoCake Karate Dog

He’s been learning the banjo on his sisters instrument and has taken a keen interest in both the banjo and guitar, so his own banjo would be a good choice. We know he would enjoy it, it stimulates the mind and is long lasting. Some other benefits of music: Increases brain capacity, improves coordination (hand-eye coordination), improves reading & comprehension skills, enhances concentration, relieves stress, and all around just promotes happiness. Kids who are into music never lack “…something to do because I’m bored.”

The other kids have recently started karate lessons and they come home all fired up. When they’re so enthusiastic about it, Stanley shows interest, so lessons for him looks like a good birthday-gift option. Some benefits: Develop self-discipline, helps social skills, provide physical activity, learns goal achievement, improve self-esteem, teaches respect, teaches non-violent conflict resolution, sharpens listening skills and builds teamwork.

Either one of these gift ideas would provide longer, perhaps even life-long benefits, not just short-term pleasure. I’m not sure, at the moment, what we’ll decide on, but the point is to encourage your kids to do things that are beneficial to their physical and mental health. One way to accomplish this is through birthday presents that accomplish that goal.

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