8 min read
Sisters come in all shapes and sizes.
Some sisters are like our favorite jeans--warm and cozy and we can’t get enough of them.
Other sisters are more like rain boots in places where it seldom rains—you may not need them often, but you are soooo glad to have them during a thunderstorm.
No matter what your relationship is like with your sister, our siblings tend to be the people we will know the longest. Siblings participated in the family birthdays of our childhood…and will likely be among those who wish us birthdays in our elder years.
Anyone who has a sister knows: the stakes are high for getting her a birthday gift she'll love. This post will help you give your sister an amazing birthday gift, not just this year, but every year.
In the sea of possible gift ideas for your sister, quickly identify the ones that she will appreciate most and best convey your birthday wishes. Keep reading and learn:
Of course, there’s one surefire way to ensure your sister will love the birthday gift you give her:
Ask her what she wants…and then gift it to her.
This simple approach guarantees she will love the gift, because she literally picked it out. Now of course, you will still have to purchase (or make) the gift, wrap it, select the birthday card…
But just think how great you’ll feel when your sister opens up your gift. I’m betting she’ll squeal with delight when she sees that new Lululemon sweatshirt, in the gorgeous sienna color, that she wanted—but could never bring herself to pay that much money for.
Getting her a gift she’s requested also means that YOU listened to what her wishes were AND honored them.
A person much less wise than you might have second guessed their sister’s desire (“Her purse is falling apart. I’ll get her a new one.”) or let their personal opinion override the birthday girl (“That is a silly amount to pay for one sweatshirt. I’ll buy her THREE sweatshirts from Target instead.")
Unlike that ill-informed soul, you know that she usually just grabs her phone, wallet and keys and that several Target sweatshirts are not the same as Lululemon.
I put this concept into practice for my sister’s recent birthday. I considered repeating a past birthday gift that was a hit (a subscription to Audible) or indulging something she loves (new sheets for her bed).
As I was considering these ideas, I sent her a text asking, “Hey. Anything special on your birthday list this year?”
Within minutes, she replied,
“I’d love a gift card to Ballard Designs. I always see things I love there, but I’m trying to resist the urge to spend money. It would be fun to treat myself to something special.”
DONE! I ordered a gift card online and a mailed a box of treats for her open.
(Check out the photo below to see my sister's birthday, maaaaany years ago. While she's intent on blowing out all her candles, I'm the one mugging for the camera.)
One word of caution! Be sure to ask your sister well ahead of her birthday what she’d like. If she’s more of the rain boots type of sister, she might get fussy that you didn’t ask sooner.
Asking your sister what she wants for her birthday sounds so simple, but what if you can’t do that?
Or what do you do if you’ve asked your sister what she might like and she replies with the very unhelpful answer, “You know what I like.”(That was my mom's go-to answer for years!)
There are thousands of top ten lists for sister birthday out there, but I always think they’re a bit short-sighted with their one-size-fits all ideas. How does the list maker know what YOUR sister likes? Needs? Wants?
I’ve long believed that there’s a language to gift giving. When you give a gift to someone, the gift conveys a message as surely as if it could speak. What exactly it’s saying is a function of the context---the giver, the gift and the receiver.
To illustrate this point, let’s say Amy gives her sister Joann a yoga mat for her birthday.
Amazing gift? Awful gift? Somewhere in the middle?
Like those multiple choice questions in school, I’d go with ‘D’-none of the above.
Without knowing anything about Amy or Joann, it’s hard to say whether the yoga mat is coveted or cringeworthy.
If Amy seamlessly juggles work, family and being a triathlete and Joann often grouses that her sister doesn’t know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mother with 3 kids under the age of 10, and has tried lots of diets without luck, the yoga mat may not go over well.
On the other hand, if Amy and Joann took a beginner yoga class when they vacationed together and both left wanting to practice their Warrior I and down dogs, the yoga mat might be a treasured part of a new hobby.
You know your sister best. Think about what you want the gift to say AND how she will hear it.
A key to knowing what to get your sister is understanding the type of gift she will most appreciate. For example, if she prides herself on her logical thinking, she may not enjoy a sentimental gift as much as someone who always leads with their emotions.
To give something the recipient will LOVE, start by asking which of these areas your sister values most in a gift---those that delight the head, the heart, the hands, the home or the hips. Specifically:
1. Gifts to Delight the Head-those gifts that make logical sense to the receiver.
Common reactions from the receiver:
“What a great idea!”or “I needed that.”
Head-focused gift examples: a new book; something that speaks to a hobby of theirs; a ring with a birthstone.
2. Gifts to Delight the Heart-sentimental gifts that tug on the heart strings and bring the giver and receiver closer.
Common reactions from the receiver:
“Oh wow…you remembered”
“I haven’t seen one of these since we were kids…”
3. Gifts to Delight the Hands-thoughtful gifts that provide assistance, pampering or make the recipient’s life easier.
Common reactions from the receiver:
“I can’t wait to use this.”
“How nice that I won’t have to cook dinner one night/shovel my driveway/polish my own nails.”
4. Gifts to Delight the Home-items that the recipient can enjoy in her environment, whether at home or her work habitat (which these days is likely to be at home as well).
Common reactions of the receiver to delightful home gifts:
“I can't wait to use this in the kitchen…”
“This will look perfect on my backyard patio...”
5. Gifts to Delight the Hips-these gifts are most often given between romantic partners or those who want to add some grown-up fun to the birthday recipient.
(Though I'm all for delighting the hips, this category should be gifted with great sensitivity and discretion--especially for a sister! 😀)
Common reactions of the receiver to a gift to delight the hips:
“Don’t want the kids to see this…”
“My spouse/partner will be sooooo excited...”
Using the 5 H's can serve as a valuable organizing principle for gift giving. Though many gifts will span more than one category, it's easiest to start by identifying the primary H first.
Unsure which H your sister most values?
Think about the past few occasions when your sister has received gifts. Which ones did she rave about? Which ones did she quickly put back into the box? Any that she mentioned months later? Similarly, paying attention to how she described the gifts can also provide helpful insight.
Now that you've thought about the type of gift your sister most appreciates, consider how you want her to feel when she opens it.
To be clear, we can't make anyone FEEL something that they don't want to, but we can give a gift that is more likely to evoke the desired emotion and help them understand the message we are trying to convey.
Here are some common sentiments you might want to express to your sister, along with some gift ideas that help to communicate it:
Give her a gift that delights her hands by addressing one of her frustrations or eases a necessary, but thankless, chore. She will appreciate your empathy and that you helped her take action to improve a pesky issue in her life.
Gift idea 1: For the sister who hates to cook dinner every night, a meal kit service to make cooking easier; or a cookbook with meals in less than 20 minutes; or an online cooking class that allows her to prep meals for a week on Sunday night.
Gift idea 2: For the sister who realized that she can’t watch her wedding video any more because she gave away her VCR years ago? Gift her a service to digitize her wedding video and other home movies.
Give her a home gift that will add something new and pleasurable to her environment.
Gift ideas: a gorgeous candle set that will make her room smell delicious; some new throw pillows that will amp up her décor; a Celebration Stand and bannersfrom Birthday Butler that allow her to make any space more fun and festive in under two minutes.
Give her a gift that indulges her passions or a favorite flavor.
Gift ideas: a sampler box of her favorite treats (be that cheeses; macarons or ginger jams); a decadent version of an everyday product such as a mug.
Give her a heart gift that speaks to something she loved as a kid, but somehow lost by the wayside once she became an adult.
Gift examples: For the sister who used to spend summer afternoons at her easel painting landscapes, remind her of the fun she had with a painting set or perhaps a class; prints or a book by her favorite artist
Finding an amazing birthday gift for your sister isn't hard---IF you listen!
Delight your sister by giving a gift she will appreciate and one that communicates your heartfelt sentiment.