Last fall, our son and the rest of his second grade class at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne, Indiana started preparing for their first communion. First communion prep began with a meeting where he and his friends created prayer dice. The two cardboard die have prayers printed on each side. At night, we rolled the dice on his bed and said whichever prayers landed face up. It was a fun way to get him started on the road toward deeper initiation into the church.
After the dice came more meetings, then first reconciliation, and now that it is almost spring we only have a few months left before the big day. We have done everything we could to prepare him from discussing our own faith practice to bringing books like The Mass Book for Children to church to ensure he has as strong an understanding of the sacrament as possible.
The only thing left is responding to the phone calls from relatives who are looking for first communion gift suggestions. It’s a day worth commemorating with gifts so here are some suggestions of updated ideas that respect the sacrament and honor the transition made by a young person on this special day.
1. Lego Rosary. Rosaries are popular first communion gifts because they are so clearly appropriate for the situation. The only problem is many Catholic children already have a rosary or two or three (or seven, in my son’s case). A fun option they are less likely to already own is the Lego Rosary ($23). Gift givers can go the extra mile by having it blessed before it is given to the first communicant.
2. The Action Bible. Illustrated by a Marvel and DC comic artist, The Action Bible brings the stories of the Bible to life in a way that appeals to young children. Moms of boys in particular speak to it being a favorite and most well-used gift from their sons’ first communions. The cost is around $16.
3. MagnifiKid Subscription. Here’s a truism about kids: They love getting mail. MagnifiKid is a great monthly publication that includes comics, coloring pages, and other activities that invite children into a greater understanding of their faith. At around $35 for a yearly subscription, it is an economical gift that serves as a monthly reminder of the life first communicants are more fully embracing.
4. Saint Trading Cards. The obsessive collecting of Pokémon cards is definitely a favorite pastime of the second grade set. While the Holy Traders Saint Trader Cards may not overtake my son’s obsession with Pikachu, they will feed his desire to collect, catalogue, and learn more about the saints who lived such exemplary lives. There are 154 cards to collect that include “biographies, statistics, and a brief catechism.” The cost per set is around $9.
5. Nativity Pieces. Many families gift their children with a few nativity pieces for every sacrament so that by adulthood they will have a full set that has been with them since the beginning. Prices vary on nativity pieces, but even buying from a more costly set piecemeal makes this gift suggestion an affordable option that can be built on for years to come.
6. Book of Saints. Second graders are at a prime age when the extraordinary lives of the saints can have a profound impact on them. Books like Loyola Kids Book of Saints ($16) do a particularly good job of introducing children to the kind of role models that will stay with them long after memories of their first communion day fade.
7. Personalized Religious Gifts. Anything personalized with the child’s name and date of their first communion is a great way to commemorate the day, as is a patron saint medal. Popular choices of personalized items include Bibles, keepsake boxes, jewelry, bookmarks, and picture frames while favorite patron saint medals include St. Michael, St. Christopher, and the Children’s Four-Way Medal.
8. Religious Goods Gift Cards. A modern trend in sacramental gift giving is to give money, the argument for which is that the giver either doesn’t know what the child already has or does not share in the faith and wouldn’t know where to begin when buying Catholic items. I don’t know a child who doesn’t love getting money, but I would rather our son’s purchasing power was a little more directed when it comes to celebrating the sacraments. Gift cards to local or national religious goods stores give the child the fun of choosing their own gift while maintaining the spirit of what is being celebrated. Many national companies like the Catholic Company give the option of purchasing prepaid gift cards for just this occasion.
First communion is a big day. Celebrating the sacrament with family, friends, cake, and gifts is all part of a special time in children’s lives. Gifts that speak to their particular engagement with the sacrament will be the most meaningful and loved, but after the sacrament itself, just being there and sharing in the moment is the best gift a child can receive.
Molly Jo Rose’s column, In and Of the World, focuses on finding God's goodness in the darkest places of the world.