The holidays can be such a fun time filled with loved ones, happy gatherings, delicious food, gift giving and general merriment. They can also be a stressful time for families who feel they have to get the biggest, glitziest, and most popular gifts for children. As the parent, auntie, uncle, grandparent or friend, there is always a desire to get a gift that the child will go crazy over. We want to see them open their gift and their little eyes become huge with excitement. We know that children love opening presents. They love the anticipation of what the gift may be and the process of tearing apart the wrapping paper (I mean it’s fun and exciting), but how often do children love the actual gift? Many children’s gifts are made from cheap materials or have the “cool factor” (the child screams “cool” with true excitement, uses the gift once and never again as it sits collecting dust in the playroom). These gifts either break after a couple times of use or the “cool factor” fades quickly and the gift is forgotten.
So how do you choose gifts for children that go past the glitz and glamour and instead are timeless gifts that can be used over and over again? In this post, I share 5 questions to ask when choosing gifts for children.
5 Questions to Help You Choose the Best Gifts for Kids
Below I share guidelines of what to look for when choosing children’s gifts and why it makes all the difference. Keep in mind that there are some really fantastic toys and activities for children that do not meet all of these guidelines. These questions should serve as a starting point.
Is the gift made out of real materials and aesthetically pleasing?
Children appreciate real beautiful gifts just like we do. They enjoy attractive toys made from a variety of materials (wood, ceramic, cloth, paper, iron, etc.) and can take amazing care of these often breakable and special gifts. They only need adults to model how. Additionally, real materials have a special place in all of our hearts. Not only can we see the care that was used in crafting the gift, but they also take our senses to another level. This is especially true for young children since they are big sensorial learners soaking up their environment and place in it through their senses.
Does the gift have a real purpose or just the “cool factor”?
Often children’s gifts are not purposeful. They may entertain, distract and keep children busy for a while, but then children lose interests in these toys. Ask yourself what the purpose of the toy or material is? Is it a toy that makes a lot of noise and distracts the child for a short while or is it a toy that encourages movement, learning, coordination or creativity? When children use a purposeful toy or material, children learn and grow. They feel productive and happy after using the material. They often will return to it time and time again until they feel they have mastered working with the material. It’s not unusual for children to then take time away from that specific material or toy and go back to it months later or not at all. So ask yourself if this is a gift that has a real purpose and can be used repeatedly? Is it a timeless activity or just a trendy toy?
Is the gift right for the child you are buying it for?
This is such an important aspect to choosing gifts for children and is often overlooked. When you think about the child, is this a material that he/she would enjoy using and is capable of using. It’s the best feeling when someone has really put thought into giving you a gift based off your interests. It means they are paying attention to who you are and what you enjoy. Children are the same, so think about the child for whom you are buying. Think about the child’s interests, stage of development and your experiences with him/her. If you are unsure of the child’s interests, just ask the parents. Ask what the child is interested in at the moment and what types of activities he/she enjoys.
Does the gift allow independence?
Children’s gifts should primarily involve the child using the gift. It’s such a simple idea, but lots of children’s gifts are not made for children to use independently. Children should be able to use the gift on their own needing only a little help from the adult perhaps to set it up or during the activity. Commercial gifts often require the adult to be present so the child can use the gift. This takes away from children’s independent activity and also can also take away from their enjoyment of their new gift. Look for gifts that promote children’s independence and not dependence on adults.
Does the gift promote productive group play?
On the other hand, if it is a material that is designed for group activity, does it actually promote productive group play? Ask yourself what the role of the adult is in the activity? What is the role of the other children in using the material? Is it a toy or activity that really can be shared or promotes healthy group interaction?
Do you have any other tips when thinking of thoughtful gift ideas for children? I would love to hear from you.
In my next post, I’ll share some of my favorite gift ideas for toddlers and 3-6 year olds, so this year’s holiday gifts will do more than just collect dust!
Keep well, S