Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gifts for Kids

Little Warrior, chocolate-smeared, is on her third bowl of pudding. It follows scrambled eggs and leftover latkes. Scans are at 11, and she can't eat in the morning. So I'm stuffing her like the Christmas goose tonight.

"Are you nervous?" asked The Boy. "I'm always nervous before scans," I replied. "Me, too," he said somberly.

Since I can eat -- surreptitiously -- tomorrow, I have no need to stuff myself. So I'll resist the urge by addressing, "Things to get/not get for kids if you want to make both them and their parents happy."

The reason for the length of that title is because I don't want to hear from the "well, just teach your kids to be grateful for whatever they get" crowd. Well, duh. And my kids are always grateful, or at least they fake it well. But I've had child-free folks ask this question, wanting to get something really good, so here we go ...

#1 Rule: Do not purchase something that requires adult assistance unless you yourself are willing to give it. Yes, I know that it's an absolutely fabulous educational experience to put together the 563-part zigamathing. And really, I'd love to participate with my child. I'm just going to put it in the closet next to the other 4 adult-required gifts for now ... we'll have more time in the spring. Summer. Well, maybe I and my grandchild can do it.

#2: Find out if it needs batteries, and include them. Christmas/Chanukah/Solstice is not the time to preach against immediate gratification.

#3: Buy age appropriate. Look online if you don' t know what that is. Both sides of this are unfortunate. A bicycle for a 4 year old is going to frustrate your two year old nephew. And a toy that is below age for your 13 year old niece is going to make her feel that you see her as a kid.

#4: Buy things that are in line with the parents' values. The holidays are not the time to prove your alpha-dog status by buying a toy gun, a Bratz doll, etc, when you know the parents don't like that. You might not agree with them ... but you're not the parent.

#5: Ignore all the rules, if you have a very good relationship with the parents and they say it's okay. (A polite, tepid "that's fine ..." means No.) If your sister has said she really wants a zip line for the kids, even though it will mean she will have to assemble and put it up, go right ahead. If the toy says "appropriate for 3-4" and your niece is really brilliant (and the parents concur), go ahead and get it. And if the parents say, yeah, we don't normally let the kids have 'crap cereal,' but it's fine to get a fun treat from the grandparents ... we'll that's fine.*

Batteries ... well, unless your brother has solar charged batteries and morally refuses to use anything else -- bring the batteries.

*All real experiences from my family.

Real Gifts that Lizard Eater Endorses:

* Legos. I'd like to say something non-plastic like Lincoln Logs or Tinkertoys, but really, my kids play with the Legos 10 times as much as the other. And once you get past the choking age, Legos are ageless. Especially if you're fabulously wealthy and bought one of the older children the Lego Mindstorms.

* Polly Pockets. I hate these damn things, but Goddess help me, my daughters love them. But ask first.

* The Board games you loved as a kid.

* Books. But make sure it has a cool cover that will entice the kid in. Save the "you can't judge" lecture for some other time.

* For a little one: Fisher Price Baby Gymtastics Bounce and Spin Zebra. LW has loved and gotten so much use out of this, we bought a new one to donate to the cancer clinic.

* Boxes. No, not the cardboard ones that Grandpa always swore he was going to give to the grandkids next year. Boxes for special treasures. The ballerina jewelry boxes, or special wood boxes, or those combination lock "banks." Kids LOVE boxes. Actually, so does everybody, come to think of it. Dance, monkeys, dance.

* Lastly, I can't give a personal review on this yet, but I've read enough reviews that I'm getting some for The Boy ... carnivorous plants. If you're a catalog shopper, you've probably seen the "carnivorous plant kit" that comes with a terrarium and seeds. Well, go read the reviews on Amazon. Apparently, it's awful. Tons of work, and then they don't germinate.

Instead, go to Looks good.

And lastly ... the gift that my parents, bless them, always send the kids. It doesn't thrill the kids right now, but it does us, and eventually, they'll truly appreciate it. Each kid gets a savings bond, every birthday.

And that doesn't need batteries.


Jess said...

AMEN on the savings bonds. Our kids' grandparents have recently started these, too. My grandmother did the same for me, and I ended up paying for half of my first car with them after college. $25-$50 a pop for a good number of years and they really add up.

Terri said...

That zebra thing looks great!! I may just look into that, as I've been trying to figure out what to get my one-year-old. The three-year-old has already told us...she loves playing dress-up, and would be happy if halloween were year-round... so its costumes, jewelry, and other imaginative stuff for her. I hope things went ok for you guys today. --terri

Earthbound Spirit said...

Another AMEN on savings bonds. A chunk of the down payment on our first house was from savings bonds my parents had given me over the years, via a payroll deduction program where my dad worked.

But for immediate use - Legos are ageless. I speak as the mom of young adults! When the cousins get together the guys who are 20-24 STILL break out the Legos that still lurk in my son's old bedroom. Some of those sets are expensive, but they're well worth it.