2008 Gift Giving Guide: Don’t let Santa go crazy

The grandparents are chomping at the bit to shower our daughter with gifts this Christmas. I just found out that my mother-in-law has purchased a motorized jeep for our daughter that will have to be stored at their house. We just don’t have the space to store it and our city street isn’t a great place for such a toy.

It can be tough to keep the influx of new toys to a minimum. To help all of the parents with children, I’d like to revisit last year’s post about gift giving to youngsters.

Consumables: Last year’s Children’s Museum membership was a great gift for my daughter. A zoo membership can also be a great gift and whomever purchases it can have something to do with the little ones while they enjoy the gift together. If you don’t live in an area with a similar attraction, you may want to plan a trip to a destination and present your child with a “ticket” to be redeemed at a later date for the journey.

Sleep over tickets at the grandparents: This is a gift that will surely be enjoyed by the parents and grandparents, as much as the children. It costs nothing and it lets grandparents spend more time with your grandchild (be sure that grandparents are on board with this idea first, of course). Grandparents also can create some tickets for their grandchild to redeem when sleeping over at their house (cookie making, hiking, etc.). The number of tickets you give is entirely up to you. If your parents don’t live close to you, this is obviously not an option unless you purchase plane tickets instead — which isn’t a bad idea, either, as there are some great ticket prices to be found right now.

Lessons: If your child is old enough that they are showing interest in dancing, drawing, or any other activity, consider paying for these lessons as a gift. Do some research for the area in which you live and check into purchasing lessons for the little one. 

Already own gifts: Reader C.D. suggests that if your children are already adults, consider giving them something you currently own. Think of it like an early inheritance. Share with your child the story behind the object, why it has been important to you, and why you want them to have it.

And finally, a reminder. This is a perfect time to take stock of all the toys your children have. There is undoubtedly a slew of toys that they no longer play with or have outgrown. Gather them up and donate them to a local homeless or battered women’s shelter (be sure to call first to see if they have a need for lightly used toys). Let your children participate in giving the toys to the charity so that they can see first hand how they’re helping others. 

Let us know of even more suggestions in the comments.

14 Comments for “2008 Gift Giving Guide: Don’t let Santa go crazy”

  1. posted by Another Deb on

    Thanks for this timely post. I have been struggling to find a suitable present for some grand-nephs. It seems that little kids these days have a wealth of grand parents and great grand parents chomping at the bit to shower them with toys.

    One family has two infants and their present is going to be a supply of diapers. They won’t know the difference but their parents will!

    I am also giving movie passes and certificates to a “children-friendly” restaurant to another set of small relatives.

    My husband is planning to get his nephew a single share of a candy company stock. He polled the child to find out what products he likes.

    Years ago, I began buying a single Christmas ornament for each of my nephews and nieces. That generation is now leaving their parents’ homes and have a small set of starter ornaments.

  2. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    I like the idea of giving something that belongs to you – my mother recently gave me a piece of jewelry she’s had since she was a little girl. Something like that often means more than anything store bought.

  3. posted by Amanda on

    I think this is a great post. My grandparents wanted to spoil us but were early unclutterers. Instead of toys, we got magazine subscriptions, visits to the zoo, and aquarium. We also got non-toy gifts when we visited them like horsback riding, visiting a friends farm, sewing projects and wood working projects. I remember these things much more than any toy.

  4. posted by Karen on

    When my oldest was an infant, I told my mother in law that the best present he could get from them would be a book. My in laws have 18 (now, was 14 then) grandkids, and my mother in law loves to buy them something to mark birthdays and Christmas, but we didn’t want them going broke.

    She calls me about a month before Christmas and asks for a list of book suggestions for the kids. For the oldest, I generally suggest a classic novel that I was planning to assign for reading; for the little ones, they are still into board books bath books. Sometimes if they’re visiting, we even go to the bookstore together and I give her ideas.

    So for grandparents, or aunts or uncles, I would tell parents to suggest a book. While it may not be exciting as a battery-powered Jeep, my in laws inscribe each book with a personal message and the date of the holiday/birthday, and the kids love looking for their name.

    For my goddaughter, I wanted to keep the gift religious-themed, so I researched the saint she was named after and found a wood-mounted, hand-painted icon for her room.

  5. posted by Dawn on

    What about a season pass to an amusement park like Sea World, etc.? Perhaps a family pack of season passes instead of tons of gifts? It would be like giving a whole year of family fun and togetherness that doesn’t involve batteries or the television! 🙂 Board games could be fun, too – maybe it would encourage a weekly Family Game Night. Perhaps tickets to an upcoming music concert/event. Happy Holidays!

  6. posted by Jessica on

    My maternal grandmother always gave me savings bonds for Christmas (and some toys, yes, but not as many as she might have…). Of course I didn’t really appreciate these when I was 5 but when it was time to pay for college I was very grateful.

    My paternal grandparents gave each of their grandkids an ornament every year. As someone said above, it meant that when I moved out on my own I had a nice collection of them to decorate my own tree with. Plus, most years they gave us all the same ornament, so my cousins and I have a few matching ones. We made it a tradition to have the ornament be the present I got to open on Christmas Eve (yeah, I was one of those impatient kids who Could. Not. Wait.).

  7. posted by Sian on

    I love ‘early inheritance’ presents. When I was 21, my aunt gave me a beautiful cherry wood bureau that she had been given by my Gran (her mum) when she was 21 (my aunt was also down-sizing to live on a boat at the time so we both benefited!). My Gran had been given it by her Gran when she was 21, and my Gran’s Gran had been given it new-for her 21st birthday. I hope to continue the tradition when the time is right…

    When I was a kid my parents couldn’t afford routine riding lessons for me but I always appreciated riding lessons for birthdays and Christmas-if several relatives are in on the idea you can end up with a surprising amount that can last several months-much better than a toy that gets forgotten about after a month.

  8. posted by John on

    For my kids I give them gift certificates, similar to the GrandParent tickets. These are some of the ones I use or have used:
    Game Ticket – Presentation of ticket gets to play a board game (unless it’s Monopoly 5 minutes before bed) without Dad saying no
    Sleep Over ticket – Friend for a sleep over
    Movie Ticket – Take them to a movie they want to see


  9. posted by Dorothy on

    Amanda, the magazine subscription idea is superb! Every child LOVES getting mail. So it’s a gift that the child receives many times during the year, it encourages reading, and it is (may be) educational. A great suggestion!

  10. posted by Anne on

    My kids have enjoyed magazine subscriptions also and there are suitable ones for different ages and interests. For my son’s last birthday, the grandparents gave him money to be used on “activities” only, not to buy “stuff”. He used his money to take our family to a movie he wanted to see.

    This year for Christmas, I’m trying to convince the grandparents to not purchase items, but to take our family in the car to a holiday light display in our area. It’s fairly inexpensive for a car to go through, we can all fit in our family’s van, bring our own favorite music and treats to eat on our way through, and just spend time together delighting in the light displays. I’m sure memories of something like that will be treasured by my boys forever. Toys are so quickly forgotten!

    I really like the season pass idea also!

  11. posted by OogieM on

    I requested a gift certificate for Amazon to buy books for my kindle. I am also giving gift certificates to Penzey’s Spices by request. We will also give gifts of lamb chops, steaks, roasts from our farm to local neighbors.

  12. posted by Karen on

    When my dad asked what to get our 2-year-old daughter, I scratched my head at what would be useful, but not cluttery. She is starting to get into her baby doll, and uses shoe boxes, a plastic pumpkin, etc, for “Baby Ha-Ha’s” ‘crib’ and ‘carrier’ and ‘high chair’. I remembered that my dad had saved my old doll crib and a classic Mrs. Beasley doll and they were under wraps in his workshop. He’s been on a decluttering kick himself, and as soon as I mentioned it, he was happy to dust it off. He spends nothing (except some time cleaning it off), and my daughter gets a gift she will be thrilled to have. AND she has no clue that it’s — ahem — 30something years old. I realize this is adding clutter of a sort to her room, but I can also get rid of the boxes and plastic pails she is using as crib substitutes. (Basically, all her clothes and toys and books come from the local Value Village anyway, so ‘new’ to her means ‘new to her’.)

  13. posted by Marc Rohde on

    I love the idea of consumable gifts. They are activity based and usually cause the family to spend more time together; that is what children really want!

  14. posted by Tuesdays with Linden's Favorite Links: Christmas Gifts | 16 Dec 2008 | Linden's Pensieve on

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