Rule number one about buying gifts for toddlers (apparently I am dishing out rules in this “guide” because I’m bossy like that): Do not buy flashy toys.*
I know what you are thinking. “Say whaaat? Loud, light-up toys are what every toddler dreams of, asks for, and loves to receive.” And you would be correct. They love to receive these toys. They love to tear off the wrapping paper and look at the sweet action pictures on the box and imagine all the cool things their toy could do. Yet, once the adult in their lives has hacked away at the eighty five twisty ties and plastic wrap –impenetrable by human hands- with keys and pocket knives, and has finally delivered the toy into the eager grasps of the child, it will be played with… for, maybe a day. Then the child will become bored with the toy and wander around the house to eventually find the box the toy came in, and then proceed to play with the box for longer than they did the toy.
So, moral of the story, give the toddler a cardboard box. The End.
No, just kidding.
In my opinionated opinion, the best gifts can be put into three categories: memories to be made, gifts that keep giving, and practical stuff.
Category #1: Memories to be made. Oh the possibilities! I will try not to go too far into my own imagination on this one, since this post is getting too long already. But this can include a special day or outing with the little one, or passes to anywhere: zoo, children’s museums, aquariums, Lego Land Germany… For Portlanders there is OMSI, the Children’s Museum, the Oregon Zoo, or the increasingly-sketchy Portland aquarium. Last year we gave my cousins and their two young children a day pass for the four of them to visit the Children’s Museum. I considered myself an awesome gift-giver for that one.
Category #2: Gifts that keep giving. This could be a subscription to Kid’s National Geographic’s (James is a society member, and loves receiving the magazines in the mail, then immediately pouring through them), books, or a gift you make. I adore children’s books to an odd degree and could go on for quite some time about all the titles you should own and read, regardless of your age or parental status. Another post perhaps. An added bonus with books is that you can find them inexpensive online, or even used. A gift you created could include photo books, art, or a blanket or item of clothing. The toddler will enjoy them now, but really cherish the value and effort in these homemade gifts later in life.
Category #3: Practical stuff. Ask parents what the child needs- particularly in the areas of clothes and art supplies. This stuff can be fun to pick out, but not always fun for the parents to have to buy, so gifts in this category are greatly appreciated.
There you have it: the official Toddler Gift Guide for the holidays, 2013. Did I nail it? Was this helpful for you? What do you give (or planning to give) to the toddlers in your life? I would love to hear your thoughts!
*I should probably state for all of you who take offense to Rule #1 that I believe there are exceptions to all rules. When all that your little grandson Jackson or niece Ava has been talking of and pining after is something that was made in a plastics factory in China and requires multiple batteries, well, I understand.
In fact, my children have been given many light-up, singing, bright toys with moving parts that I keep on rotation. What I mean by “rotation” is that these toys stay up in closets and are brought down every once in awhile until I can no longer stand the music they make. Or until my kids stop playing with them, which, surprisingly, often happens first. More evidence to my theory that backs Rule #1.
My advice is to ask the parents before buying a toy like this, even if the child has you convinced they need it. Also, there are some wonderful, non-flashy toys out there. James has been given many great toys, such as his stick horse, Ever Earth wooden workbench (similar here), and some well made cars and trucks that are not obnoxious, he plays with all the time, and he will have for years to come.