Gift giving for children can be a stressful endeavor. We all want to find the “perfect” gift: one that will not just illicit shrieks of excited delight to from the recipient, but get the parents’ coveted stamp of approval as well. As this holiday season approaches, be sure to consider everyone involved; because after all, nothing kills your gift-giving buzz like learning that what you gave to their child was a dud for the parents. To make the process as painless and fun as possible, I’m here to share with you the inside secrets of what parents really want you to gift their children this season.
The Gift of Simplicity
In an effort to prioritize the spirit of the holidays over the potential greedfest that can erupt as kids make their wish lists, many families are putting a focus on the “want, need, wear, read” approach to gift-giving. Check in with the parents of the children that you’d like to buy gifts for, and see what their preferences are, or if they have a particular need you can meet. If they’re trying the “less is more” route, be respectful of their wishes and find a creative and thoughtful way to contribute in kind.
The Gift of Experience
The number one thing I’m hearing from both parents and experts is that their kids have plenty of “stuff”, so that their family currently values experiences over material possessions. Or that they’re set for toys but could really use help funding their children’s extracurricular activities such as swimming, dance, art, music classes, or the like. With the average class cost at around $25 each week, those outside activities really add up, but the enrichment the activities provide make it an extremely worthwhile investment.
As it turns out, this isn’t just a matter of preference. Research like this study from the Journal of Consumer Research shows that experiential gifts foster stronger social relationships than material gifts. According to researcher Cindy Chan, “An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it — like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa — and is more intensely emotional than a material possession.”
Experience enriches children in so many ways, and memories from those events can last much longer and have more impact than toys and games do. Experience comes in many shapes and sizes, so it’s easy to find ways to contribute no matter your budget.
Some ideas include:
- Museum and/or zoo memberships
- Movie, play or sports tickets
- Admission to local children’s play spaces or pop-up events
- Spa day
- Gift cards or checks toward their extracurricular classes or interests
- Simpler outings like hikes, a day at the beach, camping in the backyard, or game night.
The Gift of Hands-On Exploration
Another type of experience can come in the form of subscriptions to magazines or gift boxes. Available monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly, many companies specialize in entertaining and educational boxes that arrive in the mail for children to open and explore their contents. And what child doesn’t love the excitement of receiving their very own mail?
Many boxes cater to specific niches of interest, like STEM, cooking, geography, geology, and more – so if you know a child with a love of, for example, coding, you can get them a subscription to Bitsbox. You’ll be amazed by all the options available, depending on people’s interests!
Some companies to check out:
- KiwiCo makes STEAM accessible, engaging and fun with projects available for all age groups.
- Little Passports inspires children to learn about the world through adventure-themed boxes.
- Wonder Crate introduces kids to inspirational role models, sparks curiosity and connects them to their own possibilities.
- GiftLit offers handcrafted book collections for the readers on your list, for all age groups.
- Universal Yums features snacks from a different country each month, encouraging your kid to be adventurous about trying new things, while sparking their interest in other cultures and travel.
The Gift of Imagination
Another common theme among parents I polled was that they all love for their children to be gifted books. Books foster improved literacy, social intelligence, and above all, imagination. They allow children to experience other worlds without leaving their own home. Check out bestsellers on Amazon, recent releases at your local bookstore, or invest in some hardcover classics that can become heirloom staples for your little friend’s home library. Bonus points for books that celebrate inclusivity, kindness, personal expression, diversity or any particular topic that the child in which the child you’re buying for takes an interest.
The Gift of Essentials
For many parents, some of the best gifts are ones that appear less exciting than flashy toys and games, but are much more valuable in the long run: essentials. Clothes and shoes in the next size up, a fresh set of outdoor gear for winter, quality socks, underwear and pajamas are all things that made their lists.
The Gifts of Longevity and Open-Ended Play
Toys and gifts that can stand the test of time, and better yet, grow with your child are high on parents’ wish lists this year. Similarly desirable are well-made toys without batteries that can be used in multiple ways.
Some examples are High quality wooden block sets, Magnatiles or Tegu blocks, Legos, dress up kits (silk scarves are a particularly open-ended option), Grimm’s rainbow stacker, nice art supplies, Schliech figurines, wooden play kitchens and food accessories or doll houses and accessories.
One of my favorite open-ended gifts this holiday season is the new gender-neutral “Creatable World” line of Barbie dolls from Mattel, that allow children to decide who and what their doll will be, by including various lengths of hairstyles and outfit choices.
I hope these ideas can serve as a great jumping-off point for you to get creative in your approach to finding a gift that will put a smile on the face of both the child receiving it, and their parents’ as well. It will be doubly rewarding for you! Because, the parents have to live with every gift their children receive too. Happy gift-giving for all… and to all a good night!