This year we had a pretty good idea of what to get our kids. We were sure that they would be really excited about some of the gifts and then there were those that were fillers. While our kids are on the young side yet, they have definitive ideas as to what toys they like and what games they like to play.
As I was passing through Walmart over the summer, there were a number of toys on clearance. It just so happened that my daughters had expressed a brief interest in Strawberry Shortcake when they got little dolls from a Happy Meal and so I thought I would pick up three of the Strawberry Shortcake playsets that were on sale that day. I put them away in the closet thinking that these would be filler toys, i.e. cheap toys that would make good “family toys”. I was surprised when these became their favorites and almost eclipsed some of the others.
My stepdaughter has a Nintendo DS that is one of her beloved possessions because of the time she spends alone and because of the traveling that she does to come and visit us. It is so difficult to figure out what a tween might like and when it comes to games, it seems dangerous to want to surprise them and easier to let them pick a gift. We decided to go with two themes for her and one of the themes was her DS. We bought her a carrying case (high danger level because of her personal style), a Super Mario Brothers game (mid-danger level because her other games were raising pets and designing clothes), and Littlest Pet Shop stickers to decorate the DS itself (low danger level because of her love of LPS). Nervous though we were, it turned out that she liked all of the gifts for her Nintendo DS but absolutely flipped over the stickers. I think she would have been happy with just those!
One day in late spring, my daughter saw a My Little Pony DVD in a store and fell in love. She talked about going back to that store all year long (really, she did…I’m sure you understand). Needless to say, when I had a chance to get back to the store to buy it I did and then I waited anxiously her response when she opened it. When she opened it, she was thrilled and we watched it almost immediately but unlike her other favorite movies, once she watched it, that was it. No begging to watch it again or torturous verbal replays. One and done for the movie she talked about all year!
My youngest daughter walks around in little high-heeled dress-up shoes all the time. Every chance she gets she clomps around in them, to the point that two pairs have broken beyond repair and the last pair is barely hanging on. When I found a set of four princess dress-up shoes in different colors but the same basic style as her favorites, I thought I hit the jackpot. When she opened the gift, she was excited but as soon as I opened them and she tried them on, she said they weren’t the same as her broken ones and went to get them. I guess even dress-up shoes can be comfortably broken in.
What We Will Change
Each year the kids will get older and each year they will be better able to articulate what they want. I think that next year we will plan exactly what to spend on each child and I will write down what gifts I bought for what child immediately (and where I hid them). I think that every parent probably goes through thinking this as soon as Christmas is over but actually carrying through with the plan in the coming year is the challenge. In addition, because our oldest has her birthday so close to Christmas, I will do a better job of figuring out what is for Christmas and what is for her birthday, especially if I intend to coordinate.
Next year we will personalize the gifts a bit more so that our youngest two don’t feel like they need to share all of their toys. While they may still share, I think it is important to give them a sense of ownership of their own toys as well as respect for the other’s ownership.