Monday, November 9, 2009

How I Choose Gifts

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I thought I would lay out my process for choosing gifts for my children for holidays and birthdays. I am not one of those people who buys gifts a couple of days before. I start thinking about what to get them several months ahead of time.

There are so many options out there. I really want to make sure that what we get is of value to the children. I want the toy to be fun, educational, and durable. By educational, I don't mean every toy needs to teach the ABCs. A toy can have educational value in my eyes if it inspires the imagination. That means every toy you give your child can be educational. So, on to my tips:
  • Start Early: Any of you who are like my husband are probably groaning to yourselves. He commented to me the other day that if he were in charge of getting gifts, we would by them the day before. Starting early gives you time to seek out the best toys. It gives you time to shop around and get the best deals. It gives you time to research and really think it through. You can also spend your money wisely and cover all of the needs of your children.
  • Vary the Toys: I like to cover a variety of categories in the toys. I will list those below.
  • Don't Get To Much: Give yourself a dollar limit or something so you don't get too many toys. They don't need every toy ever made. They also don't need every toy in any one category. If you give yourself some kind of limit, you will find that you put more thought into what you get.
GENERAL CATEGORIES
Here are the categories I try to fill as I get gifts. I don't necessarily fill every category at every gift-giving occasion. I like to try to keep things well rounded, though.
  • Music: I love music and my children love music. I like to get a new CD for them to add to their music collection.
  • DVD: We don't watch a lot of TV, but when we do, I like for it to be a DVD. That way, we have no commercials :). I will often get each child a DVD at holidays.
  • Book: We have a whole lot of books. Even so, I like to get each child a new book. It lets them know I value books. I can also choose a book that is very age appropriate and very precise as to their current interests. It is a book for that specific child; geared exactly to him or her in that exact moment of life.
  • Bath Toy: At each Christmas, I like to get a new bath toy for each child. This way, we can throw away old toys without feeling bad about it. Bath toys aren't really a long-term investment. They can get gross after a while.
  • Outside Toys: Most of our outside toys are given at birthdays because our birthdays are in the Spring. I think about different fun toys for them to play with outside. I like to encourage outside play. I think about bicycles, bubbles, art activities, water play, sand play, balls, sporting equipment, tools for helping with work outside...
  • Building Toys: There are a lot of types of building toys out there. Blocks, Lego's, Geo mags, knex, Lincoln logs...
  • Kitchen: The kitchen really is a category that is ever-present for me. We started with the kitchen. We then added food. Then dishes. A shopping cart. This year, I am going to make hot pads, wash clothes, and aprons to go with the kitchen. Adding one new thing to a favorite can liven it up and make it like it is new all over again. This is one benefit to adding on slowly over time.
  • Art: You can get coloring books, paints, play doh, pads of paper, crayons, easels...
  • Little People: My husband and I both mark little people toys as some of our favorites from our childhood, so we like to give them as gifts at each holiday. At Christmas, we give one to all the children. At birthdays, we do one. You can get small little people items that are about 10 dollars. Also, the day after Thanksgiving sales always have lots of little people items on sale.
  • Board Games: I like to add one game each Christmas. We like to play games as a family.
  • Puzzles: Brayden was never overly thrilled with puzzles, but Kaitlyn really enjoys them.
  • Learning Activities: You might want to add some learning activities. One year, I did flash cards in the stockings. I usually don't hit this category big at birthdays or Christmas. These are gifts I give throughout the year "just because."
  • Religious Books: I like to give a religious book to each child at each Easter. I will choose children's Bibles and other scripture stories.
  • Church Toy: I will often give a new church toy at each Christmas. Once again, something new offers a fresh look at things.
  • Specific Categories: These are listed below. I will add to specific categories.
SPECIFIC CATEGORIES
Here is a list of specific categories for you to consider for your children. Here is the beauty of the specific categories. When grandma asks what Bobby wants for Christmas, you can think through the categories. Say you want to get him a new Thomas the train item. So you say, "Bobby would love a new Thomas train. He has X,Y, and Z. He would love any of them." Then grandma has a good idea of what to get without you having to tell her precisely what to get (unless she wants to be told).
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Dolls
  • Doll furniture
  • Doll house
  • Doll house furniture and items
  • Dress up clothes
  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Tractors
  • Trains
  • Tools
  • Musical instruments
  • Developmental toys: If you have a baby, consider the different developmental toys like shape sorters, pushing toys, pulling toys, pop-up toys, stacking toys, etc.
DECIDING
While I am deciding what to get, I choose a few toys from each category I want to cover. Then I go to Amazon and put everything that looks of interest to me in my wish list (I keep a list for each child). Then I can look over reviews and scrutinize each potential toy until I make my decision :).
Some of you might be wondering about where the opinion of my kids fits into this. Since my kids don't see commercials, they don't really ask for toys. Brayden is 4.5 and for the first time he has started to tell me what he wants for Christmas. Happily, they are things that were already on my list. I think it is good to consider your child's desires when you are choosing gifts. Just be sure the toy fits in with your values and morals. Be sure it is a toy that will have lasting enjoyment and isn't just some passing craze that will be old by the time Christmas gets here. Also, make sure it is a quality toy.
Good luck with your shopping! For more about specific toys, be sure to see the blog label Best Toys for Baby (includes toys for older children, too).

10 comments:

Dr. Mom said...

For Christmas I try to make sure that the few gifts I give my children cover three areas - spiritual, physical, and mental. It's a quick way for me to make sure that there is balance in our lives and promotes our family values.

Emily said...

it is so hard buying for a baby for christmas as I like to shop EARLY as well and my son will be 10 months old by then and it's hard to judge what he will "need" plus all the "cool" toys are for so much older! Yuck!!! I'm sticking with a lot of books as they never get old :) I wish toys were better organized in the categories they cover as I, like you, only want one or two from each and it's hard to know what the developmental categories are!!!

TeamOSM said...

I love this post, Val! Thanks for posting it. Since this is Oliver's first Christmas, we were wondering what we were going to do for presents. I did buy him a new car seat today for a Christmas gift...but your post gave me some great ideas! Thanks.

Plowmanators said...

Thanks and your are welcome!

TeamOSM, I am going to be doing a review post on baby toys we have later this week, so stay tuned for that. Be sure to also see the best toys for baby label.

Emily, keep in mind that since he will be 10 months, he will only have two months until his birthday, so you don't really need to look too far past Christmas if you don't want to! Or you could look to 1ish for Christmas and 18 monthsish for birthday...

Michele Lucchine said...

Another great post Val!!! Noah will be close to 9 months old when Christmas arrives so I have been starting my searches early too. I LOVE amazon.com too! I could get all my holiday gifts from that site. I too made a wish list. This way, if any friends or family ask what Noah would like, I can eml them the link. I also use the reviews as gospel, so helpful. I actually went to a ton of outgrown sales this fall and bought a ton of toys for Christmas. Since I lost my job in the fall and he's so young, he won't know the difference between a new toy and a used toy. And at this age, they move onto different toys so fast. I love the idea about a cd and DVD each Christmas too, great for the stocking; I am looking at praise baby on amazon as we speak. Also, I noticed the prices for toys go up as the age of the child goes up. Do you stick w/ the same amount you spend each year or does it vary by their age. May I ask how much you like to budget for? This is Noah's 1st Christmas so it's all new to me. Thanks again for the suggestions!

The Culbertsons said...

These post was so timely for me! Your categories were so helpful and really gives me a great starting point.

Oh, in case you haven't seen, Toys R Us has a HUGE sale on Hasbro games this week. Prices range from $3.99 to $9.99 with a $2 mail-in rebate. Also, if you spend $25 in games, you get a $10 gift card.

- Dianna

Plowmanators said...

Michele,

We stick with the same amount right now, but I don't know if we will always do that. That gets hard when they get to be teenagers. DHs parents did a set amount and there would be years that he literally got one thing. My parents did more of a ball-park. If you got a big thing, my mom would do several small things along with it. She didn't count and calculate how much she spent on each child, which I think is fine. Everything in life doesn't need to be "Even Steven"--in real life, it isn't! Anyway, we do 150 per child right now. For McKenna, that was just a lot more than she needed, being the third child and second girl! I ended up getting her a lot of books. I love books and they are things all the kids can enjoy. She adores books, too. I don't feel bad at all about spending a lot of money on books :)

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Dianna! I did see your post at the time :) Thanks for the heads up! I love games.

Becca said...

Val, I just wanted to tell you that I tried your approach to buying gifts this year with Caleb and it worked beautifully. I stayed on budget and am completely confident in what I've purchased. Thanks for helping me bring some order to my typical chaos!

Plowmanators said...

I am so glad to hear it Becca! Thanks for letting me know :)

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