‘Tis the season for house guests, parties, neighbors swinging by with pretty presents – all great moments that can be totally ruined by that awkward moment when anyone gives my kids a present. I can’t tell you the number of times people have come to my house with a gorgeously wrapped present, handed it to my kids with such excitement – and then we all had to come to terms with the fact that it didn’t go well. I’ve tried to drill them with manners on being appreciative, but the truth is that kids just aren’t so great at hiding their emotions.
I have three kids, so people love to be great guests and show up with a bottle of wine for the adults and gifts for my kids. When they show up, we usually have to pull my kids from whatever game they are playing, pull them into the spotlight, and excitedly force them to open the gifts as we all pull out our phones to take a picture. This is when things inevitably head south. Here are some very simple suggestions to help this go smoothly.
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Things to Avoid:
Buying the same thing in different colors. If you are getting multiple kids the same thing, get them the same color. I know this sounds ridiculous. If you are buying two robots, wouldn’t it be way cooler if you got two different ones because then they could share and play with both? No way. The coolest toy for any kid is the one another kid is playing with.
Gifting something educational. We all want our kids to be smarter, but a gift is not the place to try to improve their IQ. My kids always open these gifts with a shrug. Science experiments are great – just buy a kit when they come to visit and YOU can do it with them.
Buying something that needs to be put together. UGH!! Those race-car tracks look awesome on the commercial. And they’re not even that expensive. But the second a kid opens it, he or she wants to play with it immediately, which means someone has to put it together immediately and it always takes longer than you think. Once it’s together, it never quite works the way it’s supposed to, and after a day or so, the kid loses interest. Then you take it apart, put it in a labeled Ziploc bag, put in the directions for next time – and then NEVER put it together again.
Things You Should Do:
Keep it simple. Don’t go crazy. My kids are just as happy with a $1 container of bubbles, a balloon, or even a container of Tic Tacs. It’s a big bang for the buck. These kids have very short attention spans, and these are items they love and recognize the second they see them. Don’t pick an item that requires an explanation.
Give a group gift. Instead of buying each kid an individual item, go for a group item. Maybe a box of sidewalk chalk, a paddle ball set, or even markers and some construction paper. An added bonus is that they can take off and play together, giving the adults some time to chat alone. If all else fails, you can never go wrong with a box of mini cupcakes or cookies.
Get gift cards. I grew up in a household that thought gift cards weren’t very personal, so we shunned them. But here’s the thing with kids: they love that they can pick out what they want. And even though it’s cliché, it actually does teach them the value of money and requires them to do some math. When my kids use a gift card, they actually spend time thinking about what they want to buy as opposed to just seeing an item and grabbing it. And by the way, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on these. The hot new gift card is for 7-Eleven, where $10 goes a long way.
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But in the end, the secret is to not make a big deal about it. Find a time to take the kids to the side and give them the gift alone – make it a special moment between you and them and not about making a huge spectacle. Understand that kids are finicky and not every present will be a home run – even when you are SURE that it will be.
My almost-2-year-old was given a small stuffed animal recently in front of a lot of people. We all oohed and aahed as she opened it, then tried to get her to take a picture with it – she just cried and threw it on the floor. Two hours later, once all the pomp and circumstance ended, she picked up her animal, gave him hugs, and played happily. She just didn’t like having the spotlight on her in that moment, which is something all of us can relate to. #baby #babyproducts