Guide To Buying Gifts Your Grandchildren Will Love
BY JOEL POZNANSKY
The best advice I was given as I became a grandparent about gift-giving was not to stress – after all, you gave your grandchild the best gift they were ever going to get before they were even born. A parent. Of course, they probably won’t appreciate that until they are old enough to become parents themselves. And even then the thankyou card may well get lost in the mail.
Top tips for buying the best gifts:
Fun is key
Age is critical
Ages on boxes can be misleading
Don’t ask the parent
Honor what the parent does not want their child to receive
But you ought to know my credentials as an “expert” on this subject. About two years ago I decided to help a British friend who had not only studied this subject for 15 years but had set up a company to help grandparents find just the right toy or gift for their grandson or granddaughter. To be fair, he set it up to help grandfathers -and uncles- but, who knew, turns out grandmothers, aunts, and mothers who are desperate for the next great toy idea are the ones more often on this quest.
So here is what we’ve learned serving up over a million toys and gifts to children from newborn to teen in the UK and USA since 2007.
Fun is key.
It sounds the most obvious, but a gift that helps a child or is useful or that the grandparent has fond memories can work, but ONLY if the toy is, in its own right, fun for them. Try to picture the child opening the present. It’s easier to visualize – will they smile or will they inwardly groan a little. Worthy CAN be fun, productive CAN be fun, classic toys CAN be fun. But often not. And will it seem fun when the child takes off the gift wrap?
An alphabet puzzle board where you match the A for Apple piece to the first spot, mehy-be. A cool, Alphabet Crocodile Puzzle where the clue to the pieces is the alphabet, yes. Perfect for a 3 to 5-year-old. LEARN MORE
Age is critical.
Here grandparents are lucky and unlucky. They generally know how relevant this is – that’s good. But they cannot remember exactly what age fits what toy- that stresses them out. So what does a three-year-old enjoy, well we have some guidance for each age. We have articles on developmental needs. But probably more practical, compare the top toys for a 5-year-old on www. wickeduncle.com with the top toys for an 8-year-old with the top toys for a 12-year-old. Very different.
But ages specified on the box can be misleading.
In general, what looks like a recommendation is just a legally sanctioned lower limit. “Age: 3+” generally means only “Safe for any age above 3”. Even “Age: 6 and up”, for instance, means only “We think a child aged 6 MIGHT enjoy it and we would be fine if you took that chance, and be our guest guessing how much older a kid would need to be before they would be embarrassed to be seen dead even picking this toy up”.We all know that there are very few toys that 6-year-olds love playing with that would work for a 10-year-old. And grandparents remember, for instance, that dinosaur-related toys are great for 5-year-old boys but 8-year-olds- not so much.
But a Talk and Repeat Dinosaur is fun all the way from 3 to 6.
Don’t ask the parent.
Because it is the LAST thing on their mind at the point that you ask them, and, well, unless you are Willy Wonka’s 4 grandparents sharing a single bed with insufficient funds to cover the heating in a drafty tenement, the effort of choosing is a lot of what you are saving them.
And thinking of magic chocolate, you could always have them make you something with the Chocolate Candy Chemistry Lab from Thames and Kosmos, a great company, and best for 8 to 10-year-olds. LEARN MORE
Honor what the parents do not want gifted.
What didn’t you want to be purchased by your parents for your child years ago? You know your child and you already know more about them as a parent than you do about your grandchild’s desires. Fine for them to buy the child a computer game or a toy gun, not you. Trickier to remember, some gifts are parent gifts – especially if they may have some implication of unasked for helpfulness. Your daughter-in-law or son-in-law may see something worthy or overly useful as a little preachy. A cute bicycle helmet with animal ears for a 6-year-old, fun but perhaps the implication that you are playing fast and loose with their grandchild’s safety; a Hornit that attaches to your grandchild’s bike and makes 40 different sounds, very fun and acceptable. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HORNET
That STEM emblazoned Introduction to Chemistry might just imply you are neglecting their science education even though your parents forgave YOU for not following in their footsteps into medicine and accepted that the Nobel prize for Literature you were just awarded merited a “well done”. An It’s Alive Slime Lab, just that bit better balanced.
You told your child years ago, they only have one chance to make a first impression. It makes a difference if the gift looks like a gift. Something on a hangtag or something not wrapped or something where the box is unexciting effects any child above 3. But, balancing that, make sure that the packaging doesn’t create a false expectation. An overly large box with a small toy inside, or a toy that requires a lot of setup but includes inadequate instructions- not so good.
Not so easy, but you already knew that. And, for various reasons (coming in future articles) even Amazon product reviews and Toy Awards don’t provide a lot of help. Knowledgable staff in a local, specialty retail store certainly help. Look for the ASTRA designation – that’s the association for just that kind of store. And – we have to admit it- we did set up Wicked Uncle to make the task of making you, your grandchild, and their parents happy with your choice. By kid testing the toys and working out what age and interest they are fun for, making sure they work as gifts – and we do REAL gift wrap. And, at the very least, we can be a resource for you to review our toys as suggestions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JOEL POZNANSKY
Joel Poznansky is President of Wicked Uncle USA and lives with his wife, an elementary school teacher, in Bethesda, Maryland. They miss their three children and their daughter in law- but they REALLY miss their 5-month-old granddaughter.