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3 Gift-Buying Mistakes Parents Make

December 6, 2011

So the holiday gift-buying season is definitely here, and with it comes the question:  What, and how much, should I get my child?  In my experience (as both a kid and a parent) I’ve had occasions where the gift was a great success, and also times when it just fell flat and rarely (if ever) was played with.  And while we can’t completely avoid the latter, or guarantee the former, here are a few mistakes I’ve made over the years that you might be happy to avoid!

1.  Jumping on the “This Year’s Hottest Toy” Bandwagon  This has got to be my personal favorite thing to NOT do.  These toys are rarely worth the time and energy it takes to locate them.  They are – almost by definition – a flash in the pan, a fad, someone’s idea to make a quick buck at Christmas.  They may have a TV show or movie character theme that immediately dates them.  And they are usually cheaply made with no intention of lasting longer than a few weeks or months, if you’re lucky.  Just say no!

2.  Misunderstanding Age Recommendations   Age recommendations on toys are based primarily on safety considerations and developmental stages.  While safety issues should never be ignored, the developmental stage of your child can easily fall outside the “norms” that the recommendations use.  You should have a pretty good idea of what your child can and can’t do, and if she likes to be challenged or prefers simplicity.  I usually recommend getting a toy that will gently challenge a child (absent any developmental difficulties or other limitations) since this should hold her interest for longer and help develop skills that maybe haven’t been introduced yet.  If you’re buying for a child you don’t know very well, ask the parents a few questions to get a current take on how he’s playing.

3. Too Much, Too Soon   Does your baby really need eight or ten (or more) gifts to open on Christmas morning?  For our teenagers, we like to keep it to just a couple of small fun things, maybe a book, and one more expensive gift that they’ve requested.  When they were little, so many Christmas mornings were just an orgy of unwrapping, followed by them promptly forgetting what was in the pile of stuff.  We started paring down the pile by saving some gifts for opening during the days following Christmas.  Or once they were opened, we’d put them away to bring out in a month or two.  Very young children can be so happy with just a small selection of things – and remember, you’re setting a precedent for next year!  You’ll have to work harder to avoid disappointment if you overdo it when they’re little.  So choose gifts carefully, manage expectations, and cultivate gratitude in yourself and your children for the gifts that are under your tree and in your hearts.

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