I nearly did a happy dance when I saw that Furby had returned. My son, Max, has issues with communicating and using his hands, and I’d been looking for an interactive holiday gift that might encourage him. Bingo! Tickle Furby and he laughs. Talk to him and he speaks Furbish but eventually picks up English as well. The more a kid plays with Furby, the more advanced his vocabulary and actions get—in our case, both Furby and hopefully the kid! (Happily, Furby is not programmed to learn to have screaming meltdowns in the middle of the supermarket—not that I know any kids who do that.)
Furby wouldn’t just be a toy—he would be therapy, too, engaging Max in many ways. That’s just one of the things I keep in mind when I buy him toys, games or other playthings: I like toys that entertain, educate, and empower. Like many moms, I’ve become quite the toy expert over the years, able to choose gifts the kids will like (and keep on liking) with pretty good accuracy. I’ve also compiled a fair number of toy gift guides over the years, both as an editor for parenting magazines and guides on my blog for kids with special needs.
This is not to say I haven’t experienced failure, like those times when the packaging has proven more fascinating than the actual toy, or the holiday when my daughter told a relative leaving our party, “You can take the doll Mommy got me home with you because I don’t really like it!” But generally, I do OK. These are the perfect-present rules I stick with (also check out the two amazing giveaways below)!
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Get some list stuff—and some surprises, too 1 of 8Along with picks from the kids' (loooooong) wish lists, we always mix in a few surprises—including something I've made. I'm no crafter so I put together little booklets with coupons they can cash in throughout the year—one for having dessert first at dinner, one get-out-of-cleaning-your-room coupon, one for an extra bedtime story and one for 20 free kisses. (Because, you know, I usually charge.)
Photo credit: flickr/Rob Enslin
Actually read the reviews 2 of 8No matter how much the kids want something, I read as many reviews as I can. That's how you find out that, say, a toy may actually not work like you think it's going to. Or that it actually IS all it claims to be. I knew my niece would love a rider toy, and after reading the reviews on the Playskool Rocktivity Walk 'n Roll Rider I'm getting it for her.
Give your family a clue 3 of 8I usually tell grandparents and other relatives what sort of toys the kids are into; I'll even include links to items online. I don't think this is pushy at all, because the reality is they're going to buy the kids something and it might as well be what they want and not yet another stuffed animal. Relatives are always grateful to know. Although sometimes they still get them yet another stuffed animal.
Photo credit: flickr/twid
Make it personal 4 of 8Kids love seeing their name on stuff. Consider getting a personalized jewelry box, baseball bat, notepads or stationary. Or go all out like we once did with a personalized train table.
Get kids gifts they’ll use every day 5 of 8Even super-practical stuff makes for awesome gifts, like an electric toothbrush or cute mug. I'm getting my little budding fashionista this Artisan Haute Couture 2013 Calendar.
Forget about being gender correct 6 of 8My son is obsessed with purple, and in recent years he's scored a purple toy pony, a purple-haired doll, and a purple sweater from the girls' department. Get your kid what he wants (your call if he asks for a makeup palette).
Photo credit: flickr/just jennifer
Consider socking away gifts 7 of 8OK, you might consider this Scrooge-ish, but I've been known to hide gifts relatives send for the holidays. Because between what we get for the kids and what other people get them, plus the fact that both their birthdays are in December and January, it's like we could open our own toy store on the front porch. So, yes, I basically re-gift to my own kids. Gasp.
Photo credit: flickr/aine d
Give a mix of stuff 8 of 8We try to give our kids a variety of gifts for the holidays—classic stuff (like a Slinky), techie stuff (like this Leapfrog LeapPad2 Explorer Kidz Bop Music Pack, creative stuff (like a craft kit), a few books, and things like state-of-the-art vacuums, so they will hopefully take over housecleaning. In my dreams.
Amazing toy giveaway!
Want to win a Furby? You’re in luck! Every single day leading up to the holidays, a Babble blogger will be giving away a toy! Simply comment below for your chance to win by 11:59 EST on Monday, December 8. You can also click here to win an Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven.
Do you know a deserving family, school, or charity this holiday season? We’re giving away one grand set of 20 toys from Target, including ones mentioned in this post! To nominate, simply comment and tell us why you’ve selected them by 11:59 EST on Friday, December 8.