PARENT TALK In choosing gifts, think of the child |

PARENT TALK In choosing gifts, think of the child

Soon it will be Black Friday, when scores of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, will be waiting in line at the big box stores to fill their shopping carts with mountains of toys.

Now let’s fast forward a month and visit the scene on Christmas morning. Those shopping carts have translated into mountains of gift wrapped packages. There are hours of unwrapping gifts, many meltdowns and, ultimately, the child wanting to play with the wrapping paper and the empty boxes rather than the expensive gift inside. Now let’s fast forward to Valentine’s Day where discarded and broken toys are left sitting on the shelf because the child has no interest in them anymore.

None of us likes to waste money, and everyone would like to know that their special child is still playing with their gift. Based on over 25 years of working with families, and almost six years of being a grandmother, I have a few suggestions for you.

Think about the children’s interests. Are they into fantasy play? Do they like to build? Do they love learning about animals? I have found that the most successful gifts that I can give to my grandson, involve using his imagination. Recently I found a beautiful cardboard game that allowed him to pop out various pirate figures, and of course a crocodile. He slips two fingers through the holes and spends hours making up stories for these four characters.

I also encourage you think about the child’s gift in relation to their age and their development. Does the child have an area that needs some encouragement in developing? Maybe your couch potato could benefit from a soccer ball and someone to play with. Or the child who never sits down could benefit from a complicated puzzle. Our grandson loves mazes. I am always on the lookout for them, since he does at least 10 at one sitting.

Think about buying a gift that falls into one of the main categories; balls, dolls, puzzles, books, art and blocks. These can be interpreted broadly; for instance blocks can include basic building blocks, Lincoln logs and Legos. Dolls are not just for girls — children love action figures, cars, planes and animals. Books are always a wonderful gift. They can range from a basic story book, to comic books and pop up books. Puzzles can range from the simplest with a few basic pieces to 10,000 pieces, and even 3D. Art can include music as well as crayons, paint and crafts.

Aim for gifts that involve helping children use their imagination, that include physical activity and encourage brain development. Try to keep away from toys that need batteries. Those toys have a tendency to make the child an observer because the battery does most of the work — not to mention that batteries are very dangerous for children if they are swallowed.

If all that holiday shopping has tempted you to buy too many toys, put some away for another day. Gifts are not just for Christmas and birthdays. Rewarding your child with a gift because they deserve it, and not just because it’s the holiday, will be more meaningful and remembered longer.

Sandy Swanson is executive director of Family Visitor Programs. The agency provides free support and education programs for pregnant women and families with new babies. For more information about Family Visitor Programs call 945-1234, extension 20 or visit

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