Gifts for children: what to avoid and what to give

20 Dec 2013

Gifts for children

Does your child receive gifts you wish they didn't? Even if the thought is appreciated, as a parent, I always feel some of these gifts would be better avoided.
In this season of crazy money-spending and random gift-giving from relatives you haven't seen in ages, here are some of my thoughts on gift-giving.

What NOT to offer?

- no teddy bears (please)

Seriously, one cute little cuddly toy may be fine when a baby is born but, even then, I am sure parents would rather get something more useful. LJ has a mountain of cuddly toys (mostly bears or other cute creatures we have been given). She likes some of them, but is not attached to them in any way. And these are not the best toys, in my opinion. They just gather dust on a shelf in your child's room (with a few favourite exceptions). Past 6 months old, there are more attractive options to be had.

- no noisy electronic toys

I am not a big fan of electronic toys. You know all these toys meant to develop your child's skills in X and Y or those that talk. We have two of those at home (none of which were bought by us). What about playing with real toys, inventing stories, role-playing, etc? Pressing buttons and being tired out by loud toys is not my idea of fun.

- limit plastic

We actually have very few plastic toys and most of the ones we have, we have not bought ourselves. There are so many unknowns about what is in those plastics and which ones are safe and not. We much prefer wooden toys (see below).

- no clothes

Clothes are not gifts. Clothes are a necessity rather than a gift, in my opinion. They may be gifts for the parents (when the baby is really young, for example) but not for a child. A cute twirly dress may be a gift for a little girl who likes princesses or to play dress-up for carnival and so on but there are better things to offer her than a pair of PJs for Christmas. Buying a special dress or jumper is about appearances and looking good. Not a message I want my child to value.

What to buy instead?

- listen

It may be rude to say what your child wants as a gift but not if you are asked. The best option, in my opinion, is to ask the parents or a relative what the child would like (or the child himself/herself if s/he is old enough). If you don't know the child very well or are not sure of their age, ask! If you haven't seen them in a while and have no idea what they like, ask!
Asking is the best way not to get it wrong. Yet, it is not enough. If you ask and get given some ideas, PLEASE do take them into account! Otherwise, there is no point in asking!

- age-appropriate

Giving a two-year-old a game to learn and write letters is not an age-appropriate game in my opinion (especially when it says from 6 on the box). What is the point? They can't use it, will get frustrated and by the time the game is appropriate, it will be broken, forgotten or hated! Most toys and games have ages written on them. While I do not always abide by them, I think these are very helpful for children you may not know very well. If buying good-quality toys from reputable brands, these ages on the boxes are a good guide to follow.

- wooden toys

A favourite toy - handmade by Papy

Good old-fashioned wooden toys are great. They have no electronic parts that go wrong, they are not noisy and contain no nasty plastic. A lot are made from sustainable wood and painted with safe paints even for the very little ones. I was once told that they may be dangerous as the child may get splinters! This may have been true 20 years ago, but I don't think it is the case any more (unless it is of very bad quality).

- books, books and more books

Do I need to explain why books are good? If I do, this blog is probably not for you! Books are especially great for multilingual families, of course.

- no toys?

Cooking with Papa

Some children have way too many toys and end up playing with nothing. I found very sad that a child or their parents may have no idea for a Christmas present as they have everything!! Not only because some children in the world actually have a lot less than them, but also because I bet they don't really play. An idea, for any child, might be to offer them an experience with you. What about a day out at the zoo, a visit to a museum or a day spent at home baking? Time spent with them, rather than money is just as pleasurable a memory as any toy.


  1. My brother has WAY too many toys! There are toys all over the house... they won't actually fit in his bedroom! I always buy him books. Actually, I buy most children books because they all live far away and books are easy to send ;-)
    I've send my friend's son clothing for Christmas (along with a squishy baby book), but he's not even a year old yet and the dragon onesie was sooo cute!

    1. Books are always great. I think you can hardly go wrong with them. Clothing is cute for babies. They have no idea about gifts etc so it is more of a gift for the parents.

  2. I agree with "books, books and more books" and I really appreciate it when people give gifts that do not contain plastic or batteries - it shows they really made an effort to give a gift that fits our family.

  3. Hello there,I appreciate your writing.I have little bit.Realize totally new possibilities and give a "toy" that is truly to a greater degree a learning tool.A few ideas?A bug-catcher,a globe,a telescope,a magnifying glass,an ant farm,cultivating tools,puzzles,a science pack, and so forth.These sorts of gifts may add to your clutter a bit,however they are awesome things to have close by for inquisitive kiddos who love to learn and explore the world around them.Thank you.

    Clara Barnes.


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