Choosing Gifts for Grandchildren

Choosing an appropriate gift for any child can be difficult, particularly when the child is not part of the adult’s daily life. Many toys have general guidelines for age appropriateness but each child will have his own likes and preferences. Children with special needs may require specialized toys or gifted children may be ready for new challenges. These variables can combine to make gift purchasing a daunting task. Here are tips to help gift givers choose a toy or other gift that will be enjoyed and remembered.

Ask the Parent or Caregiver

Many children have a list they have made of toys and other items they would like for their birthday or holiday. Parents may also have some requests, such as no electronics or weapon toys.

Review Lists From Reputable Sources

Many magazines offer annual gift giving lists. Organized by age group and type of gift these lists can provide inspiration for the perfect gift. Here are some ideas based on the age group your grandchild is in:

  • Ages 0 to 3: learning toys, stuffed animals, books, rocking horse or chair, toy box, clothes.
  • Ages 3 to 6: Learning or activity toys, books, puzzles, sled, tricycle, wagon, dolls, computer software, clothes
  • Ages 6 to 9: Learning or activity sets, crafts, doll house, train, bike, board games, movies, computer games, books, collectibles, clothes
  • Ages 10 to 18: Tickets to sporting events or concerts, sporting equipment, music, videos, computer software, clothes, quilts and decor for their bedrooms, collectibles, cameras, electronics or jewelry.

Add one more item to your grandchild’s collection of Barbie’s, GI Joe’s, Winnie the Pooh’s or whatever they collect.

Give an old time toy like Lincoln Logs, Paddington Bear, or a Baby Doll that doesn’t do anything. Classic Toys provides news and a listing of all time favorites that are still manufactured.

If you give a gift certificate, make sure it is from your grandchild’s favorite store and offer to take them there to choose their gift. If you know your grandchild wants to try a new hobby like fishing, woodworking, scrapbooking, or gardening, get them the supplies or gear and offer to help them learn by taking them, teaching them or finding a class for them to take.

Consider Games, Books and Crafts

For grandchildren who live nearby, the parents may need an afternoon of shopping while the child stays with the grandparents. Don’t think of this as just babysitting; make it an occasion. Head for the nearest library to check out a few books so you and the child can choose one to cuddle up with. You might want to share your feelings about creating a sustainable society, or the importance of determination when following a dream.

An early Christmas present can be a treasured book from the grandparent’s bookshelves, or one just bought with the child in mind. It can be opened and read on the spot, complete with a discussion over brownies and hot chocolate or another favorite snack. This type of experience can model the concept of “dining” rather than just belting down food – a lesson most children can profit from.

Toys are not the only gift item appropriate for children. Items such as coloring books help children improve their small motor skills. Books, particularly books on tape, can be enjoyed by any age. Crafts will provide an activity while introducing the child to new skills.

Give Open Ended Toys

Toys that allow or encourage children to use their imagination when playing are open ended toys. Classics such as Barbie dolls and Lincoln Logs allow children to create their own stories and play as their imagination takes them.

Other toys such as Legos have various styles available for different ages and skills. Younger children can play with Duplos and older children can build their own robots with legos. There are also a variety of themes with this versatile toy. Other toys such as building blocks, playdough or action figures are classic favorites.


Genealogy is a never-ending gift to pass down through the generations. As family grows so does family history. Creating a family scrapbook containing a family tree, important dates, photos, family member data, and documents is a wonderful way to bond with grandchild. Genealogy is one hobby that continues to connect the generations. First you must decide what information will be included. It is fairly easy to get started, just gather up the information you already know or have. The essential basics are legal names, birth dates, photos, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, military and church records. From these you can start creating a family tree which can also be used as an index for your family’s scrap book.

Your family scrapbook can be as simple or as detailed as you desire. Create the pages any way you like, personalize and add details as you go along. Organization skills are necessary. Indexing compiled data on each relative will help their life story come to light. Allow a few pages for each family member’s personal biography. As your scrap book becomes your family’s history book, you may want to add pictures and more details about each ancestor. Include information about the house they lived in, the news events for that time period, what their favorite past times were, what they did for a living, military history and anything else that is remembered about them. In every family there are stories which are legendary or just tales. Don’t forget to include the “black sheep” or family dark secrets which have been told. Adding these tales and secrets (with a questioning note if truth or fiction} will intrigue future generations. Family legends are as important as family traditions. You may consider adding pages for the holiday celebrations and ethnic or religious traditions which have been observed throughout your family’s history

Give the Gift of Time

Children enjoy all kinds of outings and will love the adventure of spending time with an adult who is not their parent. Take them to the park, go to a movie or visit a museum. If you aren’t able to take them yourself consider giving a family membership to a local attraction such as a zoo. This type of gift can be enjoyed over and over again.

Afternoon at the Movies With Grandchildren

If the budget allows, go to a theater. If not, create a theater at home. Choose a movie you own or use the Red Box or another similar and affordable source for a special movie. Also, don’t overlook the idea of borrowing from a neighbor or other friends. Just return it soon with a thank you.

To bring about a change in atmosphere, spread a quilt or blanket on the couch or floor, depending on needs and preferences. Fix popcorn and prepare a drink with a covered top to prevent spilling. Put the phone on voice mail and dim the lights. Then it’s time to snuggle up with a stuffed animal or grandparent and watch a movie.

Plan for an intermission during which you may replenish the snacks, walk to the mailbox, use the restroom, or take a stretch of any kind. This situation presents a great opportunity to talk about the plot and ideas in the story. Teachers often wish students had more chances to reflect on stories and connect them to their own lives or people they know or have read about. Here is a teachable moment – just don’t forget to listen intently to the child’s comments and opinions.

An example of grabbing the moment to share values and develop understanding of important lessons of life comes with the movie Kung Fu Panda. The goose father shares a profound lesson when he tells his son, “There is no secret ingredient.” This is worth some discussion over a cup of hot cocoa – with extra marshmallows on top or some chocolate chips swirled in to slow down the interactions a bit.

Have a Small House Party to Provide Calmness in the Busy Christmas Season

Parents may need a break, but this can turn into a special occasion for the child and the grandparents. This can include only you and a grandchild, or several grandchildren, or even inviting a friend or two. However, it is not a time to have a big crowd since it is designed to bring calmness into December. Some may even call it a tea party to emphasize the less active nature of the event although boys may not want that connotation.

You can fix pizza, sandwiches, or make any other kitchen goodies together, taking time to let the child read directions when appropriate and enjoy the moments and delight in the smells of cooking. Encourage the child to add creativity when setting the table, planning the activities or even decorating the food with whipped creme or squirt cheese. After eating it may be time to bring out the bubbles and have some time for delight before settling down for a book or movie.

Play a board game with soft Yuletide music in the background. Take a nature walk and make a poster or picture about what was seen and done there. Taking time to stop and look deeply at a tree, plant, or even snow can stimulate conversation and ideas, as well as some Christmas calmness. Some may even enjoy writing captions for the pictures or a story about the walk. You may even remind them that people and plants are a part of nature so it doesn’t have to be just about wild things.

Finally, the Shopping Trip

If you are comfortable shopping online, it’s the best time saving way to go. One note shop the websites of the stores you know and when it comes to giving your personal information, make sure the web site is secure, on your screen it will say “security info.” If you are not sure about the security of the site, do not give your personal information. You can make a list from mail order catalogs and call in or mail your order. Calling it in allows you the chance to make sure an item is available or backordered. Using the Internet, or catalog shopping, saves you from searching store to store. The plus side is – all the packages are delivered right to your door. The more you utilize these ways of shopping the easier your actual shopping trip to the store becomes. Plan to go to a mall, or three different stores. Make your list for each stop and crossing off who’s gifts are purchased. Plan to go around dinner time, or early in the week when the stores are not so crowded. Also for special sales early morning is the best time to get the sale items.

Don’t forget to purchase wrapping paper, tags, tape and greeting cards. Dollar stores and discount stores have an abundance of inexpensive gift wrapping items and finishing touches. You may have to buy shipping boxes and packing tape for those out of town gifts. The U S Postal Service, Mail Boxes ETC and Officemax all have packaging supplies. Mail Boxes ETC will even do the packaging and mailing for a fee. Make sure there is the right amount of postage on packages and oversized greeting cards. Don’t wait until the last minute to wrap, tag and especially send your gifts.

I try to wrap my gift orders as they arrive to my home. I shop early for gifts I need to send out of town, I wrap and mail them before December 12th, with a do not open until Christmas Eve tag on them. After my shopping trips, I sort, box and tag items and wrap them the next day. I pick a cold, windy day, early in December to write out greeting cards and mail them by the 12th as well.

Grandparents have too many choices to choose a best gift for children. They can orchestrate an afternoon at the movies complete with popcorn and movie reviews. Gifts could include books from the bookstore or library, complete with a reading hat during the story and a shared activity and snack to top it off. Having a small house party can create memories the children will treasure for years while they bond and have fun with food, bubbles, games, etc. A wisely chosen gift can be helpful strengthening the bond between children and grandparent as well as giving joy and exhilaration to the grandchildren.