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This Holiday: Joy of “The Gift”

This holiday season may be filled with reflection about what is really important. Home, family and services such as electricity will leave many thankful for the basics and others sad for their loss.  So how can we wrap our heads around the commercialization of the holidays?  I sent a survey to forty people and got some amazing responses. This season people want to be inspired, celebrate and they want to see their children light up when they receive the perfect gift. Money is tight for everyone, so each purchase should have a “best gift ever” aspiration. Have a list and stick to it. Don’t get sucked into “one day only” sales – too many items are tempting, so unless it’s on your list, resist!

The forty kids responded with joyful and honest inputs. This is the list of what is in and out for the 2012 Holiday Season.

No Checks Please – At the top of the “best gifts” list was cash. Cash is king according to young people surveyed across the country (Rochester, NY to Honolulu, HI). Checks get “given to mom who tends to try and control what the money is spent on.” Plus holding money is exciting while holding a check is boring.

Gift cards, but – it has to be to the right store. And the kids have to know there is a gift card inside. Most popular gift cards – for tween and teen boys – Gamestop, iTunes, and Amazon (on line). Girls selected iTunes and overall “mall cards” so they are able to use in any store. Overall, affordable stores such as H&M and Forever 21 are in and expensive department stores are out.

Techno-mania – Electronics, in general, came up BIG. Several teen/tweens are asking for an iPhone5 but many are asking for the 4s as it is less expensive and viewed as just as good. Phones are everything to kids now and they want the most updated and cool version they can get. The PSP and Gameboy crowd has rushed over to the iTouch side. If you have a playstation, Call of Duty Black Ops 2 just came out.

Tablets and e-Readers- Many girls mentioned e-Readers as gifts with gift cards to buy books. Girls went for the Kindle Fire while boys said any reader but considered iPad the best. Many did not expect an iPad because it is considered too expensive for a gift.  A good book for tween girls and boys is City of Embers.

Sweats ‘n Sneakers – Boys love sneakers. Kobe VI and Durante sneakers ranked the highest with this crowd. They also like sports clothes. East bay and Stussy are very hip right now (Stussy especially on the west coast). Sports clothing for their favorite teams and players (not yours, theirs) is very popular. Don’t forget to ask who they like – the player on the jersey is important. If jerseys are too expensive, snapback hats are also a great choice.

Jewelry and Watches – Nixon and surf watches are popular with boys but kids wear watches for a fashion statement – they use their electronics to tell time. Tween and teen girls were not interested in watches but LOVE the blue Tiffany box. The under $100 gifts are “the bomb.” They also like backpack decorators from places like Juicy Couture. Tween and teen girls are all about the brand. A new huge brand is Alex and Ani, makers of ecofriendly, expandable and cool jewelry.

For the uber-fashion forward girl, Uggs are out and Tom’s are in. At a light price point, Fashion Origami is fun for girls.

Grant a privilege or wish – We had an innovative idea from the younger crowd – give a privilege as a gift. We will give our thirteen year-old permission to setup on Facebook and Instagram as long as she friends me. Good idea on her part, hard to argue the economics for us.

Grandparents and parent listen up – the eight to ten year-old crowd still like toys but not “baby” toys. Boys like to get a football or basketball, and if it has their favorite team logo, all the better. Many boys mentioned Nerf guns as good gifts.

As always, a perennial favorite is Lego – the bigger and more complex, often the better.  Weapons and space creatures are a plus.  On December 1st, Lego is introducing a new line called “The Hobbit”.  This will likely be a huge hit and only see brief availability on store shelves.  Not one to see and decide to pick up at a later date.  If your little dude’s a Lego Man, grab it when you see it….

Also this holiday, Lego has a “girl-themed” set designed to attract the future engineers that might prefer pink as opposed to blue. Called Lego Friends, this will likely see big demand as well.

Remember TY Beanie Babies?  Thought you dodged that bullet?  Well, TY is back and is where it’s at.  TY Beanie Balls, Beanie Boos, and Beanie Monstaz have been flying off the shelves all year long.  They’re even themed for the holidays and range in size from stocking stuffer to basketball-sized.

And for a quality plush toy, Douglas Cuddle Toys – a quaint New England toymaker – consistently puts forth the best in plush.

For your active outdoor child, EzyRoller is a great choice.  You sit in it, move your feet from side to side, and away you go.  It promises to be one of the best driveway gifts of the season. With a leg extension bar included, it works well for most kids aged four to twelve.

Slackers is a new company we discovered operated by some pretty cool dudes out of crunchy Colorado.  The offer the Slackerrs Zipline and the Slackers Slackline… think tightropes for beginners.  All you need is a couple of trees and you’re ready to join in the X-games….

Skullduggery is a lesser known company as well with a great selection of products.  Our favorite is the Light-up marble racetrack with glow-in-the-dark tracks and light-up race cars.  Think Hot Wheels with a dose of West Coast cool. Great idea for a four to seven year-old gift.

For those cold days indoors, Dabble is a great game, think of a modern day scrabble. Expose your kids to a new multi-cultural book series called Fujimini Adventure Series. Drop into Asian culture with websites and free games to enhance the experience.

Lastly, if you’re shopping for a doll for that special little one, no one tops American Girl.  However, if the price turns you off – or there’s no American Girl store in town to really enjoy the whole experience fully – here’s a little-known tip:  Corrolle Dolls, made in France, are quality dolls (vanilla is injected into the molding process to give them a wonderful fresh smell) and very cute. They are not-so-coincidentally owned by the owners of American Girl, Mattel. You will find Corrolle in most specialty toy stores in the US, and likely at half the price of an American Girl doll.

Say no to clothes – Younger kids love presents, toys and unwrapping gifts. They tend to be very easy to please if you stay with toys. Little kids do not consider clothes or pajamas to be gifts. Never give a little girl or boy a sweater!

Our kids are very lucky, and sometimes not appreciative enough, but I was struck by their optimism — they epitomize holiday spirit and approach the special day with hope and joy. So let’s get them one perfect gift this year. Happy Holidays.

family game – Dabble (scrabble with a modern feel)

Source: This Holiday: Joy of “The Gift”, Eileen Wacker, resident