Friday, 13 November 2009

Top tips for getting great Christmas gifts for your kids

No matter how hard we try to make it less "materialistic", the giving and receiving of gifts at Christmas is always one of the biggest joys for families. My children start building up in their excitement just after my daughter's birthday in September. Her's is the last birthday of the year in our family unit and so now when we're standing in the store trying to pry little hands away from toys of desire, we use the promise "maybe you can have it for Christmas" as our scapegoat. This, of course, builds expectation and soon the kids are watching the adverts between kids programmes with lascivious and drooling concentration. "Come and see mummy, quick!! I want THAT one for Christmas".

This is why most parents cannot stand the way children's TV plays on the basic instinct of children to desire what they don't have. It puts so much pressure on us to perform.

Despite this, I must admit that one of my keenest memories of childhood Christmases is the delight at opening my gift to see that, yes! Mummy had been paying attention! There in my hands was the very toy that I had fantasized over for so many weeks. Oh the deep satisfaction of owning the very make and model that I had seen over and over on the television! And the disappointment if my parents had only bought something like the one I had seen, perhaps a slightly cheaper doll with one or two fewer gadgets.

So as a parent I remember the Wow Factor of giving a gift that the child has seen on TV. It really packs a punch of gift-giving satisfaction!! Unfortunately, there is one drawback to this. The toys and games advertised on TV are most often the most desired universally among children in your nation. So they are either exorbitantly expensive, or perpetually out of stock.

Over the last few years I have found a way of bypassing this problem. I call it "Buy Early - Buy Late".

Buy Early-Buy Late
Firstly, decide on one or two gifts that you know your children will like, whether or not they have seen them on TV. These are gifts you know, from experience, will last the test of time. They may be a doll's house, or a video game. It may be Lego, or a Bicycle. Choose these carefully and wisely for their "permanency" factor, or "cost-per-play". In other words, you know your child will play with this item consistently throughout the year and therefore plan to spend a little more on it.

This is the item you need to buy early. Do your research several months in advance. Keep an eye for the item whenever you go shopping, to compare prices and features. Make your decision at least eight weeks before Christmas and stick to it. Then find your supplier and order well in advance for early delivery, or purchase and hide away safely.

This prevents the out-of-time rush when you are trying to buy something of decent and lasting quality.

Secondly, listen carefully to your children when they are crying out with glee at items on the television. You will soon have them burned in your memory!

Now, go shopping very close to Christmas, in fact Christmas Eve is a good idea, first thing in the morning. It is usually dead quiet at the shops, and the shelves are looking chaotic and pretty empty. Large supermarkets are good for this technique, such as Tesco or Asda. You will find that because of the heavy advertising campaigns, they have overstocked on several toy items that you will remember from your children's mad squeals, and they will be marking down crazily to get rid of excess before Christmas is over. Choose one or two sale items that you remember your children have noticed.

Christmas Day Success
With this buying technique, when the big day comes your children will have both the excitement of holding in their hands, in three dimensions, the very item they saw every day for a month on television. Their sighs of ecstasy over this will make your day. And on top of it all you will know that when the novelty of the TV toy wears off (or it breaks, very often by the end of the day), you have spent most of your money on a well-planned and lasting item that will become a fixture in your children's lives. Enjoy!

10 Perennial Favourite Toys

Are you struggling to think of something to get your child? These gifts have stood the test of time. Please leave more suggestions in the comments!

  • Lego Block Set
  • Bicycle & Helmet
  • Baby Doll with some outfits and a bottle
  • Dolls House with figurines and furniture
  • Tonka Trucks
  • Matchbox cars
  • Barbie doll
  • Mr Potatohead
  • Chemistry set
  • Meccano

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