The messages were beeping in, one after another, until I clicked over to the Facebook thread between me and a few friends to see what the panic was.
It was not an emergency. It was that no one had any idea what to get their kids for Christmas.
I mean, they had ideas — just not real-life gifts they could actually buy. One child desperately wanted a doll that talked, walked and ate. We’ve had a lot of Baby Alives in our house, and none of them did all three. My friend bemoaned that particular doll was merely a digital animation in a cartoon show, and therefore not an actual doll that could be purchased. Uh-oh.
Another friend said her child had decided they really wanted a Barbie camper van, only to decide several days later they had changed their mind. D’oh!
We are still (barely) in our early 30s, and when we were kids, things were different. We pored over the Sears Wishbook and circled items in ballpoint pen, or we got brainwashed by the constant toy commercials that played during the Saturday morning cartoons.
These days, our kids hardly ever see a commercial thanks to Netflix, DVRs, streaming and OnDemand. The only catalogue in our house is from IKEA and I’m pretty sure they don’t want a Söderhamn sofa under the tree.
It made me wonder about how in the heck some parents really are supposed to figure out what to get their kids for Christmas. Our kids have always given us pretty specific ideas, so here are a few of the ways I’ve pried out those gift suggestions:
This is usually done online, but it can be done walking through real stores, too. I tell them I need an idea for a present, and click over to Toys’R’Us so we can start scrolling through the listings.
This is especially handy if you’re looking for a gift in a specific price range, because you can just set the parameters. No need to scroll through dozens of $4 toys when you know you want to spend $50-$60 on a more “major” present.
Sometimes the item they choose is even on sale, which means you can sneakily add it to your cart once you have confirmation that it’s “the one.” Free shipping + 25 per cent off FTW.
The best toys are always over at someone else’s house, it seems. Ask your child what toys they love playing with when they’re over at a friend’s house, at school or at daycare. They might come up with an idea right away.
Ask your child specific questions, not just “What do you want for Christmas?” Ask them what they would buy if they had a million dollars (they likely have no concept of money, mind you). Ask them what toy they wish they had. Ask them what one item they want for their bedroom. Ask them to picture the absolute perfect gift under the Christmas tree, and then tell you what it is.
If a certain toy, book or game is popular among several of their little buddies, it could very well be a hit with your own child. Talk to your friends to see what they’re getting their own children for Christmas. Ask around at the bus stop once the kids are zooming down the road. This can be a great way to share ideas and shopping details — especially when a certain must-have toy is hard to find.