This year, resolve to think creatively about the kids on your gift list. Steer clear of the “it” toys, the ones that everyone wants and is probably already getting. Chances are those are the toys that will flame out the fastest. Also try to avoid the battery-operated toys that your boys will grow tired of as soon as the power runs down. Instead, focus on the gifts that will spark their imagination and keep them entertained throughout the year. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
Ages 3 to 5: At this age, boys are wonderfully open-minded and curious. They love to discover and create, and they’re usually not worried about what everyone else has or what will make them look cool. Young builders might love a new Lego set; budding scientists might enjoy a bug-catcher and magnifying glass; little outdoorsmen might enjoy a small tent, trampoline, or a beginner fishing rod.
Ages 6 to 8: This is the age at which gift-giving starts to get tricky. Boys at this age are drawn to things that are scary, gross, mysterious, or otherwise unknown. Help them discover all sorts of new ways to surprise and mystify, with a magic kit, test tube aliens, or a terrarium to grow insect-eating plants.
Ages 9 to 12: These boys are getting a little bit more sophisticated about what they want, but they like to keep busy. Consider a kids’ digital video camera that will allow them to edit film to their choosing, a build-a-robot kit that will kick their creative juices into gear, or a chemistry set that will keep them intrigued.
For all ages, you can try these ideas for gifts that won’t get broken or discarded:
Memberships: Give a membership to a local cultural institution such as a zoo, science center, children’s museum, aquarium, or activity gardens. Make sure that the attraction is close enough to be convenient so that the kids get the most out of the membership for the year.
Magazines: Give a subscription to a children’s magazine that will keep them entertained with new issues arriving in the mail all year round. For ages 3 to 8, look for Highlights, Ranger Rick, National Geographic Little Kids, and Zoobooks. For ages 9 to 12, look for Muse (sponsored by the Smithsonian), Ask (arts and science for kids), Calliope (a fun introduction to world history), Dig (for archaeology buffs) and Cousteau Kids.
Books: Kids love feeling a strong connection to books, and that’s what makes books that come in a series so much fun. For ages 3 to 5, check out the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant; for ages 6 to 8, try the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey; and for boys ages 9 to 12, try the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine or the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.
The Gift of Time: Sometimes the gift a boy wants the most is the gift of time with you. Make your own special gift certificate with a promise of an afternoon at the movies, a day at the go-cart track, or a cheeseburger-and-ice-cream dinner. Most likely, it’ll be the gift that he’ll enjoy the most – and treasure for the longest.