Growing up, my mom had a loose rule of thumb for holiday giving: a gift for the mind (something good for your brain like art supplies, music, or books), a gift for the body (clothing, sleds, outdoor gear, ice skates), and a gift for a heart (that one thing that you know the other person will love). Not only did this framework prevent impulse purchases resulting from those unavoidable moments of frantic last minute shopping, it also simplified expectations and introduced the “need” vs. the “want” gifts. Below are a few gift ideas–mostly for adventurous boys– in each category.
Ipod Nano + Skull Candy Headphones. This was probably the best gift we’ve given the boys. The Nano does not have games, apps, texting, or Instagram…just music and audio books. The brilliance of a decent set of headphones is not only that they look cool, but also that each kid can listen to whatever they want (no fighting!). As a bonus, the boys keep their tiny little Nanos plugged into the headphones all the time, making it much less likely to get lost.
Hardcover book series. No, a stack of books does not have a big “wow” factor, but once the dust settles a good series can be just what the kids are looking for. Last year, I gave the boys the Percy Jackson series. Other great series for 8-12 year old boys include The Ranger’s Apprentice, Harry Potter (of course), The Inheritance Cycle, and The Inkheart Trilogy.
Journal and Colored Pencils. We have hundreds of colored pencils of various lengths and quality floating around, but there is still something about a fresh pack of sharp colors and a clean, unmarked journal. I’m a fan of a simple, black hardcover art journal (which can be found in most art stores) and find that pencil sets with unusual colors (neon, metallic) tend to spur creativity more than a simple set of Crayola’s. Oil pastels are also a great medium, though a bit messier.
Board Games. The classics- Monopoly, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Pictionary– are always good to have around, but there are some excellent games out there now that weren’t around when I was a kid. Blokus, Apples to Apples, and Boggle are big hits in our household.
The “need vs. want” gift. This is usually the category where the “need” gifts come into play– jackets and snow pants, a snowboard, xc skis, and other gear that the kids need for the season. Let’s face it, ski passes, gear, out winter clothing can really add up…usually right before the holidays…and I for one have no problem with some of those items ending up under the tree.
Vew-Do Balance Board. They’re cool. They’re made in Vermont. And they’re really great for building balance and core strength, which is key to pretty much every other sport. We got the Longboard last year and never put it away– it’s still right in the middle of the living room where it was unwrapped almost a year ago and gets used every day.
Sleds. We have been through A LOT of sleds– the Zipfy, snow tubes, an old toboggan are all in the shed waiting for snow. But the perennial favorite is the Alpine Slider from L.L. Bean. It’s light, fast and rugged– perfect for long rides and taking jumps. The boys have even been known to stand on them snowboard style.
Burton First Layer. We never seem to have enough long underwear in the winter. Truth be told, there are weekends that the boys wear them 24/7. In Stowe, it seems perfectly acceptable to wear your long underwear around town after a day on the mountain, and why change before bed if you’re just getting up and going back out in the morning? Burton’s first layer clothing is cool looking (critically important to the boys) and well made (critically important to moms depending on hand-me-downs). Plus they take up a lot of room in a stocking.
Spooner Board. I have to admit, I didn’t really “get” the spooner board at first, but the boys were all over them in the toy store, and they turned out to be pretty cool. They use them indoors and out, winter and summer…they do tricks, ride them like a snowboard, and flip them like a skateboard.
The “heart” category is so personal. This is the gift that feels so good to buy…the one you know the recipient will just flip over. One year, my mom gave me a beautiful duvet. In college, my dad transferred all his award points to me to fuel my “wanderlust” with a plane ticket. For the past five years, elaborate lego sets were the object of my kid’s desires. Last Christmas, my youngest wanted nothing more than a blue MDK scooter with purple hand grips. My oldest got an underwater camera that he was coveting. I think the most loved gift of all time in our house was the fireman costume my youngest received when he was 3 or 4. He didn’t take it off until spring.
This year, the boys are asking for an ATV (not going to happen), a BMX bike, a Wii, and cross-country skis. What’s on your kids’ wish lists? I would love to hear about other gift ideas on the mind, body, heart categories too. Happy Holidays!