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Present Pitfalls

Avoid these mistakes when purchasing holiday gifts for your grandchildren.



Callister at his favorite toy store, Kiddlestix.

It seems like it should be simple enough, buy those precious grandchildren everything their heart desires. The holidays are here and doesn’t that mean buy, buy, buy? Isn’t it a grandparent’s right to go crazy and buy out the toy store? Before you max out the credit card, consider some of the common pitfalls of present giving grandparents should strive to avoid.

  • The most obvious mistake grandparents make in holiday gifting is over indulgence. Grandparents are notorious for buying way too many presents, and although it appears to be harmless, it can create issues. Do the parents want their house to be overtaken by dozens of new toys? On a deeper level, are you creating a greed for material items that can never be satiated? Also, remember that as the child gets older the prices on those gift lists get higher and higher!
  • Avoid gifts that don’t correlate with the parent’s morals and value system. Even if you don’t share the same beliefs, respect their wishes and don’t buy your grandchildren gifts that go against the values the parents are attempting to instill. Some examples of possibly controversial toys are Barbies, pretend guns and violent video games.
  • Steer clear of obnoxious toys. If you wouldn’t want them in your home, why subject your grandchildren's parents to them?  Noisy toys, toys with lots of little pieces or toys that require an engineering degree to assemble should be marked off the list. In this category I would include presents that involve major parental involvement such as a kit to build a go cart. Unless you are volunteering your time and energy, skip those gifts.
  • Make sure your gift is age appropriate and developmental stage appropriate. This can apply to both ends of the spectrum. Don’t buy make-up for a five year old and don’t buy Sesame Street toys for a teenager. Since it’s been awhile since most grandparents had children, it might be a good idea to check with the parents, do a little research online or do what I usually do, consult with the experts at Kiddlestix.
  • As tempting as it may be, avoid overly lavish gifts. Unless you have cleared it with the parents, don’t upstage them by buying the big gifts such as bicycles, cars or a pony. A parent may end up feeling like their gifts to the child are insufficient and they can never measure up to the expensive gifts the grandparents give.
  • If you have multiple grandchildren your gifts should reflect equality. That doesn’t mean it has to be exact but don’t buy one child a book and the other a trampoline. If you have step-grandchildren, especially if they are in the same family as your biological grandchildren, erase the prefix “step” from your vocabulary and your heart and give similar gifts to all.
  • Your gift does not have to cost anything. Don’t feel bad if you can’t afford material gifts but do find a way to acknowledge the grandparent – grandchild connection. Spend an afternoon baking cookies or take them to look at Christmas lights. There are some great high-school Christmas concerts that are free or fill a thermos with hot chocolate and go to the Tulsa Christmas Parade this weekend. The experience of special time with a grandparent will be remembered much longer than any toy.
  • Do NOT buy your grandchild (or anyone else) an animal! An animal is a major commitment, possibly one that will continue long after that adorable toddler grandchild has left for college. It is very sad when an animal is not cared for properly because it wasn’t wanted or wasn’t a good temperament fit. It may be a magical moment when a puppy with a red ribbon around it’s neck is under the tree on Christmas morning, but where are you going to be when that puppy needs walking, feeding, cleaned up after and expensive veterinary bills add up? Leave the pets to the parents.

The key to successful holiday gift giving is clear, honest communication including discussing realistic expectations and boundaries with your grandchildren's parents and then following through by respecting their wishes. The best presents of the season aren’t material purchases. The most valuable gifts, the ones that create memories, are the time and love you give.

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Grand Life

Adventures in Grandparenting

About This Blog

Welcome to Grand Life, the Tulsa Kids blog that will explore all the adventures of grandparenting! As a first time grandparent, I will be experiencing new territory with my grandchild and sharing the joys and challenges in this blog. I will also be researching the various roles grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives.

I’m lucky enough to live close to my grandson and I will be providing part time child care after my daughter returns to work. In my off time, I plan to continue competing in triathlons, reading and writing.

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