You want to give your grandchild an amazing gift that they are crazy about but don't know where to start, it hasn't gone well in the past, or you find the amount of options overwhelming.

You want them to feel known, loved, celebrated and remembered. You want to show your grandchild's family that you went the extra mile to find a thoughtful present and that you are taking a genuine interest in their life and the life of your grandchild. 

If you find yourself racking your brain every time you need to buy a gift for your grandchild, this is your guide to everything you need to know about how to become the best present giving Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, Papa, Abuela or Abuelo.....EVER.

 

    

#1 GATHER INFORMATION

Find out as much information as you can about the kinds of toys your grandkids already like 

This may seem like the most obvious thing to do, and for some grandparents it is. If you already do this, give yourself a high five. You would be surprised how many people do not. Keep in mind, what you DO with that information will be key. Write it down (even the tiniest details). You will be using it ALL. If you have limited information to work with, that's okay. Just do what you can and take your research to the next step. For more detailed tips about how to do this, check out the Pro Tips List at the bottom of this post. 

A few reasons doing your research is VERY important: 
- Giving random gifts does not take into consideration the person you are giving the gift to (areas of interest are so wide that just because something has a certain age printed on the box it in no way means it will make a good present for a certain grandchild).
- Buying toys you "come across" at big box stores where they are in your face are almost guaranteed to be the least creative, most cheaply made, most overpriced mass market toys that are more a marketing trap than anything else. If you follow one rule to give a wow gift...DON'T buy something from a mass market store unless specifically asked to by the parent of the child.
   
 
    
 
  

#2 Keep The Family In Mind As Well As The Child

Below are some important considerations to keep in mind as you do your shopping. Remember that parents are the gatekeepers of their home and part of giving great gifts is taking into consideration the wants/needs of the family as a whole. These categories below many not be the things that you think are a big deal but may be a very big deal to the family you are giving a gift to. The following tips are many times the difference between your gift getting played with for a day and forgotten about or worse becoming a burden and getting donated to a local charity, or being a cherished gift that is played with for a long time that you are thanked for time and time again as it keeps on giving. 
   
    
    

SPACE

From all the parents out there...pretty please take into consideration the amount of space a family has in their home, playroom, child's room, or even on a child's BED. A huge stuffed animal might seem like a good idea and be a showstopper when opened, but I guarantee you every parent in that room is dying a small death just thinking about what they would do if it had been their child, an going through in their mind where in the world they would put in or ways to sneak it out of the house before the child could get attached. Great toys don't take up much space...the best toys are even small enough to travel.
   

DURABILITY

Big box stores usually package kids gifts in such a way that they look VERY fun and flashy in the box. They make the box as big as possible and the box is 99 percent air and 1 percent gift. Not only are looks deceiving, but those same gifts are the same ones that many times break within the day. I have lost count of the time my kids have received a gift where the packaging probably cost more than the gift itself, and hours (sometimes even minutes) later, when the toy actually gets used heavily...it breaks. I'm talking about stuff that is not cheap. Basically, you are throwing your money in the trash for a few seconds of wow factor when the present is open that quickly turns into complete and utter disappointment at the low quality of the actual toy. The toys that have the flashy/huge packaging are usually the toys that break first or are deceptively unimpressive when opened and grossly overpriced. Look for toys that will last.
   
   
    

VERSITILITY

One of the very best kinds of toys to give is the kind that can be used in many ways and has limitless possibility for play across many ages. Buying open-ended toys not only encourages kids to develop a rich imagination, but the parents will thank you because they won't just be a flash in the pan gift that quickly gets boring because there are only one to two ways to play with it. A toy that can easily be combined with the other toys a child already has is a winner. Some general categories of timeless open-ended toys are: 
- Wooden Blocks
- Roads, Cars, Trains
- Magnetic Tiles
- Play Scarves
- Balance Board
- High Quality Animal figures 
- Dress up Clothes/Accessories 
- Art and Crafts Materials 
- Play Dough
- Legos
   

NOISE

Many parents have a running joke that many of the toys that make all the sounds suddenly stop making noise when the batteries "go missing". Though sometimes thoughtful toys that make sound like a bird book that plays real birdsongs or a Nutcracker book that plays high quality excerpts from the ballet are worth their weight in gold, most of the time toys that make a lot of sound drive parents nuts and end up getting silenced which sort of defeats the purpose of getting them if that's the main thing they do.
   
Kids are surrounded by entertainment of every sort with flashing screens and endless buttons to push. Though some families don't mind toys that make noise and even welcome them, be aware that many families that are trying to help children think deeply when they play and have strict rules about toys that make noise. Pay attention to what toys your grandchild already has around their house and if you don't see ANY that make noise...that should be your clue. If you do buy toys that make noise...ask yourself if you would like to hear that sound ONE MILLION times and buy presents accordingly. 
   

   
   
   
   

Beauty

 This might seem like it doesn't matter... if a child plays with a toy a lot, it doesn't matter what it looks like, right? Maybe. Though it's true that many toys for kids can be an eyesore...they don't have to be. And if you want your toy to be front and center in the livingroom etc. you might want to pay attention to the design and colors. We all want our houses and spaces to be beautiful, and giving a present that is enjoyed by the child AND the parent who will be looking at it all day every day will be a gift to the parent as well as the child. 
 
 
   

#3 Find A UNIQUE Gift

Once you have an idea for a gift...what's next? Hop in the car and go to the nearest department store or chain store to see what you can find? No! The three key takeaways from this guide are that doing some research about your grandchild, considering the family, and shopping places other people might not shop are the three best ways to find and give a unique gift your grandchild will love!
   
One of the biggest differences between older generations and the current one  when it comes to gift giving is that most shopping is now done online. If you prefer to do your shopping in person at physical stores, go for it! If you know enough about shopping online to place an order that way...you will have many more options this way but you can find a great unique gift either way, and many small toy businesses ship right to your home. 
   
Below is a list of online and physical options for finding a unique gift. 
   
 

 Where to Buy a UNIQUE Gift (In-Person)

  • Locate your nearest small toy shop that sells children's products exclusively¬†¬†Not only do these small shop owners spend their blood, sweat, and tears curating the best gifts for children, but by shopping small you also support your community and help small businesses to thrive in your town.. Unlike some large stores, the owners of these small shops are also VERY knowledgeable about their toys and will listen to you and help you find something that would a great fit for your grandchild within the budget you have and many times even wrap it! We love the small shops that carry our flexible roads and would be remiss if we didn't share our store finder, but you can also just search for a small shop near you and even call ahead to get details about what kind of toys they carry!¬†
  • Holiday Trade Fairs and Festivals- Especially around the holidays, there are often pop-up shops and fairs with local artisans selling things you would never find at a big box store. These items are often very unique and even one of a kind. Take the opportunity to do something festive and do a little Christmas shopping while you are at it!
  • Small Shop Gift Cards- If you are at a small shop or trade fair and still can't decide on a gift, keep in mind that they almost always offer gift cards for the recipient to use later. Unlike generic gift cards, giving one to a beautiful toy shop will give your grandchild the chance to buy something they love and show them that you went out of your way to create a meaningful experience for them. You could even go with them, take them to lunch, and make a day out of it!¬†

   

PRO TIP: If you are giving something like a gift card to a small shop or an "experience" like a annual pass to the zoo for your main present, pair it with an inexpensive smaller gift with the same theme so they still have something to open that reminds them of your larger gift.

      

     

Where to Buy a UNIQUE Gift (Online)

The online shopping options are endless, many times overwhelming. The idea of finding something cool online sounds great, but after few rabbit trails that lead nowhere, you just end up getting something from a big box store, again. Here are a few tips and sites that might help you get going more in a direction that leads somewhere. If you have done your research and have some categories in mind, you are already halfway there. 
  • Smallable- Ever see all those super cool kids toys that are never carried at regular big box stores but don't know where they come from? Start with Smallable. The best of small businesses from around the world, shipping right to you (or your loved one). You can search for just about any category and immediately see items that are well made, support small businesses, and are so very unique. I one received a box of items that someone sent me from another part of the world for a new baby, and it was one of the most beautifully packaged, thoughtful gifts I've ever received.¬†¬†
  • Etsy- You have probably heard of Etsy, but may have never tried searching there. You can search for things in wide categories or for specific things. Although personalized items like leather journals, sport team yeti cups, and personalized jewelry are just a few examples, you can find all kinds of treasures there and if you really want to show that you did your research and bought something specifically with their interests in mind this is one of the best places. Keep in mind that shipping usually takes longer than most other websites because most items are made to order.¬†
  • Uncommon Goods- This website specializes in things that you won't find other places. From unique niche memorabilia to personalized lamps, this is a great place to get ideas for kids and adults alike.¬†

      

    

PRO TIPS

Need even more ideas or get stuck in the process? Try one of the things below to think outside the box and come up with gift ideas you may have never thought of otherwise. 
  • One category that is many times forgotten is gifts that are more experiential than physical. Many families would LOVE an annual pass to a local zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, science museum, or even concert series but might not have the funds to splurge on one they would love to have. Gifting something for the WHOLE FAMILY can help you not only give them something they can use again and again all year, but you are essentially gifting them family time. Pair it with a great themed book they can read before going to that place or an open-ended toy to re-create their experience once they get home, and though the kids may not understand how amazing the gift is (at first), the parents will be bragging about your gift to everyone they know.
  • One unique and potentially life-changing idea for a family who wants to cut down on physical items in their home is to offer to PAY for your grandchild to participate in a sport for a year, take music lessons, or cross off a bucket list item like riding a horse for the first time. As parents, extracurricular activities for kids add up quickly, and though we would love for one of our kids to be able to do Karate, having help with the cost might be the difference between us being able to do and it and it being out of the budget.¬†
  • Are you on social media? Check out your grandchild's Facebook, Instagram, or the holy grail, (their Pinterest account) for interests and ideas. To make it easier ask their parent or even your grandchild to send you links directly to their social media profile. One of the best presents I have ever received was from someone who had looked at my Pinterest account and purchased something I posted there.¬†
  • If your grandchild has siblings, enlist them for help and advice. Often siblings know even more than parents about what would be a total home run or maybe more obscure interests that would help you get a great gift for one grandchild while at the same time getting closer the one helping you! Taking a little extra effort with communication and showing that you are really trying and want to learn about the interests of your grandkids might open up a new door of further communication and relationship.
  • ¬†Ask the parents (or grandkid) directly for some categories of things they are interested in or hobbies they have if you don't already know. What do they do in their free time? Do they love to read? Do they play sports? Do they love building things? Hiking? If you want your gift to be a surprise, this can be in the form of a casual conversation where you are just catching up with your grandchild or their parent and showing interest in their life.¬†
  • Because many families struggle with having too many toys and too much clutter as it is, one idea is to get a larger gift for all the children that is a joint gift like a trampoline, play kitchen, family size open-ended toy, or basketball hoop. Of course for something larger it's always best to check with the family first to see if they want or need the item. Many times families would love help purchasing larger play items that they would feel guilty splurging on.
  • Think outside the...house. Remember to think about outdoor gifts as well as things made for indoors. Most parents are constantly trying to get their kids to spend more time outside, and something specifically to be played with outside could be an interesting category to look into.¬†

 

 We hope that this Grandparent Guide has been helpful to you, and stay tuned for part two where we share even more specific ideas and tips for each age group. 

 

Enjoy the Journey! 

- Sarah

 

 

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