Christmas is traditionally viewed as a time of giving, often to an excessive level, but the recession has made many people rethink the type of children’s presents they buy. Giving something that provides value for money, and will encourage children’s imaginations, is likely to fulfill both adults’ and children’s needs.
Drawing and Painting Materials
Rainy days require a well-stocked art cupboard and what better time to provide that than at Christmas. Make sure there is a ready supply of paint, paintbrushes, pens, pencils, glue, scissors and reams of paper in all sizes and colours. Children often enjoy making cards for special occasions, so sparkly foil, stickers and pompoms go down well.
Somewhere to Play
A Wendy house or shop is sure to encourage interaction and role play. Children love having their own space, where adults are not allowed and is often too small for them anyway. Many Wendy houses come in a space-saving and easily transportable pop-up format, so worries about storage are not an issue.
Dressing up Clothes
Providing somewhere to play is one thing but having a range of dressing up clothes will complete the picture. These can either be from a favourite film, book or cartoon character or give the child a certain role – doctor, nurse, policeman or builder, for example.
Something to Eat
One of the old favourites that will often appear time and time again, and appeals to a wide age range, is plastic cutlery, plates, pots and pans, a cooking stove and of course food. Plastic food may not always look edible but is likely to be served on a regular basis to any passing unsuspecting adult and appropriate comment demanded.
Bats and Balls
Sporty children require an endless supply of bats and balls – sports equipment of any kind really – just as long as there is plenty of variety. If the family has kindly neighbours, the children’s lost balls and shuttlecocks may eventually make their way back, but it’s useful to have spares in stock.
Even if the kids are confined indoors, there are alternatives. Foam or rubber versions of old favourites like skittles are available and magnetic darts are a great attraction.
Christmas in wintery climates may lend itself to toboggans and sledges. These come in all shapes and sizes, but make sure children are well wrapped up for that tumble at the bottom.
A summery Christmas is best spent by the pool with more potential for sporty games – inflatable balls and games like water polo can provide hours of fun.
Some children are particularly keen on working with their hands and channelling their creative side. There is a wealth of craft activities to try which will satisfy their need, for example, candle making, tapestry, friendship bracelets, card-making, sewing handbags and purses, bead creations, wooden and mechanical models.
Cookery kits are popular with boys and girls alike and are available for children of all ages. Alternatively, challenge those budding scientists with a children’s science kit which range from erupting volcanoes to creating their own perfumes.
Lego kits are an enduring and popular gift that cover a range of budgets. Many allow the child to build an elaborate model that may stay assembled for some time, so make sure there are plenty of basic bricks available for their own creations.
Instant Fun on the Day
Many of these presents will fuel children’s imaginations and stimulate their interest in a hobby, but it’s useful to have some stocking presents that will generate instant fun.
Provide a small model that can be put together there and then. Lego kits come in all shapes and sizes, so finding room in the stocking for an easily assembled model, will keep kids entertained while Mum or Dad carves the turkey.
Walkie-talkies are another great stocking filler, encouraging conversation, or even fake mobiles, provoking 3 year olds into hilarious renditions of Mum on the phone. Many children love gadgets in general and torches, remote control cars and robots always go down well.
Small foam balls will also keep frisky children amused on the landing with their own version of football or penalty shootouts. And small dolls with little boxes or bags, to keep all their accessories in, make a great treat for doll mad members of the family.
Financially straightened times do not have to mean a Scrooge-like Christmas. Remembering what children really like to do will keep toy shelves well-stocked and children and adults happy. No toys out of the pram this Christmas.