'Tis the season for grandparents to buy - and buy and buy. Grandparents spend $30 million each year on toys and other products for children, and account for 17 percent of all U.S. toy sales, according to the Toy Industry Association (TIA). But, as with most things in life, more isn't necessarily better. “One goal of grandparenting is to build memories,” says psychologist Lawrence Cohen. “A special gift can do that, but it’s much more likely the child will remember you getting on the floor and playing with him.”
Whether given at a major holiday, special occasion or “just because,” the gifts grandparents give are almost always an expression of their love for, and a way to connect with, their grandchild. Remind your parents that the best gifts help develop a relationship between the grandparent and the child, and they needn’t be expensive.
Share the following tips and suggestions with your kids' grandparents (and special aunts, uncles, and godparents) and watch the memories grow.
A Few Gift-Giving Suggestions for Grandparents
- A series of gifts (every birthday, for example) to make a collection of things you know your grandchild likes – or something that you share an interest in. Your own private book-a-month club can be fun, as can videos, model kits, matchbox cars or even baseball cards.
- Board games you can play together. For example, a chess set and regular date to teach your grandchild how to play.
- Sports equipment for something you love and could participate in together such as fishing or tennis.
- Tickets to a play, sporting event or concert or a homemade “pass” to go for a walk and an ice cream, go on a picnic, or take in a free event.
- Membership or a one-time pass to a science or cultural museum.
- A shopping trip, with an agreed upon budget, followed-up with a lunch or movie date.
- Baking supplies, craft materials, science kits or models, with a date or dates to make something together.
- An inexpensive digital camera (or a disposable camera), and software or mailing supplies that facilitate communication between you.
- A gift certificate to a favorite store – while it seems impersonal it can be the best way to connect with a young teen, whether you're near or far away.
- A video of you reading bedtime stories or a tape of you singing lullabies or playing the guitar or piano. Or just a video of you—-in the kitchen, at the beach, raking the leaves, or anything you love to do.
- Kids love electronic toys and equipment, but they’ll still be disappointed if you don’t include the batteries. For some age-specific suggestions, check our list of award-winners.
For some great gift suggestions, don’t miss this year's National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) winners. Click here to find out about the best toys, books, recordings and software for kids of all ages.