What To Remember Before Buying My Kids A Gift This Holiday, According To 8 Dads

Some well-meaning advice for avoiding awkward gift-exchanges with kids.

by Eric Alt
Originally Published: 
Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images, Shutterstock

It’s a familiar sight: Your child is handed a holiday gift from a relative and, after excitedly tearing off the paper, you watch their face drop. The relative is a little disappointed, too, because of course they are. You make a mental note to teach your kid to be a better gift receiver — and think to yourself, man, I wish they would’ve just asked us for advice about a gift that has a better chance of succeeding. This may sound like a selfish request, but you know your kid better than anyone else and can, while not say what they’d like with 100-percent certainty, at least point people in the right direction.

Giving the right gift to a kid can be tricky — especially when it comes to friends and relatives. And it can lead to uncomfortable moments. To offer advice — and avoid such interactions — we asked a handful of dads of various ages for their holiday gift giving advice to anyone buying gifts for their kids. From the obvious (just ask!) to the good-to-know (you usually can’t go wrong with games), the following was given in the name of helping everyone involved get what they want.

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Just Ask

“It would be awesome if relatives or friends actually checked with the parents before they bought a gift. Like, I don't expect an aunt to know that my kid wants Roblox currency but I'll gladly tell her via DM and, in doing so, save her the time of having to look for a gift, and me the effort of having to throw away a bunch of crummy toys that they have no interest in from the start.” — Stan, 41, New York

2. Think Beyond Hobbies

“If a kid has a specific hobby, I always advise extended family not to try and get something that pertains to it. My daughter loves makeup, but her taste (like every kid's) is very specific. If someone gives her a random makeup palette, there's a 99% chance she won’t or can’t use most of it.” — Gene, 38, New York

3. Considering Bringing Them To You

“An offer for the kids to go and stay with out-of-state relatives or spend the day with them if they live closer — doing some activity that gives our kids a glimpse of life through a different lens — would be nice. Doesn’t even have to be particularly exciting; just an activity/regular day to provide better insight into what day-to-day life is like for that person.” — Brendan, 50, New Jersey

4. Experiences Are Great, But Maybe Have Something to Wrap, Too.

“A nice way to combine an experience with a gift is to, say, buy tickets to a concert and then get the child a T-shirt for that band or performer to open on Christmas morning.” — Lee, 43, California

5. Clothes Don’t Have to Be a Letdown

“I know my kids always enjoyed traditional toys and things when they were into, say, Disney or American Girl or whatever. But they also really appreciated unexpected clothing and accessories — things they might not have thought to buy for themselves, but that was close to their style and maybe helped them branch out a bit, too.” — Ray, 52, Delaware

6. Games Are Always A Win

“Anything that encourages the whole family to gather and do something together is always welcome. Nothing too complicated, just simple games that are easy to learn, have rules that are easy to remember, and can become part of a family traditional or weekly gathering. Those never get old.” - Chris, 39, New York

7. Cash Is Always Appreciated

“It may not sound fun but putting money into a market account for college and adult life is a great gift. You can pair it with a small stocking stuffer-ish thing for them to open on Christmas Day, but the real gift is being helpful and thoughtful for the future.” - John, 44, Texas

8. Timing Is Everything With Heirlooms

“It’s hard when relatives want to give young-ish kids family heirlooms or other things that are super important to them. That sense of importance and nostalgia almost never translates to a preteen. Just wait until they're older to give it to them, when there is more of a chance they’ll understand the importance and treasure it.” – Andrew, 37, California

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