Raising Richmond: A gift-giving guide for kids who have too much stuff

What to get for the kid whose parents don’t want you to get anything.

I once read the following gift-giving philosophy on presents for kids: go for “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.” I love this idea and use it as a guide.

It’s easy to go overboard for kids, and sometimes it’s only fun to shop for kids. But if you are like me, you have a kid who doesn’t need anything, and it’s hard to figure out what to tell people to get her.1 After last year’s Christmas when she was three and aware of things, I have a better idea of what Christmas Day looks like–and it looks odd with too many gifts. The past couple of Christmases we didn’t even give her all her gifts on Christmas, and just staggered some for later on. Four gifts is a lot (plus, she has a huge family of gift-givers).

If you’re like me (cool and practical and terrified of people giving you 30 things to fit into your tiny house) or if you have to give gifts for kids, here are some gift-giving tips to consider.

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Get something that stores itself

I am pretty close to charging a storage fee to my child’s grandmothers for the amount of things they give her. Can I impose a sticker tax? After buying her things that my kid needed for her birthday (rain boots, winter boots), I could tell that my mom wanted to buy something fun for her. I suggested she could get her some dress-up clothes. My mom went all-out, but she also didn’t spend a lot of money (not that she told me, anyway). She shopped at dollar stores, Target, thrift stores, added some things she already had, and put it all in a small storage box that fits easily under my daughter’s bed. And her Halloween costume this year came completely from the dress-up box. It’s been well used.

I have also used small Sterilite storage bins to hold my daughter’s play food and dishware. I made the lid look like a stove top with burners and knobs (it looks something like this). I used another small storage box to make a tiny sandbox in our backyard.

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My kid once got a $5 bill for a gift, and I took her to the store to spend it. She seemed to really enjoy picking out toys, and we had chats about what she could and couldn’t afford. She bought a parachute toy and a pair of fairy wings, both things that she still plays with. It’s not a lot of money to you, but it’s a lot of money to a kid.

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Add on to what they already have

Our house already has storage for Lego, books, art supplies, clothes, and DVDs. It’s nothing to add something small to collections like these, and it sometimes brings a fresh interest into a box of Duplos that haven’t been pulled out in a couple of months.

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What do you get for the kid who has everything? How about nothing?

Kids under three have no expectations for gifts. Take advantage of that and turn that need to buy something for the small child in your life to buying something for a child in need.
The parents would surely understand and appreciate if you put the $20 you would have spent on their baby toward a baby who could truly use something.

I actually haven’t done this for a child yet, but I do a donation to a charity in my grandparents’ name for Christmas, and they appreciate it. We’ve been talking to our daughter more about charity recently and have been giving to food pantries with her helping pick out the food, so I’ll take her with me to buy a gifts to donate this month.

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529 account

Making a donation to a college fund is another useful gift for a kid who is too young to expect anything. This is a great gift for the parents, too. You can attach the college tuition donation to an inexpensive toy to make it a better presentation. Or better yet, just put the donation in one of those greeting cards that play a song when opened. My daughter has consistently enjoyed those things throughout her life.

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Memberships and gift cards

There is no shortage of annual memberships that entire families can benefit from in Richmond: Children’s Museum, Science Museum, Maymont, Romp and Roll, Cartwheels and Coffee, and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden are some good options. Kids and entire families would benefit from movie theater tickets, ice cream/frozen yogurt gift cards, or Netflix, HuluPlus, or Amazon Prime subscriptions.

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Magazine subscriptions

Everyone loves getting mail. And then you can recycle the magazine and get it out of your house. My daughter can’t read yet but still enjoys looking at and being read to from magazines like Ladybug and National Geographic Kids.

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Additionally, unless the parent specifically asks for it, do not get stickers, blankets, fancy clothes, or stuffed animals. Always buy something that can be easily returned. Or you could ask the kid what he or she wants, but mine is telling people she wants a snow jacket and a monkey. I’m afraid of how her grandparents will respond to that request.2

If you’re on the receiving end, either try your best to avoid unwanted items by giving good gift suggestions…or just be grateful and plan to stuff your face with cookies to bury the anxiety until you figure out how to store everything.

Photo by: m01229

  1. I know that having a child who is loved by so many and gets showered in gifts and doesn’t miss a meal is not a real problem. Blessings are counted daily. Now, back to the complaints. 
  2. See next month’s columns, “Raising Richmond: Tips for taking care of a stupid monkey” and “Raising Richmond: What to do when you’re no longer talking to your child’s grandparents because they bought her a monkey.” 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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