articles and blog

Imagine with me, for a moment, this dramatic (yet true) scene:

"Hey, buddy! What do you want for your birthday?"

"A Nintendo Switch?"

"Uhhhmmm, no. Sorry. Anything else?"

"A phone?"

"Definitely not. Something not so expensive or technology-ish maybe?"

"... so you won't get me a Nintendo Switch?"

I have a son who just turned 8. And let me tell you, buying presents for him was hard. A lot of his requests were expensive, unrealistic, and not really even age-appropriate. I'm surprised he didn't ask me for a car or baby tiger or something, to be honest.

I've seen this coming… I shouldn't have been surprised, but I found myself a couple weeks before his birthday with no idea what to get him. Toy sets aren't really cutting it anymore, I'm already drowning in Legos, and I am not going to buy him any technology that costs more than any of my technology. So...

What's a parent supposed to do in this situation?

It took me a lot of desperate Googling and advice-gathering, but I think I managed to come up with some highly-satisfying gifts for my getting-bigger-by-the-minute kid. Since I got so stressed out about it, I thought all of you readers out there might appreciate a little help. Remember, kids come with different strengths and interests, so this isn't a one-size-fits-all list, but I'm hoping to cover most of the bases.

Character Encyclopedias

Even as they grow, kids often take with them a fondness for certain tv or video game characters. Take Minecraft and Pokemon, for example: you can't visit an elementary school without experiencing a visual barrage of Pikachus and green, boxy Creepers. But how do you meet that interest in a way that is satisfying for a growing kid?

Try finding a character encyclopedia-style book, chock-full of comprehensive, trivial information about your kid's favorite characters. In our house, Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise is king. I found a book on Amazon called Hyrule Historia that is hundreds of pages long, and my son has so far spent hours flipping through the pages, filling his brain with trivia that he will later talk to me about for even more hours.

(I guess that makes this idea a "purchase at risk of endless character discussion with kid" option, huh?) I have some ideas to help with that in my blog post 3 (Non-Brain-Melting) Ways to Hang out with Your Growing Child.

Subscription Boxes

Today's super-fast, super-shiny world of technology has turned snail mail into one of life's most simple pleasures. Having a letter or package show up unexpectedly can turn your entire day around. Now imagine being a kid and having a fun activity grace your doorstep once a month… just long enough for you to forget it was even coming. That's just pure fun right there.

There are multiple subscription box options for kids available online. Whether your kid loves crafts, STEM projects, or sports, there's likely something perfect available. You can even order one ahead of time so that it's ready for them on their birthday. From there on out, they'll know there's a lot more fun coming to them through the mail.

Keep in mind that you'll still be paying monthly for these bundles of fun!

Here are 5 Education Subscription Box Ideas to get you started.

Building Kits

I know I dogged on LEGO earlier but please, don't get me wrong: LEGOs are totally awesome. When your kids have been playing with them for years, though, sometimes a little building variety can go a long way.

We found some really cool building kits on Amazon designed to teach kids the basics of mechanics and tools — think levers, pulleys, building structures… things like that. We chose one focused on levers and found it to be challenging (but not too challenging) and intellectually-stimulating as well as just plain fun.

Try to find a set with multiple building options to avoid the "Hey thanks Mom, okay I built it, what's next?" syndrome!

Gift Cards

Listen, I know. I know this seems like a cop-out… but I don't choose to think of it that way. If you really can't think of the perfect gift for your growing kiddo, snag them a gift card to their favorite store and plan an immediate trip there. Maybe it's a comic book store in town, or Target, or even a craft store: they're going to be thrilled at the opportunity to pick out whatever they want.

You can also try "experience" gifts rather than material gifts. Things like camps, museum memberships, and trips are all great options.

What about you all? Any more tried-and-true gift ideas for growing children? I'd love to know!

Lauren Bonk

Lauren Bonk is a freelance copywriter, editor, and blogger who's been wrangling children and words since 2010. She high-fives her husband frequently, probably drinks too much coffee, and sighs nostalgically over 90's music on a regular basis. Learn more about Lauren at ...

Learn more about this author