By Christina VanGinkel
Finding age appropriate toys for gift giving to other people's kids can be tricky. With our own children, we can make an assessment based on knowledge of our own children's abilities and skills. With other people's children, unless we are around them a large amount of time, we cannot always rely on the age recommendations listed on packages. Though I would always recommend at the least abiding by the minimum age requirement, especially with young children where choking on small parts can be a major concern, or with toys for the pre-teen that include working with science equipment. I always supervise the playing with of items such as these even when the age guidelines are being followed! Too often I have seen a toy that was listed as safe for children over the age of three, shredded and torn apart by a four year old, making it both obsolete of any play value, and a hazard to the child who has it. I have also witnessed the other extreme though, where a toy listed as appropriate for ages six and up, is actually a perfect toy for a child as young as four years old.
One way to be sure you are giving a gift that will be played with, and not stuffed in the garbage or lost in a corner within hours of giving, is to either quiz the parents on what toys their child is currently playing with, which are favorites, etc., then use this information to guide you in your choice of gift, or to give a gift certificate. Pick certificates to a specific place such as a museum that the child can visit, thus avoiding the toy subject altogether, or to a store that offers a wide range of age related toys, from infant all the way to adult, thus letting the parent make the decision on what is appropriate and what is not.
Another gift idea for young kids could be a gift of your time. Take them to the museum or show that you intended to give a certificate too. This way the child will fully enjoy the fact of who gave them such a wonderful and unique treat. Be sure to check with the parents first, to be sure they would approve of both the place, and you taking them. Also, check with the parents for any rules regarding treats or activities that may not allow or approve of.
This sounds like a lot of work, when all you started out doing was to give a gift that would be enjoyed and not tossed aside. Keep in mind that in the end, the best part of any gift is truly the thought behind it. As corny as that sounds, it is the absolute truth. Kids are more apt to care about the trimmings than the gift; they will remember the giving of 'a' gift long, long after they remember what gift it was they received. Give with thought and love, and your gift will surely be a success.