Best present ever?
October 16, 2012 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Amazing Christmas presents bound to make kids more rad.

I'm a nanny for three kids and have been taking care of them for four years. I've gotten to the point that when Christmas and birthdays come around... I dread having to do the present thing because these kids are kids who have 'everything'.

They have so many toys. So many clothes. I never have a ton of money to take them to do an 'experience' gift, etc.

But obviously I want to be able to give them stuff.

They're 5, 7 and 9. Boys youngest, girl oldest. They're an athletic family. The youngest loves dinosaurs/animals, the middle loves video games/skateboards/legos, the girl is super sporty... she's a swimmer. But she's also super girly (but has tons of dress-up, play makeup, nail polish etc.)

They ALL love to do artsy stuff but the house is over flowing with craft sets.

If we're talking $30ish a piece -- share with me your brilliant ideas.

I don't want to give them gift cards. I don't want to encourage video games, ipad stuff. I try really hard to keep them away from 'screens'.

posted by mittenbex to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
$30 each is plenty to have an experience with each of them. Take them to a make your own pottery place. Give them a card that says "good for a pro baseball/basketball game". Take them to the zoo. Hell, take them out to mcdonalds and then take them to pick out a book. Take them to the movies. Give them a gift card and then take them to spend it. Give them each a box of their favorite cereal or some other treat (check with parents on that one, I suppose). Bonus points if you get to take them one at a time. My nieces and nephews at that age crave individual attention more than anything else, and a "special day" certainly does not need to cost more than $30.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's a tad above your price range (£25), but Bloomfield and Rolfe in the UK make amazing personalized book stamps for kins.

For the younger boys - a Turbospoke is quite cool.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:48 AM on October 16, 2012

Seconding an experience rather than a thing!

I wish I'd realised earlier in my life that wonderful times and memories are more precious than things. The kids will remember a special trip or activity with you for much longer than they'll wear a sweater or play with a game :)
posted by greenish at 7:55 AM on October 16, 2012

Each gets an individual playdate with you - zoo, arcade, pedicure? Kids' museum that lets them touch, or someplace you can take them that will let them make a craft and take it home?
posted by mrs. taters at 8:01 AM on October 16, 2012

For the boys make up a "survival bag" of stuff that explodes. Fill it with (all inexpensive): Ivory Soap; Pop Rocks; shaving cream; materials for a counter-top volcano; some "warning" stickers; toss in some glow sticks and maybe a travel version of Battleship they can play together... You get the picture.

I'm a swimmer and as a 9yo I would never have thought to treat myself to something like Dr.Hauschka's Neem Hair Oil or Waleda's Rosemary Hair Oil. Also, come winter swimmers' skin gets really dry and itchy. Some nice body lotion would be appreciated.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2012

I always say that in the past people had too little stuff and too much togetherness, and now they have too much stuff and too little togetherness. So I think giving them "togetherness" is a great idea. Do something with them (and maybe even expose them to something new): take them to a kids museum, aquarium, zoo, puppet show, circus, kids theater performance, air show, airport observation deck, sports event, or anything else like that.
posted by Dansaman at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2012

I don't have much advice on what to get them, but I have advice on how to give it them. I have found that kids love, love, scavenger hunts. Hide the gifts and give them clues to get to them. For the 9 year old you may be able to get away with having written clues that they follow from place to place. I generally make about 6 to 7 clues, one leading to the other.

For the younger kids I take pictures of where then next clue is.

Now, I want to be clear, I'm not talking about sending the kids around the neighborhood, just the house and yard. The last location, of course, has the gift in it.

I find the biggest complaint I get is that the game should have gone on longer.
posted by bswinburn at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make a short film!
You need:
- a script (which the kids can write with your help, or which you can adapt together from a favourite story/book/fairy-tale/etc.) Cost: $0
- a camera (iPhone or smartphone? Rent a digital camera from a rental company? Doesn't need to be too fancy. Most smartphones have simple editing features imbedded in them, and there is lots of free online editing software) Cost: $0-$50, depending on rental rates where you are
- costumes (find things around the house or plan a thrift-store outing with the kidlets. They WILL find everything they need there, whether it be a dragon costume or a baseball uniform. Kids at that age are incredibly creative with clothes and found objects, and you certainly won't end up spending anywhere near $30/kid) Cost: up to you, easy to do under $20
- tapes/DVDs to make copies of the final product on. Cost: $10
- TIME (this is the most valuable part of this gift, obviously) Cost: $0

I know you wanted to keep them away from screens, but hopefully being on the creation/production end of the screen makes it cool with you? The kids can all participate in every aspect (writing, directing, costumes and sets, performing, editing) as is appropriate for their age, ability, and interest. The finished result ends up as a treasured gift for the kids AND the parents, and the kids have awesome memories of making a film with you. I would have gone bananas over this when I was a kid.
posted by Dorinda at 9:23 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you cook or bake?

You could make incredible cookies or cakes or bbq or fried chicken or gourmet hamburgers with a billion toppings or any other kind of amazing meal for a lot less than $30 per kid. If they're "crafty" then presumably they like making stuff, which is why decorating baked goods came to mind. It's experiential, you spend time with them, you don't have to drive them anywhere, and then you all get to celebrate by eating! Yay! Even if you don't cook, making a mess in the kitchen might be fun? You could do taste tests, or buy those crazy miracle berries and make a sour snack that turns sweet . . . Or make those foods that taste delicious and look disgusting (worm and dirt cupcakes).
posted by synapse at 12:09 PM on October 16, 2012

What about kites? You could get the youngest something simple and easy to fly, and the older ones something more challenging that does stunts or something. And then you can go have kite-flying adventures!
posted by judith at 1:36 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for an experience. I took my 6 and 4 year olds on a whale watching cruise last month. It was "the best day ever!".
posted by ellenaim at 4:24 PM on October 16, 2012

Given that it will be Christmas you could buy a lot of amazing supplies to bake and decorate gingerbread houses for way less than $90.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:08 PM on October 16, 2012

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