Help Me Be The Best Aunt Ever
December 18, 2012 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Xmas gift filter, kid edition: What to get for a 10 year old girl and 8 year old boy on a limited budget?

They are my friend's kids and they are wonderful and I love them, but they're both getting to the point where they have definitive ideas on what is "cool" and I don't want to look like the loser aunty who's already lost touch with the youth at the senile old age of 27. So, what should I get them? I am between jobs at the moment but even if I weren't I can't be spending more than like $50 a kid.

The 10 year old girl: Super outgoing, plays soccer, loves iCarly and other Nickelodeon/Disney channel TV shows of that ilk, seems to dig Top 40 music (recently gotten into Maroon 5 which is funny because I remember them first arriving on the scene when I was in high school). She's getting interested in clothing/fashion but I don't know her sizes and also that feels like dicey territory because stuff I like isn't necessarily going to be her style. I have given her jewelry in the past (she got her ears pierced recently) but don't know how often I can keep returning to that well. Giving her makeup seems far too unoriginal.

The 8 year old boy: A bit more reticent than his big sister but also kind of loves anything she does because he wants to be just like her. He also likes HGTV and enjoys painting his toenails and stealing his sister's makeup and other gender-blender-y stuff, but he's pretty dudely in other ways - he likes movies with explosions, he likes zombies (he watches the Walking Dead for crying out loud), he likes wacky science experiment-type stuff where he can make things change color. He's pretty witty for a little kid; sometimes I think he's going to grow up and turn into the next Eddie Izzard (the penchant for cross-dressing might be influencing my opinion there though).

Suggestions, please? I suppose if all else fails I'll make an epic batch of cookies but that feels like such a major cop-out it kind of depresses me.
posted by thereemix to Shopping (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For the boy: minecraft. Assuming he doesn't already have it.
posted by empath at 1:56 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I copped out and gave gift cards. Kids love them and they can get exactly what they want.

Even $10 a piece will be good. Target is the favorite gift card among the kiddos.

Another thing is to think up an awesome urban adventure. Something like "Trip to Natural History Museum and Lunch at McDonalds" Your time is always valued.

You can get them a DVD/Blue Ray to share and a box of microwave popcorn.

You can't really blow it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:57 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

For either of them - how about a boardgame? I'd recommend any of these:

Settlers of Catan
7 Wonders
Ticket To Ride
posted by backwards guitar at 1:59 PM on December 18, 2012

Find out what the current stupid fad is and get them that. Not as in Furbies and Cabbage Patch and Tickle Me Elmo, but like pokemon cards or silly bands or whatever $3.99 crap their parents won't buy them.

When I was 7-10, my aunt used to steal office supplies on my behalf and package them nicely for Christmas, often with one or two really high quality items from an art supply store, some kind of book, or another cheap quirky item she thought I'd get a kick out of. So I'd open a huge box with a ream of high quality bond paper (this is pre ubiquitous desktop printers), a bunch of those 4-color clicky pens, a pack of hilighters, a kaleidoscope, and the one Laura Ingalls Wilder book I didn't have. It felt really cool and yet cost my aunt maybe $10.
posted by Sara C. at 1:59 PM on December 18, 2012

Another thing is to think up an awesome urban adventure. Something like "Trip to Natural History Museum and Lunch at McDonalds" Your time is always valued.

This. This this this this this. If you live near them, give them a coupon for "Aunt threemix Day" or something. You take them out (one by one, not both of them at the same time) and do something that interests them. For the girl, maybe you take her shopping and let her pick out the most garish t-shirt in the store without a word of criticism. Froyo. A movie. Talk to them about what they're interested in. Do something that they want to do.

And then afterwards write them each a little note (on real paper in a real envelope addressed to them with a stamp and everything) saying how much fun you had and how cool it was that they taught you about [random kid thing], and maybe include a picture of the two of you taken that day.
posted by phunniemee at 2:07 PM on December 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

If you are geographically near, I love experience gifts. Lunch and a monster truck show or museum adventure and dinner.
posted by advicepig at 2:07 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ruthless Bunny at and phunniemee have got the idea

If you are close to them:

Do you know a pilot who would consider taking them up sometime for 30 minutes?

Do you know city staff who might get them a ride in a police car or a tour of a fire station?

How about library cards

This will take a little planning but how about a treasure hunt with a series of clues planted around, each with a riddle or puzzle leading to the next and ending with movie tickets or a gift certificate for food (either one with you of course)
posted by leafwoman at 2:16 PM on December 18, 2012

Yes yes yes to experience gifts. This year, my nine-year-old niece will be getting a certificate for day out to do a paint-your-own ceramic thing, followed by cocoa and the bookstore. I'm writing a little poem about it for the card and wrapping it into a small box of candy so there'll be something under the tree from me to her. A few years back she got rollerskating lessons ($35), which baffled her because she was expecting stuff but by the first lesson she understood.
posted by mochapickle at 2:16 PM on December 18, 2012

Makeup may seem unoriginal, but what about combining that with the "experience gift" idea and promise her an evening spent playing with makeup? Either you teaching her, if it's something you're good at, or both of you watching YouTube videos and practicing on each other. Even if you're no good at it (or especially if?) it'll be hilarious. You can get ELF makeup collections for ridiculously cheap at Target or online, and it's decent quality stuff. Plus good brushes (I got a 10 piece set at Target that's not listed on the ELF website, but it cost I think $10).
posted by katemonster at 2:20 PM on December 18, 2012

I actually disagree that make-up is too generic if you give her cool make-up, like this urban decay palette.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:22 PM on December 18, 2012

Can't speak for the boy, but my daughter the same age and her friends all LOVE Justice, and would be ecstatic to receive a gift card there.
posted by ubiquity at 2:27 PM on December 18, 2012

posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:02 PM on December 18, 2012

Yep, experience gifts are great. Our good friends have a 9 year old girl and a 7 year old boy, and we've been doing this for the past few years for birthdays/holidays for the 9 year old. She likes to have a sleepover at our house - we make pizza, let her rent whatever PG movies she wants (we have seen some terrible movies because of this), Mrs. zooropa will take her to paint pottery or they'll bake cookies. We all go out for brunch, she gets crazy sugared up and we send her home. We'll probably do something similar for her brother this year, but with a trip to the arcade or slot car racing instead of baking.
posted by zooropa at 3:39 PM on December 18, 2012

Do they like comic books? My nephew loves the Bone and Amulet series. There are several good titles with female leads (which I can't remember the name right now) Hope Larson's adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time is getting good reviews. If there's a decent comic shop in our locality, the the clerks are usually pretty excited about offering suggestions for that age bracket. Check with their mum first, to see what they've already read.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:52 PM on December 18, 2012

Wristwatches. Kids' watches are inexpensive, useful, and come in a variety of themes and styles. Many people use their phones to tell time these days, but watches among kids are still a huge novelty, at least in my corner of the world.
posted by Marit at 4:41 PM on December 18, 2012

I recently found out that a lot of girls that age are into something called 'Monster High' --- there's the full range of clothes, toys, etc. etc. to choose from: I just accidently earned some cool-aunt points of my own with this stuff!
posted by easily confused at 5:17 PM on December 18, 2012

Klutz books.
posted by JacksonandFinch at 6:12 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the boy, Maybe a season or two of mythbusters. Explosions, stunt driving, wacky science experiments (that he shouldn't do at home!). I'd get some of the later seasons with the built team because more explosions.
posted by electriic at 6:26 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Monster High--my ten year old is obsessed. (Which I have mixed feelings about, but yay, easy presents.)

If the girl doesn't have one already, what about an MP3 player, maybe loaded with recent Top 40 (and/or Big Time Rush) stuff? The ten year olds I know are obsessed, and the often-recommended Sansa Fuze can be had for under $50. If she has an MP3 player, what about getting some speakers, either the sort that'll dock the player or the sort that go in through the headphones line?

For the boy, ask if he's into Skylanders. If so, there's an unending stream of Skylanders expansion packs. Also, if he's into Diary of a Wimpy Kid, there's a new one out; if he's not into it, give him the first book and he'll probably get into it. (I hate DoaWK, but its popularity cannot be understated, nor can its ability to get kids who hate reading to start reading.)

For either:
  • Minecraft, as mentioned above. More popular with boys, but I know plenty of girls (including my own) who're very into it.
  • Art supplies, especially ones of higher quality than your bog-standard crayola sets.
  • Paper Jamz stuff--the microphone one is actually pretty fun, even for grownups.
  • Magazine subscriptions. Zoobooks, American Girl, New Moon, various gaming magazines...
  • Duct tape. Which sounds so boring, but it comes in cool patterns, and kids, in my experience, will find ENDLESS USES for it.
  • Sugru. See "duct tape" for details.

posted by MeghanC at 7:41 PM on December 18, 2012

When my nephews were that age some of their favorite gifts from me were a box of disguises (fake mustaches, goop to make scars, etc.) and magic sets.

My niece at age 10 loved her own sketch book, mega set of high quality markers and a book about how to design fashion written for kids. I taught her how to macrame and we went bead shopping. We also have blown eggs and made silk dyed eggs together - including a trip to the thrift store for old ties! She now adores thrift stores...
posted by cat_link at 11:33 PM on December 18, 2012

Rock em Sock em Robots.
posted by troywestfield at 4:29 AM on December 19, 2012

I like the experience gift idea - we live in NY, so Ruthless Bunny's Natural History Museum idea sounds pretty cool.

As for things that they can unwrap the day of - I'm liking the gift card idea, ubiquity, Justice looks perfect, totally her style, I think she'd love it. And PhoBWanKenobi, that eye shadow palette is quite awesome.

Still struggling with ideas for the boy - I believe he already does have Minecraft (which is a bummer because that would've been perfect for him).

They do have a set of loving parents who tend to give them lots of nice stuff generally (like, iPod touches and iPads and such), so I'm a bit nervous about potentially duplicating something they already have. Perhaps should consult with mum and dad real quick before taking the plunge on anything.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone - it's giving me a good jumping off point for further brainstorming. (If only I wasn't doing it all last minute...)
posted by thereemix at 8:31 AM on December 19, 2012

10 and 8 aren't too old for typical toys - at the toy store where I used to work, kids that age eat these up. We have one get abused in the store every day that is still in great shape after a year plus. I have fun with it, so there's no reason both of the kids might like that together.

10, for me, was a big time for crafting - plastic knitting needles/cheap yarn can be fun (especially if you could teach her yourself) or you could make your own "kit" for a lot of things. Set her up to beddazzle/bling something maybe?

And at that age, I loved getting earrings from Claire's. It made me feel so grown up. See also: nail polish, perfume.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:06 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bought one of these gummy bear lamps for my 8 year old nephew who's an iCarly fan (they have them in the apartment on the show). He loved it! I actually gave it to him when we were camping and it was a great little lamp for him during the trip. I think you can get them from a number of different places. They're battery operated so be sure to include some of those.
posted by pennypiper at 1:59 PM on December 19, 2012

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