Welcome-to-Canada gifts for a young boy
July 5, 2013 9:17 AM   Subscribe

A boy, age 8-ish, is immigrating to Canada from another highly industrialized country. He speaks no English and has had very little exposure to North American culture. Other than candy, books (we have plenty) and hockey-related items, what could I put in a "Welcome to Canada" gift basket that would serve as a crash course in pop culture here, so that he might have an easier time when school starts in September?
posted by paperback version to Society & Culture (22 answers total)
If money is no object, I'd say an iPod touch or iPad mini and a decent iTunes gift card.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2013

Does he come from a warm country? Mitts, toque, scarf, socks, etc. would be high on my list - whenever the Winter Olympics come around, I try and get red Canada Maple Leaf mitts for my nieces. Maybe get him something from the Canada collection at Roots?
posted by LN at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

8 year old kids don't need gift baskets. As an adult you're not best placed to teach culture anyway. Give him stuff to help fit in with kids. You would get more bang for buck if you get him a razor scooter, bike helmet, new backpack, sharp first day of school outfit.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:37 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Assume he has the trappings of daily life (clothes, gizmos, etc.), just no knowledge of what kids here are into.

Give him stuff to help fit in with kids.

Yep, this is what I meant by things that would give him "an easier time when school starts in September." What are the pogs of today?
posted by paperback version at 9:49 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't see pog equivalent in Vancouver. Boys I know that age are all about cool apps / games, maybe Lego kits but those aren't status items.

I still stand by buying new clothes / shoes at local stores as his existing ones may not be in the style of his classmates.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2013

Netflix with a queue preloaded with popular kids movies.
posted by HMSSM at 10:05 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Where is he moving from? Getting introduced to a community of ex-pats from his native country couldn't hurt. I imagine that would smooth the transition.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2013

Can he pre-meet his classmates? Do you have a list of his classmates? Call their moms/dads and arrange a play date, so there will be some familiar faces come September. Also, their moms/dads will know what is "in."

Also - LEGO. It's not "Canadian" but it is "8-year-old-boy".
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2013

A map of Canada so that he can familiarize himself with its geography. If he's at all interested in the natural world some documentaries about various parts of the country would be nice. And if you can, take him on short road trips to the country as well as to more urban cultural places like museums. If you can find a history of Canada written in his language at a child's level that would be good. Meeting future classmates and/or neighborhood kids would be great too, and make sure he has a cool bike or skateboard, whatever the local kids are into. Kids tend to pick up languages quickly and the more exposure he has to kids over the summer the easier school will be.
posted by mareli at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Many boys that age are into video games, particularly ones they can play with their friends online. A parent of a classmate should be able to advise which game/app is the must-have right now. He can spend the summer advancing to Fourth-level Wizard or whatever.
posted by dreaming in stereo at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2013

A backpack that looks like the local kids' backpacks, or maybe just a promise to take him shopping for one, if he wants to choose it.
posted by birdseye at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2013

All of the 8-9 year olds here are really, really, really into Minecraft. Pokemon is a distant second.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 12:04 PM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Well, I'm in the US, so this may not apply too neatly, but many if not all of the kids that age I've worked with have a Nintendo DS. Even kids from a lower socio-economic background have them. It was one of the things that struck me as really weird and unexpected when I started working in schools, because when I was little it was baseball cards, McDonald's toys, and, yes, pogs.

Also: TV shows. Places in your area that a lot of families go for vacations and outings. I live in Southern California and EVERY CHILD I ENCOUNTER cannot wait to tell me about their recent trip to Universal Studios or Legoland. Not saying you have a theme park in your area, but in terms of kids connecting with other kids, even talking about going to the sweet park down the street is a great connection starting point.

Finally: will he be receiving any English Language Development in the summer before entering school in September? Here they have lots of ELL (English Language Learner) programs for incoming kids to attend year round. I know that's not a question of yours, specifically, but getting some basic vocabulary and conversational instruction for the child would also be tremendously helpful before he enters the classroom. Perhaps you have already planned for this.
posted by Temeraria at 1:33 PM on July 5, 2013

Looks like his goodies will include a video game and be going in a new backpack. Additional ideas welcome! Thanks.

On preview: yes, thanks, Temeraria. Activities and ESL-related prep are covered. This is really just about a welcome gift he can dig into on his first day.
posted by paperback version at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2013

My oldest son is almost 7. We live in Southwest Ontario, not Vancouver, but here are the things him and his friends love the most:

* superheros. Specifically (and unsurprisingly) Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Avengers (with a special call-out for Iron Man).
* Minecraft. Holy crap the Minecraft.
* LEGO: Specifically the DC, Marvel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars and Chima kits

Some of this is certainly the influence of my wife and myself (the list of things I love is dominated by the above as well), but these seem to be universal topics with his friends.

Friday nights on TeleToon from 6pm until 9pm is a good series of kids shows. Star Wars, LEGO Ninjago, superheroes. It's dominated by Spiderman right now but I think it also used to contain Avengers and JLA shows.

Tiny Titans (and anything else made by Art Baltazar) is a great introduction to a host of DC characters, and Super Hero Squad (though less awesome than Baltazar) is great for the Marvel characters. SHS has a large number of books for a variety of reading levels, Tiny Titans is standard comics, though written at an age appropriate level.

Around here a tee, ball, bat and baseball glove seem to be appreciated almost as much as hockey gear, especially in the summer.

My son is also a fan of Scooby Doo, Encyclopedia Brown, Skippy Jon Jones, Captain Underpants, Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Mario games, Little Big Planet, and LEGO video games but I'm not as confident in the universality of those.

After all that, I'd say there's not really anything that is typically Canadian. Thinking hard about that constraint, the Barenaked Ladies have a great kids album, and See You On the Moon is a great kids compilation of mostly Canadian indie bands.

I suspect for tv culture poking around TeleToon, YTV and the Cartoon Network will get them up to speed pretty quickly
posted by cCranium at 2:00 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Came here to say Minecraft. Posted to emphasize it.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:07 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jacob Two Two was filmed.
posted by brujita at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2013

OP please come back and answer the question as to WHERE in Canada. I mean if it's any of Montreal or Ottawa or Toronto or Winnipeg or Calgary or Edmonton or Vancouver, he needs kit with the city's NHL team. It it's Regina he sure as hell had better be reppin' the Riders. It's a big country.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:06 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've racked my brain over this all day and come up with very little. I have a daughter who is still a toddler, not an eight-year-old boy, and I'm a middle-aged woman so I'm having to draw a bit from my out-dated childhood. Still, some things don't change.

I think people must have covered the 'must-haves' for a boy of his age to establish some status and connection with peers; these things won't differ much from American culture much, if at all.

It's not that there are no 'Canadian' pop-culture things; it's just that most of them won't be experienced or appreciated until adulthood (things like the CBC or Canada's political satire, for example). I can't tell if you are Canadian, so please forgive me if I'm telling you things you already know. I would say pretty much all children born in Canada:

1) Have possessed at some time, a Canadian flag pin. Get him one. He shouldn't wear it or show it off, he should just have one. And lose it, like the rest of us do.
2) Have been taken through the drive-through at Tim Horton's and been given some Timbits. Do this with him if you can. Or put some Timbits in the basket if possible, so he knows what they are.
3) Love Kraft Dinner. Would eat if every day if they could. And it's called Kraft Dinner, not macaroni and cheese. So, put a box in the package?
4) This is the really important one. All Canadian kids have had the book The Hockey Sweater read to them, most likely at school. It doesn't matter if he doesn't like hockey or know who Maurice Richard was (I sure as hell didn't at the age of eight or whatever), and that people rarely order things through the Bay anymore. Give him the book. Again, don't show it off or mention it. But it's actually a big and important part of Canadian culture, and he'll know what everyone's talking about when it comes up in conversation in the teen years. If he stays in Canada until he's grown and comes to identify as Canadian, he'll really, really love that you gave him this.

Also, put some Canadian coins in the package. All kids love money.
posted by kitcat at 10:22 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

ethnomethodologist: I asked for no hockey-related items in my question as it's already taken care of :)

I should've perhaps said "snacks" rather than just "candy," as well.

Many American things are part of growing up in Canada, too (e.g. Star Wars), so I also appreciate suggestions that aren't exclusively Canadian. The coins are a nice thought!
posted by paperback version at 1:26 AM on July 6, 2013

I have a nine year old daughter, and work in an elementary school in Toronto. The boys her age are more into Skylanders and Minecraft, and aren't as obsessed by the Lego minifig collecting as they were a year ago. Slightly older kids are now into Speed Stacks. Kids at our school are more likely to play soccer/football than anything else, with basketball a close second - so I'd suggest a soccer ball and a basket ball.

Because our school usually has 30-40 Red Door Shelter immigrant students at any given time, one of the things I noticed as a difference is in how they initiate play depending on their culture - spending some time at a park or playground just watching how games form and how their peers communicate will help with the non-verbal parts of interacting. At our school everyone puts their foot in if they're playing, then two kids who tend to be natural leaders will each start choosing teams and everyone goes along.

Many are ESL, and the student this year who had the easiest time had a phone with a dictionary app that when she didn't understand an English word, she'd get the student speaking to type it in and then she'd get the translation. They were all thrilled to help. So maybe something like that?
posted by peagood at 7:46 AM on July 7, 2013

Why no hockey things?

And why didn't you answer the question? WHERE in Canada? Makes a difference.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:37 PM on July 7, 2013

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