Over-indulged kids, thrifty aunt: Christmas present version
November 26, 2013 9:56 PM   Subscribe

What do I buy 6 nieces and nephews when a) they have everything, b) I'm on a tight-ish budget, and c) I'm a bit anti-consumerist and riddled with guilt about buying anything?

I'm guessing there will be plenty more of these questions to come as Christmas approaches, so I'm getting in early. ;)

I have no kids of my own, but I have 2 nieces and 4 nephews, ranging in age from 12 to 3. It is not too much of a stretch to say that they have everything. They do not have mountains of plastic junk, to be fair, but they do have every nice, age-appropriate, good-quality toy that a middle-class kid could want, and more. (Think: every different kind of skateboard/power-wing/ripstick etc., iPads, iPods, Lego, Tonka trucks, train table, art & craft gear, pets, surfboards, bicycles...and so on.)

They also have swimming pools, horses and four-wheeler motorbikes. You get the picture.

I have the least disposable income of anyone in my family, and I actually (secretly) think that the kids already have way too much stuff. However, giving them nothing is not an option, for various reasons. I also actually enjoy shopping for them, or used to. As they get older and the stuff accumulates, I am finding it increasingly difficult. They have wealthy aunts/uncles, parents and grandparents who shower them with gifts every year, and I just can't keep up. (Nor do I want to, to be honest.)

Difficulty level: I do not want to give cash or gift cards. Lego is expensive and they already have tons, so there's a high chance of doubling up. I know everyone will say 'books!!', but I already default to that for most birthdays and Christmases, so I am starting to feel like the boring, predictable aunty. (If anyone has some really great book recommendations, though, bring it on!) I only see some of them a couple of times a year as they don't live close by (so no 'experience' gifts), so there is the additional hassle of not knowing what they already have. Their parents can't be relied upon for help in this area; I emailed both sets of parents for suggestions, weeks ago, but...*crickets*.

To be honest, I am struggling with the idea of spending money on anything for kids who are already so overindulged, especially in light of recent world events. But they're really good kids, and I love them, and I'd like to give them something that might stand out a little in the mountain of gifts, without breaking the bank or just being a throwaway piece of junk.

Impossible, right? ;) ANY ideas much appreciated!
posted by Salamander to Shopping (53 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Any sort of crafts that you can make yourself? These fleece hats are cute and supposed to be super easy.
posted by HMSSM at 10:00 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, should have specified - I'm in Australia, and it's summer here, so nothing fleecy! :)

Also, I am sadly crap at crafts. :(
posted by Salamander at 10:03 PM on November 26, 2013

My all time favorite childhood Christmas present was a ream of office copy paper and a set of beautiful artist-quality pastels. (Which, for all their elegance, probably cost under $20.)

Seriously, though, art supplies.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 PM on November 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

One of my favorite memories of my aunt is the Christmas she taught me to crochet. I don't remember how to crochet and I have one ridiculously misshapen hat to show for our efforts, but the memory is very dear to me. Especially for the older kids is there something you can teach them or do that you spend time with them? Maybe a good puzzle?
posted by 26.2 at 10:08 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

What if you started a tradition of maybe taking them to the movies, one at a time. So they get a special day with their aunt? Then it's an experience for them to remember and look forward to. They get the control of picking whatever movie they want to go to, and getting popcorn. Or have the lot of them over for a big sleepover with movies and popcorn?

Don't discount the boring gift that they get every year. My aunt gave us $10 every year for Toys R Us, and we looked forward to going shopping and figuring out just how to spend that money every year! Kids don't mind repetition.
posted by hydra77 at 10:11 PM on November 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

What I really want to say is "mice". But seriously, for these kids I'd get food things - gigantic jars of Nutella (the really enormous catering size - and places you can buy wholesale caterer sized things will have other awesome stuff, like the jumbo bag of hot choc stuff we bought for a fraction of its price in the supermarket), big jars of lollies, especially if you have easy access to a Chinatown and its attendant - affordable - novelties.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 10:11 PM on November 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

This has become my conundrum with my nephews as well. In line with hyrdra77's suggestion, I've started giving them coupons for "Auntie Outings," which they get to redeem for an all-day, one-on-one outing of their choosing (e.g., lunch plus a movie, or a day at the aquarium, or whatever strikes their fancy).
posted by scody at 10:16 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Great suggestions already, thanks so much - keep them coming!

Just a note, though: most of them live a six-hour drive from me, which makes 'outing' gifts tricky (but not impossible!)
posted by Salamander at 10:21 PM on November 26, 2013

I think you can easily do experience gifts despite the distance - either a relatively brief experience with you while you're in town, or something else for them to do on their own. (For example: my parents, who live somewhat far away, bought me horseback riding lessons for my most recent birthday. They aren't coming with me, but I still think of them every time I go riding. One of the best birthday gifts I've ever received!)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:24 PM on November 26, 2013

In a somewhat similar situation, I've given boardgames/card games. Eg a cooperative boardgame that will be something all the kids in one household can play together. If you give the actual ages/household breakdowns, we can give suggestions.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This year I'm taking racing game crackers for Christmas to my nieces/nephews/cousins etc. Crackers aren't a traditional thing here (US) so I think they will enjoy. They'll crack their crackers which have wind up toys inside we will make a track and then race the toys. Maybe instead of individual gift-gifts you can create a game to facilitate on Christmas with little prizes. An activity that you all can have fun with. Maybe make a trophy or several for different best-at and start a yearly game tradition?! (I'm planning on starting this next year when my son isn't such a baby)
posted by Swisstine at 10:33 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Household #1: 2 girls (12 and 10) and 2 boys (11 and 6)

Household #2: 2 boys (5 and 3)
posted by Salamander at 10:33 PM on November 26, 2013

Art supplies/craft stuff is always a good gift, IMO. (Even if you suck at crafts.)
posted by stoneandstar at 10:37 PM on November 26, 2013

A lot depends on the ages/interests of the children in question. I will just say that this year I finally caved and gave my oldest nephew a gift voucher (this felt really awful because I really like to pick meaningful presents) and it actually wound up being very successful. Getting to choose whatever he wanted was a Very Cool Thing.

You could look at gift sites that market experiences rather than things, like Red Balloon. I don't suggest you actually get these, because they tend to be overpriced, but it might give you ideas for things you could do with the kids when you do see them.

Some other ideas:
- scavenger hunt type things - hide clues all over the place, preferably with riddles or puzzles or something to solve - culminating in a big box of chocolates or something (will work better with the older kids)
- get them a glow in the dark frisbee. Yes it's a thing, but it is an AWESOME THING and also involves silliness and running around in the dark, which is great! Or make up a game involving cheap glow sticks and hide-and-seek and tag, where you have to collect glow in the dark things and avoid the other players all at once.
- water balloons, pistols, etc - huge water fight, woo! Can combine with watering the garden.
- origami paper (often very cheap, esp at Daiso or similar) and can find heaps of instructions for easy/medium/hard things online.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:42 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

BOOKS. Books bought secondhand, even. Books they would not ordinarily come into contact with-- depending on what sort of kids they are, there are a lot of options. Vintage children's books with seriously gorgeous illustrations can be had quite cheaply, and are the sort of unusual, special objects that imaginative kids frequently treasure.
posted by nonasuch at 10:43 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I was a kid one of my aunts gave me a gift subscription to a kids' magazine. Every month I loved getting a new issue in the mail, which for me as a kid, any piece of mail was a special event. I have no idea what would be available in Australia, though.
posted by ambrosia at 10:51 PM on November 26, 2013 [14 favorites]

I usually give books, even to the nephews who aren't into reading. I figure that one of these days they'll notice that even though my gifts have been "just books" the books have always been chosen to appeal to each kid's interests. I tell the parents that I'm going to be buying books, and then ask them to make suggestions. Usually they can't tell me titles, but they do suggest subjects. I ask a bunch of questions and then do my best.

I also tell them that I don't need a thank-you note. I hated writing those when I was a kid.
posted by wryly at 10:53 PM on November 26, 2013

Two ideas:
1) This might be too close to books, but what about a recording of you reading a book to them? I did this once a few years back for my mom. There is easy software you can download for free if you don't think you have a voice recorder. If you know they haven't read some classic, say, Stuart Little or Harry Potter, you could record this. One catch is that it takes way longer to read a book out loud than to read it to yourself, and so be sure to leave plenty of time if you wanted to do this. Obviously this may not really work for a 3 year old's attention span, but you could make a copy for each kid age 8 and up?

2) Again, this wouldn't be great for a 3 year old, but what about getting one material gift along a certain theme, but also let them choose a charity for you to donate to in their honor to benefit a related cause. This might be especially good if there is some concrete thing you can do to demonstrate what their charitable gift would be used for. For example, if one of them loves cats, you could go out with her to the store and buy stuff like cat litter and food and then drop it off at the local animal shelter so she would get to see the cats that would benefit from her donation (of course, you also get her some cat-themed other gift too because most kids under 12 aren't going to appreciate the idea of not getting a physical holiday gift at all). Or if one wants to be a marine biologist you do a sponsorship of an area of coral reef where it would send her pictures and information about the coral reef. My bias: I volunteer for a small charity that does things like work with villages in Africa to build community wells. I know that parents have sometimes in the past donated for a well to be built (they have the kids 'donate' part of their allowance or something) and then we would make a little video or photos to show the kids what the money is doing. Anyway that might be a little labor intensive, but I think it's never too early to start showing kids how they can help make the world a better place.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:08 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Books. Or music. Something they don’t know anything about and is maybe out of their range or comfort zone. The gifts I remember from when I was a kid were those very things, things that I looked at and said "what the hell is this?" Some of those things changed my life.
posted by bongo_x at 11:23 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a tough one! I think just getting the younger ones an AWESOME (yet simple toy) Will make the gift really stand out. We are still in love with these.
So much fun! We all play with them (get two so they can fight!)

Older kids are hard to buy for in general. Get them something obscure or themed that you can 'add onto' later ( set yourself up for Christmas and birthdays to come!)

Art supplies or a lesson
Art (prints/paintings)
Art Museum visits
Art Documentaries

Vinyl Record player
Concert tickets
Concert Posters
Band T-shirts
Music lessons

Jewelry making kits/supplies
Jewelry making lessons

Science kits
Science books
Science art/posters
Science documentaries

Good luck!
posted by W.S (disambiguation) at 11:34 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the older kids, you could get them a group activity like a dart board or air hockey table or similar, maybe including a scoreboard. Also in the group gifts/games arena, what about a game like Catchphrase (I believe there is a kids edition) or something similarly interactive?

Since you're in Australia, you could do something outdoors or summer. If they have a pool, do they each have their own float or huge awesome beach towels (in favorite colors/characters/team/etc.)? Or a slip n slide?

On the arts and crafts front with an outdoor twist, you could get a tie-dye kit along with white shirts and socks and other fabrics to tie dye. Another idea that might appeal to the two girls more than their brothers would be a photo/memory bulletin board. At those ages, a lot of girls are very into their groups of friends and documenting that. Along with the bulletin board, you could include stickers and decorative paper and fancy scrap booking scissors and other tools that make cool designs.

You mention you live several hours away. Are you in a cooler city or near a place with a famous landmark or good sports team? What about souvenir shirts or hats from somewhere slightly exotic to them?

For the younger two boys, I have always been amazed at how much use little kids get out of big buckets of thick sidewalk chalk. Bonus if you have a few games or drawings you can help them get started with. Or, assuming their parents would approve, temporary tattoos of their favorite characters or cartoons. And, of course, the coo, aunt might agree to wear one as well.
posted by Caz721 at 11:35 PM on November 26, 2013

I can only make suggestions from being a kid, not asking one, but I loved fresh consumables like pencils, stickers, lip balms, whatever. Those are always getting lost or broken and you can buy snazzy versions. The older kids might be old enough for "mixtapes" of music you like--of course they won't like it all (now) but one song/artist just might work its way in. Small potted plants, maybe carnivorous ones if you want something more exciting.
posted by zizania at 11:37 PM on November 26, 2013

For the household with older kids: How about a Kiva or Heifer International gift card? And some physical gift to go with it that they can keep?

For stuff that is cool and they sure don't have yet in their lives, how about those DIY sponge water balls?
posted by travelwithcats at 11:46 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the girls, I would get one piece of very unusual secondhand jewelry. They can wear it or just have it in their room, but by its nature, no one else is likely to have one.

For the 11-year-old boy, a basic young man's grooming kit, to signal he's growing up, maybe. If you think he wouldn't like that, then maybe a book of mysteries, puzzles or weird phenomena, alien conspiracies, or ghost stories.

For the five and six year old boys, something yummy to eat...exotic candy or biscuits in a cool looking tin. For the three year old, a tshirt with a favorite character is always a winner.
posted by emjaybee at 11:53 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of my parents was a GM at Hasbro, so I feel I can say confidently that among all the toys we had growing up, what really left an impression on us toy-veterans were science kits. Plus, you could find science kits for any age and on anywhere on the silly-to-serious spectrum.
posted by 01080591 at 12:08 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If they are from the same family, I would combine the money and get them a family size tent so they can camp in their backyard etc. The other thing I have done with similar restrictions is buy a family annual pass to the zoo (or marine world etc). Went down a treat, gave mum somewhere to take them on weekends when they were bored.
posted by Jubey at 12:22 AM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding Science-y stuff, maybe something like Snap Circuits or Kinetic Sand?
posted by Aleyn at 12:26 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Personalized water bottles or t-shirts are nice for a whole group of kids and could become a thing you do each year for them.

I have very fond memories of a family friend who gave us books at birthdays and Christmas. She had the knack of picking very good and unknown books, and she would tell us why she herself had loved that book when she gave it to us. I still have one of the much-loved battered paperbacks she gave me. It was feeling like she had chosen that book just for you, that she had thought carefully about you that was lovely. You could write a note on a big bookplate and paste it on the inside cover if you're not giving the books in person.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:30 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've always been a fan of games the whole family can play together.

But also: diaries! They come in all kinds now for boys and girls. There's the All About Me sort of book that asks all sorts of questions and prompts. Tons of similar style book options exist for all different ages. They were a big hit when I gave them, and hopefully they'll still be around in 20 years as a fun record of this time in their lives.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:39 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

This one is better for the littler ones, but those seeds marketed for kids - carrots, sunflowers, bunny tails - delight some kids. You'd have to maybe rope in the parents to procure potting soil and pots etc, but it's a nice ongoing activity, for kids who like it. And then they eat the tiny carrots or whatever!
posted by Kaleidoscope at 12:59 AM on November 27, 2013

Lotta Magazine is Australian, has no ads, and lovely lovely craft instructions. It comes out in time for each set of the school holidays, and is written for boys and girls ages 5 - 10. It's anti-consumerist and FUN. A subscription per household, bundled up with a copy of the latest magazine, maybe a few bits and pieces of basic craft supplies?
posted by slightlybewildered at 1:30 AM on November 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

I forgot the magazine subscription thing! I did that for a niece and nephew one year, I think it worked out ok... they live in another country so I don't always get feedback on the success of my presents. But Lotta magazine looks awesome! I may pinch it for my own crew of nieces and nephews...
posted by Athanassiel at 1:46 AM on November 27, 2013

I know everyone will say 'books!!', but I already default to that for most birthdays and Christmases, so I am starting to feel like the boring, predictable aunty.

The pressies I got from my book-aunty were always the best, and most anticipated pressies - predictable, but not boring. If anything, she'd get me books a bit too advanced for me, so I'd tend to read them a year behind.
posted by pompomtom at 3:14 AM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Small, mysterious and magical things like magnets, kaleidoscopes, pencils that write in different colours and other things that act in surprising ways always were a big hit with me. Those shells that you put in water and a paper flower blooms from them... they're a small miracle.
And seconding Chinatown. Things that look like they come from a different world are fascinating.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:22 AM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by artychoke at 5:06 AM on November 27, 2013

What you have that they don't have is stories about their parent's (your sibling's) childhood. Any good anecdotes you could write up and share? Make a simple version for the 3-year-old and add a little more detail for the 12-year-old.
posted by dywypi at 5:55 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really do understand where you're coming from re: cash, but I do clearly remember being a bookish 10-12-year-old who had everything.

You may enjoy the experience of giving a book or art supplies. The older girls will enjoy the experience of going to a store with money in their pockets. I am looking at a rack of cds right now (tapes too) and a lot of them were happily bought at Sound Warehouse on Dec. 28th.

Make it about them...money. The younger ones I'm not sure about.
posted by skbw at 6:24 AM on November 27, 2013

Make your own kaleidoscope kits are fun. Also, Bendastix, and That's Gross Science Lab are popular.
posted by gudrun at 6:52 AM on November 27, 2013

Electric toothbrushes.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:08 AM on November 27, 2013

One idea I have is that you can make an impression in how you give the gifts, if that's your style. I have a friend with six kids, and these kids' aunt wraps their gifts in some humorously tricky way. For instance, last year she bought a 13-year-old boy new bedsheets, and printed a fake packaging insert that made it look like they were Justin Bieber sheets. Or she'll put something cool into a box from something really age-inappropriate, so it looks like the 9-year-old is getting a Playskool set until he opens it. Or if it's something small, she'll wrap up a bunch of small things separately in one box or gift bag, and everything but the real gift will be, say, apples. She also does classic tricks like box-within-a-box, and so on.

If you get these kids talking about the presents from their aunt, they will talk your ear off telling you about how hilarious she is, and they clearly think the world of her.

Another idea that works well for me when I'm visiting friends with kids or taking my kids is to buy something that will attract everyone and create a group experience. Recently, for instance, I bought some of these straw-and-connector building things for a family visit to friends. Everyone who came through all weekend found them irresistible, from a crawling baby to the adults. We made everything from goofy hats for each other to pretend weapons to a tower the kids made using every single straw. It ended up being a really fun feature of our time together.

You could do something similar with any building toy they don't have. Kapla blocks are another good thing for this (there's another brand like this that might be cheaper--Keva maybe?). Irresistible and kids make amazing things.

Showing up with a new board game or active, hilarious-type party game might be fun, too.

You could bring something like this addressed to all the kids of one family, and then add small presents for each kid. I agree that as not-fun for you it is, the older ones would probably like money.
posted by not that girl at 7:20 AM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

My childless aunt started a program where all of the kids of the family (18 cousins) would receive a savings bond every year for Christmas after the age of 12 on the condition that we didn't take up smoking cigarettes. As we got older, some of the cousins did begin to smoke, and they were then left out of the savings bond program. It may sound cruel, but it wasn't, really. It was a pretty great way to make the family at least talk about it, and the kids who smoked knew that they were left out by their own choice, as they knew the deal. My aunt passed away recently and the program was so much a part of her... I remember her thoughtfulness in this way more than I remember any of the admittedly pretty cool scientific kits and historical books she gifted us as younger kids.

Granted, this idea may not work for you, and not for the youngest kids. But maybe a system like this, where the kids can age into a program, so that they look forward to being "grown up" enough to participate. Maybe at the age of 10, they can choose a charity that you will donate to in their name. Maybe each year a child ages in, you can have a ritual where the two of you spend time together to figure out the ideal charity for each child.
posted by coupdefoudre at 7:23 AM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

For the larger family, at least, it might be economical to get a family membership to a local museum.
posted by BrashTech at 8:33 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like the unique packaging idea & kids always like money. Even if its not much it is theirs and that makes it special.

One that I've done before is putting things in a cat food tin. You can use any pull top can. Basically you use a can opener to remove the bottom of the can, insert the gift and filler (like a crumpled piece of newspaper or tissue paper) then glue the bottom piece back on. The gift recipient then opens the can from the pull top.
posted by MadMadam at 10:47 AM on November 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

We're in the same boat, but our nephews are super sporty and don't read or do crafts much. Furthermore, most of what we've given seems to just disappear, so we're really reluctant to spend much. We're giving each kid a small tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies. They haven't really seen us since last Christmas, and they're getting a ping pong table from the grandparents... I'd think you were my other sister in law, but you live farther away and have nieces ;-)
posted by jrobin276 at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2013

Rubber band guns are really fun, esp. if you give a bunch of them, and lots of extra ammo. Or ping pong ball guns or potato guns.
My grandfather always sent science-y gifts to kids over 10.
Once my nephews were in their late teens, I started giving them cool tshirts from threadless or w00t.
Board games are fun because you can get everybody together to play, or decks of cards, books on card games, and rolls of pennies (for poker).
Or, experiences, which can become a tradition, and will form lasting memories. Maybe an annual outing to a science or art museum.
Maybe sometime you will volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank, and give the older kids a chance to join you.
posted by theora55 at 2:18 PM on November 27, 2013

Honestly, for kids who have everything, candy or other sweets seem like the best present. (And if you're short on money, making a batch of fudge and nut brittle and dividing it up into presents for most of them, it works out pretty well. Maybe not brittle for the 3 year old.) I gave handmade chocolates to a friend's 4 and 6 year old last Chrismas and they loved them. So it's special, exciting right then, cheap, and you don't clutter up their rooms, because it's gone by Valentine's Day. (If you're not crafty, I don't know if you can make desserts, but there are a fair bit of easy ones if you're up for it.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:33 PM on November 27, 2013

I'm in exactly the same situation as you - thrifty aunt with misgivings about the consumerism of Christmas, wondering how to delight privileged kids. It's a tough gig.

One thing I've started doing is to combine a book with a small gift that continues its theme. For the four-year-old's birthday this year I got him Esther's Rainbow, but I also got him his very own "rainbow maker" - a small glass prism to catch the sun in his window. I'm hoping it'll spark his interest in some way - he can chase the rainbows with his little sister, search the garden for the colours in the rainbow, ask his scientist grandfather how his rainbow maker works. It's not so much about the book as the fun and curiosity that the book might inspire. As he gets older I'm thinking cookbook + kid-sized kitchen implements, book about gardening + small trowel and seeds, that kind of thing.

The other thing I'm inspired about lately is laser cutting. Turns out there are several makerspaces/hackerspaces in Sydney where ordinary folk can use laser cutters for very little money. (Msg me if you want details). It honestly doesn't require much craft skill to get started - there are thousands of open source designs available for download from sites like Instructables, Make and Thingiverse. You simply send the file to the laser cutter, then assemble the result. Or you can make your own designs using an open source vector graphics program like Inkscape. I'm planning to make some custom wooden puzzles with the kids' names, but as they get older there are so many possibilities: Dinosaur! Marble machine! Spirograph! Jewellery!. Plus, I like the idea of my niece and nephew telling their friends, "No really, my auntie made this with LASERS." ;-)
posted by embrangled at 3:58 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Like someone above, my aunt always got me a magazine subscription each year! Great gift!
posted by dchrssyr at 4:00 PM on November 27, 2013

If your nieces and nephews live in a big city, there's always stuff to do in January. Perhaps you could arrange to come down and spend the day with them?

Just as an example, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has this video game retrospective, and the Sydney Festival, which runs from January 9 - 27, has a lot of family events. Other capital cities will have similar things.
posted by Georgina at 4:11 PM on November 27, 2013

Candy Kaleidascopes
posted by BoscosMom at 4:17 PM on November 27, 2013

I don't know what shipping costs are like to Australia but Lee Valley has some cool craft toys like these metal models kits or the Paper Air Plane Book.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:50 PM on November 27, 2013

I'm so glad you asked this question, Salamander. We're in almost the same boat - I'm a childless auntie with five nephews (12, 11, 9, 8 and 6) and a four-year old niece. Not only do they have everything, the three oldest boys don't tend to take care of the things they *do* have. I'm getting tons of good ideas from the answers to your question!

I wanted to pipe in with one more idea for you, but it's more for birthday than Christmas. Here's what we give everyone for their 10th birthday: a long weekend in the big city with aunt and uncle. It's fun for them to get to be the bosses and decide what we'll do, and it's also fun for them to be away from parents and siblings. (We live two hours from all of them, so this might be much easier for us than for you.)
posted by Wet Hen at 3:24 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all the (excellent) answers.

I ended up going with personalized t-shirt kits for each kid (where you decorate the t-shirt yourself and then set the picture with a hot iron). I think they really liked them!

I will also be using the ideas in this thread throughout the year for birthday presents, so thanks again. :)
posted by Salamander at 7:36 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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