What are the kidz into these days?
March 24, 2015 1:20 PM   Subscribe

After a long wait a lovely friend of mine has just become foster Mummy to two children who will be staying for the foreseeable future. Yay! I'm meeting them in a couple of days and would like to bring them each a present, but I don't know what to get them. The girl is 8 and the boy is 6 and I have no clue what these age groups are into. I don't want to ask my friend as I'd like it to be a surprise (and also she'd just try and talk me out of it). So I'm asking you lovely people instead.

All the children I know are either younger (my eldest niece is 5) or older (my friends have kids in their early teens) and I don't want to get them something too babyish or too grown up. Ideally I'd like things that are cool for their respective age groups but I don't know what those things are. For example my niece loves MLP and Equestria Girls - is that too young for an 8 year old? And I have no idea what boys are into except NERF guns and I'm not sure what my friend thinks about guns-as-toys.

I usually like buying books but I'd like to stay away from them this time - I have no idea of their "reading age" so I don't want to end up with something too advanced/not advanced enough.

I need to be able to pick them up in the next day or two so things which are mainstream enough to get from a department store/large toy shop as I don't have time to order online.

Any ideas welcome, thanks!
posted by billiebee to Shopping (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can't go wrong with Lego at that age. Get a few different sets (Friends/Elves, Super Heroes, regular stuff), ask them what they like, pull two appropriate ones out of the bag, return the others the next day.
posted by Etrigan at 1:28 PM on March 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

How's the budget? Lego sets would probably make both of them happy, but is that more than you'd like to spend? The other problem, besides price, is the Legos themselves: sometimes sets like that --- many small pieces/parts --- isn't a good idea, especially for a temp home.

Otherwise, yes, superheros or dinosaurs or Godzilla for the boy would be great; and if price isn't a consideration, could you go as far as something like an American Girl doll (with some assessories, of course!) for the girl. (Try to 'match' her: if she's Latino, get a Latino doll, etc.)
posted by easily confused at 1:30 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tsum Tsums are the stupidest fucking things but they are so hot right now.
posted by phunniemee at 1:31 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

My niece is 8 and pretty into My Little Ponies, so I think that's a good bet. And I got my 5 year old nephew one of these Playskool Transformers for his last birthday and it was apparently a big hit.
posted by MsMolly at 1:32 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Graphic novels are cool. My Little Pony has some great collections, and for the five year old, Owly.
posted by Malla at 1:46 PM on March 24, 2015

My best friend got a cardboard refrigerator box for her 12th birthday. I was so very impressed. Not sure refrigerator boxes go out of style.

She also got a zip line one year. I remember riding those when I was as young as 6, so it would also be age appropriate if there's a yard for it.
posted by aniola at 1:47 PM on March 24, 2015

Whatever you get, recognize that not all kids are going to like the thing that is "for their age group." My 8-year-old girl is super into Minecraft and Sailor Moon but would be really underwhelmed by anything pony-related, for example. There's enough variation in the ecosystem of children's media that it's not really wise to pick something recommended by people who don't know those particular kids at all, and expect them to like it.
posted by Andrhia at 1:50 PM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: it's not really wise to pick something recommended by people who don't know those particular kids at all

I know it's a risk, but even my friend doesn't have a history with them to know what they're into so wouldn't be able to give the usual parents' advice of "they're crazy about/so over X". So I'm just looking for a rough guide of what's popular and then crossing my fingers. Thanks so far (though I've Googled and I'm still no wiser as to what Tsum Tsums actually are...)
posted by billiebee at 1:57 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you pick Lego, you can also go to their website and sign the kids up for the free Lego magazine. I think it comes quarterly? My niece and nephew get a big kick out of getting mail, so I get them various free and paid subscriptions and also send them postcards.
posted by quince at 2:00 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

My 8-year-old daughter loves watching Disney movies (not just the princess ones) and she recently became infatuated with Playmobil toys. She also enjoys video games quite a bit - she plays Minecraft a lot on my Playstation.

My son just turned 12, but when he was 8 he really wanted to be a spy and/or a ninja. Anything related to those topics would have made his day.
posted by tacodave at 2:13 PM on March 24, 2015

I think legos are a great suggestion, maybe k'nex?

Mostly, my advice is to go for things less damn binary than Barbie-for-girl and Transformers-for-boy (seriously Mefies, we can all do better).

And to try for things that are more age flexible (like legos and other building / art kits).
posted by sazerac at 2:31 PM on March 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

8 is old enough that she may be edging out of Frozenmania, which otherwise was pretty much a lock for that age group. Similarly with MLP. My 8 year old girl is super into Minecraft, fairies, science, music, Star Wars, potty humor, and anything pink and sparkly. Also she got the Big Book of How and the Big Book of Why for Christmas and they were an unexpected smash hit.

6 year old boy: Avengers anything, superheroes anything, Lego, Minecraft, Pokemon, the Minions from Despicable Me (actually my daughter is into these too, shoulda mentioned). My boy is 4, so I'm basing this on observations of others.
posted by KathrynT at 2:32 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I run a charity program that solicits wishlists from homeless kids and matches them up with donations. Here are the 2014 requests, which I think should be nicely reassuring on the "really, it's okay to just pick something popular" front, especially if these kids maybe haven't gotten many gifts lately. We also give books, art supplies, and blankets to all the kids, and those go over quite well.
posted by teremala at 2:37 PM on March 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: What about something that can be theirs at their new home? A pillow customized with their name, cereal bowl, etc? I know these aren't stereotypically "fun" kid presents, but kids love stuff with their name on it and I think it seems particularly apt for those settling into a new environment.
posted by telegraph at 3:12 PM on March 24, 2015 [17 favorites]

You could do worse than to ask what's popular at whatever toy shop you go to. Sometimes little kids like whatever everyone else is into, to help them feel part of the Little Kid Culture, even if they aren't madly into it themselves. I can also recommend Glitzi Globes for little girls (and, *ahem*, me) and Lego Bionicles are stand alone kits to make a robot thing that can swap pieces with other kits, but doesn't depend on the boy having access to other sets to have fun; also those small self contained sets for a vehicle of some kind and a minifig are good.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 3:37 PM on March 24, 2015

I know it's more fun to bring them an actual gift, but my boyfriend's 5-year-old niece gets such a kick out of picking out her own present at Target when long-distance relatives send her a gift card. Maybe if you have the time you could get them gift cards and then go with them and let them pick out their own gifts? Just a thought.
posted by jabes at 3:56 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Strongly seconding Sazerac. Please don't assume the boy just wants aggro toys and the girl wants everything pink and sparkly.

Get them both gender-neutral Legos, and some cookies. Everybody wants Legos and cookies! Hell, I want some right now!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:01 PM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

If you wanted to get them something both of them could play with, I would highly recommend this kind of build-a-fort toy thing. Epic forts! They're not the sturdiest of all things but they're super fun and you can build them all kinds of different ways. I'm not sure about this particular brand, but the kids I used to sit for had this type of thing and they loved it.
posted by dysh at 4:09 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like telegraph's idea a lot, as someone with an kind-of-unusual spelling of their first name I remember being ENDLESSLY envious of kids with name stuff.

My other suggestion is those big kits of art supplies. LIKE THIS. most kids love drawing, and I had that exact kit I think and loved it.I'm 20 years too old to be your target market, but I'm pretty sure drawing doesn't stop being cool.

If you worry about the kids being like.. uncontrollable with art supplies, I can vouch for crayola markers having pretty amazing washability, even off cheap rental paint, which you can permanently scuff with like anything.
posted by euphoria066 at 4:09 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding jabes. Foster kids don't have many choices in their lives: new house, new caregivers, new school, new friends. A gift card to a store like Target would give them the choice to get clothes, books, toys, snacks, etc. A gift card would give them some control in their young lives which have been uprooted.
posted by Linnee at 4:41 PM on March 24, 2015

I was out today with my old lady friend, at a farm store. She spotted what looked like a hatbox, with butterflies on it. It is half hatbox size. When opened it had a top compartment with sections for little items. When that tray came out, there was another box with a tray, and then one more. So it is a great way to have three things in one for projects, jewelry, little rocks, and private things. For the girl a box for treasures with a treasure in it, or hair clips, and pony tail holders, might be nice. For the boy, play cars, with a box to put them in. Treasure boxes are always great for any kid.
posted by Oyéah at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's also worth thinking about why "she'd just try and talk me out of it." There might be good reason here to avoid overwhelming the kids with gifts/"stuff" during this transition, over and above your friend's usual(?) reluctance to encourage gifts herself. For instance, while this is an exciting time for your friend, it may not be happy, exciting time for kids being moved around among homes.

One way to broach that issue would be to get the gifts first, and THEN tell her "I'd really like to bring the kids something--I have an X for John and a Y for Susan. Would this visit be a good time for gifts, or should I just drop them off with you instead?" That way you give her control over how gifts work, but don't put her in the awkward position of having to refuse permission. Even if she really doesn't think a gift from her friend is appropriate right now, she can honestly say "Oh, what a lovely, thoughtful idea! Thank you so much! John and Susan have been a little overwhelmed moving in, but I'd love to [bring those out next weekend/hold on to those for their birthdays/etc.]."
posted by cogitron at 5:20 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am thirding the "please don't gender the toys" line - you just don't know what different kids are into. At 8, I said 'thank you' for dolls, because that's how I'd been taught, but they got no use.

On the other hand, stuffed animals? Something I could cuddle when it was dark and everyone else in the house could sleep but me? Hell yea.

How about something they can do with the new resident adult in their lives? Uno and Yahtzee should be a hit at that age, and it's an excuse to get some attention, which they might be badly needing.
posted by joycehealy at 5:26 PM on March 24, 2015

Two identical gift cards to Target. And do please ask their foster mom first--they might have trauma that you don't know (and can't know). I know it sounds weird to say "oh these kids might hate gifts" but they really, really might.

This is really sweet of you. Thanks for being welcoming of them.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:29 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Stuff" is a really complicated thing for a lot of kids who have been in the foster care system (or who have come from difficult situations). My kids alternately hoarded things, destroyed things, gave things away randomly, stole things.. and still do, going into our 8th year as a family. My initial suggestion was going to be "a gift card for a movie" but even that can be hard to navigate - for the first year I tried to avoid going ANYWHERE with my kids because things could get wildly overwhelming for them/me so quickly.

If you are adamant about not asking your friend and REALLY want it to be a surprise, I would recommend things that can be sort of safeguarded by your friend or that can be managed by her. Something like a/some DVD movies to watch together and maybe some microwave popcorn or a gift card for pizza delivery. It's an experience that allows them to bond a bit, that won't be completely ruined if someone has a meltdown (you can pause the movie or watch it in short chunks), and is low-key and low-cost.
posted by VioletU at 5:49 PM on March 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I've worked in child welfare for over twenty years and I think this is awesome. Don't overwhelm em, don't make it a huge screaming deal, but letting our kids know that someone is thrilled to welcome them and wants to celebrate them. Something brand new that is just theirs is an awesome idea. Legos with a little lego storage case for each of them, maybe? My kids are that age and they are both excited by Legos every time they get them, and it's a hit at every party they go to.
posted by purenitrous at 6:49 PM on March 24, 2015

Purenitrous has it. Especially if you can get a paint marker and "personalize" their cases by writing their names on them.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:10 PM on March 24, 2015

Or, if a present is potentially a minefield, but you'd like to show them how welcome they are, what about a nice cake, and a few balloons?
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 9:19 PM on March 24, 2015

> "Stuff" is a really complicated thing for a lot of kids who have been in the foster care system (or who have come from difficult situations). My kids alternately hoarded things, destroyed things, gave things away randomly, stole things.. and still do, going into our 8th year as a family.

I was going to say the same thing, "stuff" is a weird thing that can be a little unpredictable. I'm not a foster parent, but I've have several friends foster children or adopt older children. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that what they emotionally want out of "getting a gift" may be really, really different from what you kinda want emotionally as the gift-giver. It can be surprisingly hard to truly let that go, even when you're consciously trying to.

An example. One kiddo in my life is made happiest by the thrill of acquisition. The actual purchases are usually forgotten, lost, broken, or traded with a friend shortly after it's ecstatically received which is totally not the point. She loooooves getting Target gift cards so that she can roam for hours enjoying the sensation of picking whatever she wants for any reason she wants. Also, impulse desires being fulfilled without requiring a big logical justification. THAT, she wants THAT, and I've learned that my answer should be either "okay, sure!" or "hmm, nope." It's NOT asking her what on earth she's going to do with this nonsensical, or wildly expensive, or utterly impractical-to-the-point-of-useless item -- unless I can do so in a way that's actually a truly interesting and fun question for her, rather than a valuation discussion which leads to (justifiably) sulky places in her head.

I'm not saying that this is something universal, not at all. Just a personal anecdote of how I learned to check my expectations at the door with one particular kid. Your milage is definitely going to vary!

Something not too gendered or age-specific, like Lego, sounds great, but they may seem unenthusiastic even if they love it, or they may be effusive but not love it, or they may appreciate it but not enjoy playing with it, or any other set of contradictory emotions and reactions. Regardless, it doesn't mean that it was a bad present.
posted by desuetude at 11:28 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Listen, I know you are trying to do a lovely thing, but I encourage you to talk to your friend first. One of the suggestions for parents who adopt kids is to have them, and only them, be the provider of all things. Kids who are in foster care may have difficulty forming a healthy attachment. A gift from another adult can interfere with that bonding process.

I'm a mother through adoption, and it was really hard to explain to well-intentioned family and friends that they couldn't give my kids presents. It feels awful and selfish.

What you want to do is a lovely impulse, but there could be a very good reason your friend is resistant.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:09 AM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Okay, this'll sound totally off the wall, but: when the most recent foster kids entered my family, the only thing I could think of was to send a fruit basket from Edible Arrangements (ediblearrangements.com): they make these pretty arrangements of bite-size chunks of cut fruit, some with chocolate coatings.

Yes, I know it sounds odd, but like you, I wanted to welcome them to the family, but didn't yet know them as individuals, with individual tastes and preferences; it was something the whole family, the new kids, the previous kids, and the parents could all enjoy, plus fruit is just good. It was a surprisingly big hit with all of them!
posted by easily confused at 7:02 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all for the advice. I heeded the wise words and asked my friend. I knew she'd tell me not to because she knows I'm skint, but actually she also said they've got lots of presents from her and her husband as well as other family members, so not to buy them toys for that reason. So I won't undermine that. Instead I've decided to go the personalised + edible route and get them each an Easter egg with their names on, which won't be an overwhelming gesture or force them to accept some random gift, and who doesn't like chocolate with their name on? I just want to acknowledge them in some way because my friend had a long journey to getting her wee family, so this seems a low-key way to do that. Thanks for the help.
posted by billiebee at 2:37 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

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