What Do I Get My Family For Christmas?

In going through and creating this holiday gift giving ‘list’ I realized it might help others figure out what to do for their families this year especially if you are stuck or hate purchasing presents for the sake of having something under the tree. As a mom that has to clean up the same toys day after day, I am all for less clutter and unloved toys and more of a focus on loving what you have and treating it properly.

Family Holiday Gift IdeasBetter yet, I would LOVE to transition my family to enjoy ‘experiences’ for holiday gifts. As my husband pointed out, the kids won’t be thrilled if I go ‘cold turkey.’ Try explaining to our five year old son & 11 year old daughter that there is nothing under the tree for them because Mommy thought it was best to clear out a section of the (unfinished) basement to dump your crap make for a dedicated play area for you.

As I need to find at least some items to wrap and put under the tree I’m consulting with Google and Amazon as well as finding recommendations from other bloggers. I will also browse Pinterest and see how many ‘homemade’ gifts I can make for friends as well as family. I am making gourmet inspired chocolate covered pretzel and bacon so much I’ve decided to sell them as a side hobby (you know, in all my spare time). My kids won’t want any as gifts, but it makes a great hostess or office gift for when I need them.

This year I would like to start migrating to a few really nice gifts and something that is meant for us as a family. In the beginning it might be a ‘family’ video game (hey, we are a geek gaming family after all) and a home project that we can complete and enjoy together. Lets be realistic  I’m just looking for free labor to clean out the basement and move the kids toys out of my living room so we can have more company over without the embarrassment of ten thousand LEGOs on the floor.

My Daughter

My daughter is 11. She has a cell phone and seems to have outgrown most toys. Clothes are a hard purchase for her because I always need to have her with me so she can try things on. Of course the default items to give a preteen are gift cards. In her case, this will mostly be iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. My only thing close to a helpful list so far is the Amazon 2012 Holiday Toy List that gives me some ideas for her age bracket. Of course if there is a way to purchase gifts locally and from small businesses, I will. Otherwise we have Amazon Prime and I will shop from the couch.

One thing I know she asks for is books. She is an avid reader and practically eats books, but because her reading level is much higher than her age. I have a problem with finding age-appropriate content while still having a high reading level. I learned that lesson when a few years ago I let her pick out a book from the Young Adult section of the bookstore only to have her ask me what “second base” was – she was nine. Uh, yeah, not so much.

My Son

My son is five. He wants a Nintendo DS. He tells me this EVERY SINGLE DAY. My mom bought him a LeapFrog LeapsterGS Explorer for Christmas (I can say that here because he can’t read and doesn’t know my blog address). My brother got him a case for it. I would rather get him a DS to be honest but:

  1. My husband is dead-set against it and feels he is too young
  2. There seem to be more games available and properties he likes (he’s addicted to Mario Cart on our Wii) than the Disney titles on the LeapFrog device (he doesn’t watch any of the Disney shows and doesn’t know the characters)

I feel the DS would have a longer shelf life. We have an older version of a LeapFrog handheld device and my daughter outgrew it’s age bracket pretty quickly. My son plays with it now even though it is pink and has ‘girl’ games on it. My little dude likes all the games that we have (2) for the LeapFrog and is pretty gender-indifferent (as is my daughter) when playing with toys.

His other interests are pretty much LEGO (we have tons) and anything TRON, Transformers or Iron Man (I love Iron Man also, but mainly for Tony Stark and for different reasons than my son does). I’m sure he would love some more NERF guns but I hate enabling him with weapons to haze his sister (and the dogs) with.

My Husband

This is the first year I have actually found decent and very useful gifts for my husband. Usually he says that he needs a new tool set or video game and purchases it – and lets me wrap it and make the kids think it was an original idea. I will have to come back to this post after the holidays and list out what they are because he reads my blog. I even have 50 great stocking stuffer ideas thanks to The Art of Manliness.

My Family

Together as a family we are gamers – computer, console (Wii & XBOX), portable handheld, and board games. My husband usually buys himself and the kids any board games he finds that we have an interest in, but family-oriented XBOX Kinect games are a great holiday option for me to purchase. My friend Cecily has been reviewing family-friendly XBOX games and gave a great suggestion for an easy to do exercise and yoga game Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 she has been using with her mom. I think some new Just Dance Disney Party games are on the list as well this year (I love UBISOFT, they have been sponsors of some parenting conferences I have spoken at and are always a big hit).

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Leapfrog 2.0

I call it this because I’ve been a Leapfrog fan since my daughter was a baby (and she’s now 7), and now we are again a Leapfrog family with our second child.  Some of the only toys we saved from my daughters babyhood are Leapfrog toys – now passed on to her little brother.  My favorite is the drum from about 8 years ago – bang it and it counts and sing the alphabet song.  The new and improved version does colors and Spanish, so I can see already the progress and thought they have put into the products over the past few years.  When I started reading up that Leapfrog not only had ‘baby toys’ but items that would be great for her now and through middle school I was thrilled.

What I’m really impressed with is their leap (sorry, couldn’t resist) into the online world called Leapfrog Learning Path.  We are a high-tech, geeky family and our kids are the same.  I am very impressed with the amount of data that gets synchronized between the gadgets and the Learning Path for parents to track.  One thing I haven’t found yet (or maybe it doesn’t exist yet) is a way to print some sort of report so I could show my daughter’s teacher.  Being that my daughter reads at 4 levels above her grade, but is about average in her grade for math, tracking this is very beneficial to us.  Having her sit at the kitchen table and do ‘extra’ math problems to strengthen her skills is *boring* but playing a game is *fun*.

Leapfrog was kind enough to give us a pink Digj to try out.  There were extra games available at the seminar to take, but some of the moms loaded up for their kids – so my daughter will have to wait until Christmas to get any extra games for the system and really see how well it works.  It’s hard to give an honest review and feel for the product with only the built-in game, so if you plan on purchasing one, be sure to pick up a few games right away for the system.  I’ve seen bundled packs available in the stores already. [Read more...]