Gift-Giving Mistakes that Grandparents Must Avoid

Keep Parents in Mind When Making Choices for Youngest Generation

Choosing good gifts for grandchildren isn't always an easy task.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that grandparents love giving to their grandchildren. However, gift-giving can be complicated. Gifts for your grandchildren must also please their parents. After all, they are the ones who will have to live with the item. Is it any wonder that so many grandparents resort to gift cards? If you are a grandparent who still enjoys giving actual gifts, these tips will increase your chances of being a hit with both generations.

Don't Upstage the Parents

Do not give that special item that the parents may have been planning to give. Certain gifts, such as that first bicycle or an American Girl doll, are iconic enough that parents should get the first shot at them. The parents may be happy to hand off the privilege to you, especially for big-ticket items, but always ask first if the gift you are considering falls into this category.

Be Age-Appropriate

Since most toys are designed for a particular age level, this directive would seem to be an easy one to follow. It's not. Grandparents often believe that their grandchildren are more advanced than others their age, so they choose gifts designed for older children. That would be okay, except that age designations are also made with safety in mind. Gifts for older children, for example, often have small parts that can be hazardous to little ones, or frustrating for them to keep up with. At the opposite end of the spectrum, choosing a too-babyish gift for a grandchild shows that you haven't been paying close attention.

Avoid Too Big or Too Complicated

Don't give toys that require a lot of space or particular care. Consider the family's living arrangements when buying toys. Large toys such as swing sets or playhouses aren't good choices for families who live in small spaces or for those who must move frequently. Toys that require a lot of supervision, such as chemistry sets, aren't optimal for families with crowded schedules. Toys with a lot of small pieces aren't appropriate for households that tend to be messy and unorganized. 

Keep It Quiet

Always ask before giving noisy toys. Giving the grandchildren a drum kit may your idea of an appropriate payback, but your grandchildren's parents may not be amused. Check with them before giving musical gifts. Another issue is that many toys that used to be silent now have electronic sound effects. When buying electronic toys, look for a switch that turns off sound or a volume control. At the very least, listen to the sounds to make sure they are not too annoying.

Be Informed

Read the reviews before you buy. An occasional impulse buy is okay and can turn out to be a big hit. Generally, however, you can get a lot of information from online reviews. If you're shopping in a store, use your smart phone to check reviews. You'll have to look beyond the number of stars, however, and don't put too much stock in one or two reviews. This is a case where the majority rules. If the majority of reviews are positive, you can probably ignore a scattering of one-star reviews. 

Consider the Parents

The values and parenting philosophies embraced by the parents are likely to determine what kind of reception your gift gets. Those who follow slow parenting or green parenting, for example, may not want their children to have toys that require batteries. Many parents do not approve of toy guns. Some disapprove of traditional toy guns but will allow Nerf guns. If you don't know enough about the parenting philosophies that guide your grandchildren's households, start the conversation.

Avoid the Gender Trap

Don't assume that your granddaughter wants dolls and your grandson wants trains. Many parents prefer that their children receive items that are not gender-specific. Also, many children covet toys that are associated with the other gender. Put your grandchild's interests ahead of gender when choosing gifts. Before you go too far afield, however, consult the parents. 

Ask the Grandchildren

It's a good strategy to ask the grandchildren what they want, but it's wise to let them know that you reserve the right to choose a different gift. Many times they have fallen for a much-hyped item that really doesn't have much play value. There are times when it's best to say no to a grandchild's gift request. And not just when they ask for a pony.

Don't Play Favorites

Most grandparents try to spend equally on their grandchildren, but there are times when that isn't the best policy. If one child or one family has a greater need than the others, it may be okay to give more to that child or that family. Perhaps you want to spend more on the older grandchildren than on the younger, on the principle that gifts for teens typically cost more than toys for toddlers. That is your choice, but let everyone know about the discrepancy in advance. Nothing plays havoc with celebrations more than the taint of perceived favoritism, especially during the holidays.

Consider Personalities

Believe it or not, receiving gifts can be stressful for children, especially children with a tendency toward anxiety. Such children want to create their own gift lists and do not enjoy receiving off-the-list items. Other children enjoy spontaneity and love surprises. You can cater to both types by giving everyone one expected gift and one surprise. Other gifts can be stressful to receive because they imply certain expectations, which a child may be anxious about fulfilling. To handle gift-giving occasions with grace, grandparents need a understanding of their grandchildren that goes far beyond what size they wear.

Perhaps there was a time when grandchildren would cherish anything given to them by a grandparent. This is not that time, at least not in most families. If you observe your grandchildren closely, you will know whether you are hitting or missing the mark. If you are consistently missing it, maybe it's time to consider the gift card after all.