I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a gift guide each holiday season, and this year I managed to keep my wits about me most months and jotted down a few notes here and there about what has had staying power and which gifts have been duds. I’ve included links wherever possible to try to give you a one stop shopping experience. I welcome comments about gifts that have worked for you.
Here are the gifts for boys which have been so successful through the years that they are hereby going into Anne Glamore’s Gift Hall Of Fame:
Anything by Lego, smaller kits for smaller kids and more intricate ones for bigger kids. This includes Bionicles as well as small items like the Lego Police Motorcycle #7235 and bigger ones such as the LEGO Star Wars Republic Gunship. You can’t go wrong with the Ultimate LEGO Building Set as a starter set for budding architects.
Klutz makes all types of cool things- books that show you how to make cool letters, or stencil, but the Window Art (Klutz) was the best gift Drew got one year, and the designs he made are still on his window. Inexpensive, creative fun.
Klutz is also responsible for the Encyclopedia of Immaturity (Klutz)which Finn received last year, but both of his brothers have stolen it at times to learn how to curl their tongues or build a bridge out of pennies.
Guys love their gadgets, and Porter still uses his headlamp. We all do. We’ve used it to read in bed, to look for things in the dark, and to wear when hiking. The boys have put theirs on at twilight and run around in the bushes. We need a couple more.
Remember when we got Finn a Safe for Christmas one year? He’s still using it. I followed my own advice and got the kind with two keys, not a combination. I kept one key, and every once in a while I check to make sure there are no illicit substances in the safe. I was tempted to steal a Baby Ruth one time, but I refrained.
By far the best outdoor toy we’ve gotten has been the RipStik. Porter has spent hours on this thing, sometimes with a parakeet or two on his shoulder. He can shoot baskets while riding it. Neither of his brothers can get very far on it, but if you have a kid who’s exhausted the bike, the pogo stick, the moon shoes and needs a new challenge, the Ripstik is portable, durable and fun. I recommend pads and a helmet to go with it.
The boys are wearing out all the Calvin and Hobbes books we’ve purchased, and I love them because I believe they trick boys into reading while they think they’re looking at comic books. They’re funny, smart, under $15, and the boys read them over and over.
Don’t your kids always steal the Flashlights? That’s why you give them a couple for Christmas, especially the kind that hook to your backpack or belt so you look all official and stuff.
For babies and toddlers of the male variety, my top gift would be the Fire Fighter Dress Up Set. All three of my boys wore the same one for ages until it finally disintegrated. Cowboy Boots are a close second, their main drawback being that they hurt when used to kick a brother.
Smaller babes are endlessly entertained by the Busy Ball Popper, which pops the balls out of its gut over and over and over. Drew couldn’t get enough of this invention.
As for older people, a few gifts made the Hall of Fame.
Enough with the Tervis Tumblers, you say? But I can’t get enough! This year we gave up bottled water for ecological and financial reasons. I discovered that you can purchase a Tervis Tumbler 16oz. Plastic Lid, thus allowing you to take your water to Jazzercise, to the baseball or soccer field, and in the minivan with nary a sprinkle on your clothes. These have improved my quality of life.
L.L. Bean tote bags are classics for good reason. This link takes you to the page where you can design your own, specifying the size, colors, and whether you want long handles (yes!) and a zip top (yes again!) I got one this summer and use it to hold all my audio-visual stuff when I travel: camera and blackberry chargers, iPod speakers, and so forth. Then again, if I’m heading to a party I can load this sturdy bag with several bottles of wine and a hostess gift. My youngest sister loads hers with baby and toddler gear.
We kept hearing about Table Topics Conversation Cards and didn’t see what the big deal was until we received some of our own. Now when the boys talk about farts and burps at the dinner table, I steer the conversation to more acceptable subjects simply by drawing a card. We’ve discovered that as a family we’d prefer to live near the beach rather than in the mountains, we’d prefer a life of adventure to a life of safety, and all but Bill would prefer to have great musical skill.
Finally, the last Hall of Fame gift is a magazine subscription. The boys enjoy their Sports Illustrated Kids although Finn is old enough for the regular magazine. Of course, I can’t survive without The New Yorker and Bill is a devoted reader of Triathlete (and little else)! There’s a magazine out there for just about everyone.
Some New Ideas
I rarely recommend toys, but Drew got a Hasbro Electronic Hyper Slide for his birthday and we all had tons of fun with it. It looks like a bridge with four different colored checkers. A voice tells you which color checker to slide under the bridge and gives you a limited amount of time to do so. Somehow, it manages to keep up with which colors are on which side, and thus, who has screwed up.
We also love Monopoly, but I bet I’ve thrown away over two kajillion multi-colored dollars over the years, as they end up scattered about the house driving me mad. The new millennium has brought changes to the old game. Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition features debit cards instead of bills, and made the game new again for my guys.
Another big hit was the Rocket Balloon with Pump. The set contains long skinny balloons and a small pump to blow them up with. When they’re released, they zoom away, emitting a shrieking sound that’s the epitome of fun. Some people race them, but my guys flew them out the window and awarded points to anyone in the yard who caught one before it hit the ground.
If you have a boy who adores building things, your local Boy Scout store is a treasure trove of inexpensive kits. Birdhouses, trains, airplanes made of wood to be hammered, glued and painted. Leather kits that end up as key chains, wallets, knife holders, or slippers. I have to drag Porter out of there. Ooh, look! I found a link to the Boy Scout craft store, too.
I’ve touted several books this year, but the big favorites were Al Capone Does My Shirts, and the Percy Jackson books, which incorporate adventure and mythology. Porter tore through them and is searching for the author’s address to ask him to please write faster.
If you have a collector in the house, A Pocketful of History: Four Hundred Years of America–One State Quarter at a Time would be fun, especially if you gave it along with something to hold one quarter from each state.
Anyone who’s been a third-grader or had a third-grader will laugh at 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching. It’s a light-hearted look back at twenty years of teaching, and contains lessons that are funny, wise and universal. Don’t think teachers are the only ones who will enjoy this book– it’s sure to appeal to all ages and genders.
If you have athletes, you’ll want to check into the Road ID. They make ID tags that go on the wrist and the shoe so your biker or runner will have his contact information with him at all times. Bill and the boys each have one, and I feel a lot safer that someone will be able to reach me immediately if one of them should have a biking accident.
Is this the year that Wood Burning Kits make a comeback? It might be in the Glamore house. I’ll let you know if we end up with 70’s style crafts or branded hands.
Past gift guides are here:
The Ultimate Guide To Boy Toys (still the best, most comprehensive guide, featuring the ever popular headlamps, safes, flashlights)
Holiday Gift Guide: A Kajillion Ideas! (Ideas for teachers, babies and toddlers)
Gift Guide Part Deux: You’re So Hard To Buy For (funky, practical, collections, cookbooks, and a smattering of this and that.)
Gift Guide For Good Kids (Or Even Merely Tolerable) (books, games, technology).
One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Elves: Round 2 (The boys are trying for an elf again this year, but all they did was stick a one line note and some stale Wasa bread on the fireplace so I tossed it. Still no elves for us!)