It used to be so easy. Dora the Explorer, or her cousin Diego, were guaranteed to put smiles on my young kids’ faces, whether it was their backpacks in plush versions or a talking rescue pack. The options are limitless when it comes to children’s gifts for holidays and birthdays. But what happens when your kids get older?
It doesn’t help that we have it all at once: Chanukah is soon followed by their birthdays.
We got a lot of mileage out of Harry Potter, Legos, books, and clothes (definitely not their first choice). As the kids grew, they became harder to please. My daughter started making lists of what she wanted/needed, which took all the fun out of gift-giving, but saved me return trips. Gift cards became more popular for family members. The grandparents would ask what to get when I didn’t even know myself.
As children, they’d play for hours, fueled by their imaginations. As high schoolers, they have grown-up responsibilities. Jobs, homework, and college prep take up their time. They blow off steam in different ways, whether it’s playing Minecraft or watching shows on Netflix. A Paw Patrol Mighty Jet Command Center isn’t going to cut it.
The caveat, of course, is that we’re lucky enough to be able to provide. And we’ve never been extravagant. Heck, we try to use up as many Chanukah nights as we can with other gifts (one night is my parents, another night is my in-laws, and so on).
I have a friend in a similar boat with her kids; they have everything they need. She and her husband have started gifting experiences, which create memories that last longer than any toy they’d receive. I know families who—whether for one night of Chanukah or all eight—do a service activity in the community or donate to an organization or charity. We’ve started incorporating this as well.
Sometimes your kids might surprise you. The real gift to our children (besides giving them life, of course!) is trying to preserve this planet and all that comes with it. My son—who still hasn’t given me a wish list—told me recently that he wants a donation to fight climate change. I think Dora and Diego would be proud.