Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.
This year, consider an unconventional strategy for holiday gift giving. No, this isn’t an altruistic piece about charity and volunteering—although both are wonderful expressions of the holiday spirit—since reality is reality, and most of us use the holidays to give fun gifts to our kids. Instead of buying budget-busting individual gifts that end up gathering dust by Valentine’s Day, invest in inexpensive presents that will turn your home into the “go to” place for your kids’ friends. Parents’ time with young kids goes by fast, and once they become teenagers, it’s even harder to corral them, see them grow, and eavesdrop on their lives. So, starting in your kids’ pre-teen years, turn your home into a kid magnet.
When I was growing up, my best friend Steve’s dad bought a pool table for himself and his adult friends, but he let us use it as long as he was supervising or within earshot. Steve’s house became “the” house for our friends, and his dad had a front row seat as we turned into little pool sharks. My parents missed seeing me in all of my adolescent bluster on those billiards nights; my wife and I didn’t want that to happen to us.
So, when we stumbled on what seemed like the perfect holiday gift for our tweens at a garage sale years ago, we took a $55 chance; if it wasn’t a hit, we would resell it. But it turned out to be the find of the decade: an honest-to-goodness adult-sized poker table, with a felt-covered center and felt-lined cup holders on each of the six sides, priced at an amazing $25. And, for $5 each, we also bought the six retro orange vinyl chairs that sat around the table. Yes, the table and chairs had seen better days, but none of the cosmetic damage was beyond the cure of a little glue, tape, and paint. By the time my wife (the handy one in the family) finished the tune-up, the set was pretty cool looking, and it fit in with what was already in the basement: the indoor mini-basketball hoop (purchased for $12 at a previous garage sale), the shelves full of board games (including “Twister,” the ultimate game for the awkward tween years), the sports and national parks posters, and the makeshift ping pong table.
We never imagined the impact that poker table would have on our parenting experience. Our basement became the epicenter for our kids’ middle school and high school friends for the next 10 years, until our youngest left for college. Penny-ante poker, blackjack, Texas-hold’em, and “War” alternated at our table. There were Coke cans in the cup holders, chips (poker and potato) scattered across the table, and cards tossed about in celebration or disgust during wonderful weekend nights. Even today, with our kids in college and graduate school, they gather with their old friends over vacations to play poker in our basement! We never figured out what it was about a real poker table—versus a folding, kitchen, or ping pong table—that could create such a profound and prolonged attraction in our basement. But it was a joy to be “the” house that everyone wanted to hang out in, the place where we could eavesdrop on our kids’ very own “World Series of Poker” games, cater the snacks, and watch our kids grow up rather than watching them gravitate to their friends’ houses where the cool stuff was.
Should you buy the biggest TV on the block or the best video game system to draw kids’ attention? This is a very personal, and philosophical, decision. But for my money, the best activities are unplugged and get kids talking and laughing loudly enough that you can eavesdrop from the top of the basement stairs. Only you know your kids well enough to pick the perfect gifts for them and their friends, but pick ones that are age-appropriate. Here’s a short garage sale shopping list, in case you can’t find a poker table, for transforming your house into “the” house: foosball table, air hockey table, pinball machine, board games (trivia, strategy, wordplay, charades), electric train set, mini car racing track, construction toy sets, camping tent, magic set, homemade stage (for music, theater, puppet, magic, and fashion shows), wardrobe cabinet (stocked with cool old clothes, hats, and costume jewelry from your closet or the thrift shop), makeup table, doll house, and play kitchen. You may not stumble on the “find of the decade” on your first try, but with all the money saved by avoiding toy stores, you’ll be able to afford shopping garage sales again next year.
Happy holidays, and happy eavesdropping!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbartis Professor andVice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recentNo Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York TimesMotherlodeblog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: Beautiful living room decorated for Christmas via Shutterstock.
Or a device that will pet your pets for you, so you don’t have to?
These are some of the hilarious–and FAKE–products “sold” by Prank Pack, a company that makes boxes for nonexistent and ludicrous items. The idea is that you buy the box, put your real gift inside, and then sit back and watch the recipient squirm as she feigns enthusiasm for her “present.”
I attended a White Elephant party over the weekend. Maybe you know them as a Yankee Swap. Basically, you bring a gag gift or a crappy present that has a non-crappy element–maybe a hokey coffee mug with a Starbucks gift card inside. Everyone takes a number and selects a present, but once you choose your gift, it can be “stolen” by someone else (and likewise, you can steal it back, or take someone else’s or a new one altogether). Anyway, I brought the same tacky purse I received at this party the year before, but this time with Dunkin Donuts gift card inside. I packed it in a gift box for a “Family Blankeez,” a Snuggie-style blanket designed to cover an entire group of people, and I was practically beside myself with giddiness as I waited for someone to select my present. When my friend opened it, she thought the blanket was real, just as the creators predicted. She help up the box while everyone laughed at the idea and cracked up at the photos showing people using it in various scenarios such as at a tailgate (“For the big game!”) and at a clothesline (“Couples laundry!”). Meanwhile, I was shouting above the noise, “But it’s fake! It’s not real! It’s not really a blanket! It’s just a joke!” Everyone stopped to process this, and the fascination began anew as the box was passed around the room all over again.
If you’re looking to make a splash with your present–perhaps for all the wrong reasons–then a Prank Pack is for you (they’re $8 each, or 3 for $20, with a $5 shipping fee). At the very least, take a few minutes to check out their site and be sure to look at the photos of the boxes’ details. I guarantee you’ll laugh.
This contest has now ended. Congratulations to our winner, Heather D. of Beavercreek, OR!
As promised, we’re unveiling five of the Fab 15 toys selected by Kmart Toys and Rico Rodriguez of “Modern Family”! We’ve collaborated with Kmart Toys to present one grand prize winner with a bundle that includes the five toys below:
(1) Simon Flash ($29.99) (1) I Am T Pain Mic ($39.99) (1) Lalaloopsy Treehouse ($39.99) (1) Redekai Championship Battle Tin ($29.99) (1) WWE Crashdown Arena ($42.99)
These five toys (total retail value of $182.95) will certainly bring a smile to any child’s face for the holiday season.
To enter, share your favorite holiday memory in our Comments section below between Mon. December 5 to Fri. December 9. One grand prize winner will be selected randomly to win the bundle of five toys. Come back to this post again after Mon. December 12 to find out the winner. Read the full contest rules here.
Picture this: A relaxing start to the holidays with you and the kiddies curled up on the couch with cups of hot cocoa watching…. Hmm…. Not that again!
Keep the kids entertained and beat winter break boredom with a new selection from Netflix called “Just for Kids.” The channel offers family-friendly viewing of kid’s content geared for ages 12 and under. The section is organized by category—superheroes, princesses, dinosaurs, and more—or you can search by clicking on your favorite character, like Elmo or Dora, to find a selection of TV shows and movies featuring that character.
“Just for Kids” is currently available on PC, Mac, and Wii and will be coming soon to other platforms. With unlimited streaming memberships starting at $8 a month, a Netflix subscription may just be the perfect stocking stuffer for your kid.
The Great Remember will dispatch photographers to a customer’s home to take high-resolution photos of artwork for mosaics. For textured appliqués, customers will need to send clothes by mail while for lockets, customers will need to send digital photos. Customers can also email their child’s favorite quote or saying to have it stitched into a handcrafted heart grid to be mounted on a mahogany shadowbox.
Prices for these truly unique gifts start at $99. Place orders by Monday, April 25 to ensure delivery by Mother’s Day.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Sandy B. of Texas for winning the HP Photosmart eStation Printer!
Have you ever wanted an all-in-one printer that went beyond just printing, copying, scanning, and faxing? Here’s your chance! We’re giving away one free HP Photosmart eStation (valued at $399) to a lucky winner. The new printer is the first of its kind: It has a 7-inch detachable, wireless touchscreen that allows you to browse the internet and print documents from the web, print directly from web apps without a PC, and also print files remotely while them with multiple PCs. Plus, the new HP Photosmart eStation printer is an ENERGY STAR® qualified product.
What better holiday gift can you give a tech-savvy friend or family member? Post an answer to the question “What’s your favorite holiday memory?” in our comments section from now through December 17. We’ll choose one winner in a random drawing. Click here to read the complete contest rules. And Goody luck!
Resarch revealed the following information about these four gifter categories:
The Emotional Gifter: Forty-two percent of women identify with this profile and buy unique, thoughtful gifts for each person on their list to show they really understand that person, plan ahead, wrap their own presents and take the time to hand-write a card.
The Practical Gifter: Nearly a quarter, 21 percent, of women consider themselves to be practical gifters, often giving gift cards or cash, and prefer to allow the recipient to make the decision about what’s best to buy.
The Convenience Gifter: Sixteen percent of women identify with this profile, approaching holiday shopping with maximum efficiency, getting shopping done at one store or on one website. These women feel holiday shopping is something that needs to get done, rather than a joyful experience.
The Last Minute Gifter: Thirteen percent of women consider themselves to be last minute gifters, typically buying gifts close to the holidays. They don’t often plan ahead and hurry through the mall at the last minute.
70% of women feel pressure to find the perfect gift, but for 60% shopping brings more stress than joy. 76% also believe exchanging gifts in person is important. More surprising information revealed that Last Minute Gifters were composed more of Gen Y/Millenial women around their 20s while Practical Gifters were composed more of Boomers women around their 50s.