What to Buy Your Kids for Christmas

Rhonda RobinsonBy Rhonda Robinson7 Minutes

Growing up, my oldest children loved a woman we called “Aunt Jessie.” It took them over two decades to discover she was, not actually in fact, their aunt. Instead, she was their babysitter. This discovery temporarily devastated my middle child. The thought that I paid her, just didn’t seem to fit their relationship roles. My daughter was right. Aunt Jessie did love them. I didn’t pay for her love, I paid for her time. One of our children’s memories fondest memories of Aunt Jessie was her Christmas visits. She would bring a laundry basket overflowing with Christmas gifts for each of the children ( the always needed new laundry basket was for me). While she did provide loving memories for my family, she inadvertently taught me a very valuable lesson on what to buy my children for Christmas.

The children’s eyes would light up with excitement and anticipation. Then, when the moment finally arrived, they tore open each present frantically, then, tossed it aside to unwrap the next.

Does this scene sound familiar?

I’m betting it does. It plays out in home after home every Christmas. I’m also willing to bet, so does, what follows—utter disappointment.

Don’t misunderstand, I don’t expect anyone to buy my children gifts, let alone expensive gifts. Nonetheless, a wake of disappointment was never too far behind the flurry of unwrapping. They loved the toys she brought. She always hit close to their heart. She knew them well. But the toys always broke. Within a week, what was once their treasures, turned into useless piles of plastic. Scraps of cherished gifts too precious to throw away, not because of what they were, but because of who they were from. Their little hearts broke with their new toys.

This changed the way I saw gifts.

As parents, we love giving good gifts to our children. It gives us the delight of our Christmas. Giving. Nothing is more gratifying on a cold Christmas morning than capturing on camera the excitement in a child’s eyes when they open up their gifts. However, if you have experienced that sea of frantic unwrapping, and watched your child sink in a wake of disappointment, there is a better way. One that will delight your child throughout the year (not just Christmas morning) and perhaps for generations.

First and foremost, consider carefully what you buy. Resist the temptation to buy many gifts. Instead, choose a smaller number. For example, everyone gets just three. This will serve you in several ways.

  • Eliminates overspending and impulse buying
  • Forces you to think deeply about what you want your child to have
  • Allows you to put your resources in toys that will last
  • Takes off the pressure to buy “an equal amount” for the other children

There’s always that one child who is easy to buy for, at least for that particular year. Then you feel obligated to spend as much on the other children, or grandchildren.

Consider buying each child (or grandchildren) just three presents. Something practical, something fun, and something memorable. Brainstorm your own categories.

Most importantly, buy Christmas gifts with their development and future in mind. 

It was in one of those sessions of consoling a child over a broken, cheap plastic toy, that I began my quest to find a better way. I found toys that are wooden, that required imagination to run or build them. I also sought out toy companies that replaced missing and broken parts. Here are a few Christmas gifts that have stood the test of time, and our nine children, and are now enjoyed by many, many grandchildren.

Brio Mec

Brio Mec is a building set made of hard Beachwood. It also has hard plastic “nails” and hammers. Everything a young builder needs to fuel his imagination. These are a little harder to find. Try Amazon and eBay. They are made in Sweden. Specialty toy stores used to carry them, now they can be found fairly easily online. We now have two generations playing with the Brio building sets I bought year after year, so long ago.

Brio Trains

The “American” version of these trains is Thomas Trains. I suggest bypassing Thomas unless your child is into the show. These are made in China, and not Sweden as is their parent company and counterpart Brio Trains. Again, these can be found with an online search. Don’t be afraid to buy a good condition “used” set. This is something you can collect and add to for years.

Lauri Puzzles

Lauri makes all sorts of soft rubber puzzles, they have educational (abc’s and numbers) and just-for-fun pictures. You can replace lost puzzle pieces with Lauri. This makes them worth their weight in gold.


Consider giving your child a collection hobby. There are so many things in this world to admire that we just overlook. Take rocks for example. When you take time to look at God’s creation, together, it can not only be a hobby for your child but a connection point for the two of you. That is really the gift that matters the most, the rare and priceless gift of your time spent playing with your child.

When you spend some time in thought and prayers about what you want to give your child, with the purpose of helping them grow and enriching their lives for the coming year (at least) you can replace your stress and their tears, with joyful memories and gifts that can last a lifetime.