Now that Christmas is nearly here, I am at the point of wondering what on earth to get a toddler who is almost two.  This lass is very biight and alread knows lots of words and colours.  Mind you, her grandma never picks toys or games that don’t have an educational element to them.  And the toddler’s mummy is a junior school teacher!  Last year I excelled, as the little one was coming up 1 year old, I bought a game that had teapots, cups and saucers and magic cakes – all colour co-ordinated.  If you had a yellow cup, you had to find the yellow saucer, plate and cake to match.  All very good.  This year is going to be a challenge as she has got rather a lot of toys already.   But a good toyshop never fails to come up with the perfect selection.  Toys or games – I’ll find exactly the right choice first time, I know.

Well I must say that things have gotten a whole lot better on the gifting front for some of my brood of busy teen age grand children.  That annual nightmare – twice a year when you think that each has a birthday as well as Christmas . . . .    I have discovered that each one does have a good, busy hobby.  A couple do very arty things – getting involved with local art groups, another helps at a local theatre am-dram group.  This not only involves much drama in it’s purest form, but there’s the opportunity to get involved with the scenery painting.  Whooh, now that’s a massive undertaking for anyone, let alone a teenager.  But in fact this sort of challenge brings out the very best in them.  I help them with their art supplies for their home hobbies. This in turn fires their get up and go for community based projects – win win all round!

We can all relate to the parents who sit head in hands at the rapid approach of the Christmas gift giving.  It has always been stressful to me anyway.  Before the advent of online gift stores, it was a case of traipsing down the high street  hoping for  inspriration to hit us en route.  Now, with online purchasing power, this particular anxiety has left me for good!  I have a handful of young relatives to buy for so I check regularly with their parents as to current fads, trends, growth spurts and subjects to avoid . . . .   who wants to be the an Unfairy Godmother?  My favourite sites have my  birthday lists stored and I can see at a glance what I bought each little darling for the last few years.  No repetitions.  If something’s been very well received, I make a note so as to repeat success with another child – success on a plate!

Now what on earth can you get by way of birthday gifts for a 12 year old grand daughter – the problem is looming in this household.   There are currently six grand children to cater for and the present buying gets more difficult every time.  I have christmas more or less nailed.   They all get new night wear, be they jazzy pjs or seriously sensible jersey nighties, there is always a theme to the group purchase.  Presents and gifts for young adults has always presented a nightmare for relatives.  The fear of any gift being rejected out of hand for being unwanted / old fashioned / uncool / etc. is dreadful.  Three of the six are active and take part in all kinds of sports – this is not too bad, there’s always a jokey sport based item to be found.  But the kiddies who don’t have hobbies of any kind leave me with nothing to aim for!

I have grandchildren in the States, they have never been over to UK and I go over there whenever I can, which is not very often.  However we chat occassonally on skype or facetime.  This is good as their Dad manages to show me the best bits of far away grandchildren but no mess involved.  The children, and in fact the parents too, all have dual nationalities – this was a precautionary measure my son took when they weren’t sure if they wanted to settle in the states or come back and try London again.  It will prove very helpful in future for the children to travel together.   One of the youngsters is shown on a well known social media site wearing his three lions footie shirt very proudly – he doesn’t mind being half british when the team does well in world cups etc.  Espcially as the states side team didn’t go through to qualify.

Buying the perfect gift for a boy of 14 is an impossible task at times.  Inf act, buying gifts for any boy is difficult.  All the boys in my present buying squad are non sporting, have no hobbies that are known and they only ever sit with iPads switched to some game or other gallery activity.  When they’re not doing that, they can be seen on their phones merrily enjoying long text sessions or social edia bouts.  This fascination with selfie pics and posting them online surprises me greatly as I have never been photogenic and never like pics that anyone has taken of me.  There are about a dozen, if that,  pictures that appear to me as I look when I scrutinise the mirror.  It is all vanity.  I’ve discovered a website perforce for gifts for the impossible man.  Personalised anything – just right for the quirky and downright bizarre.

How anyone ever gets their present buying list completed in one go, I will never know.   There are just so many destractions when I go out toy or game buying.  I start off with my list – having consulted the owners of any children I have to buy for.    I see all the kinds of toys that my sisters and I used to love or would have done if we’d had the chance.  We did have a large number of toys each but there were those exceptional ones that never made it to our house.   All was not lost though because our family friend who was a very lonely only child, used to have every toy imaginable bought for her at birthdays and Christmas.  Her father also worked as the manager of the most most important Woolworths store in the country.  Boy, in those days that was really something to boast.

There have been a spate of babies born lately – of course there always are, but not in my immediate family.  I have the joy of seeing a young toddler regularly, watching her progress from the age of 7 days in fact.  This little princess is undoubtedly very bright to start with –  The learning toys I bought at a fab kids emporium have been amazing, a really wide range of abilities bein tested.  I note too that she doesn’t just play with her alphabet bricks, she takes them to show the visitor and actually names each one.  I find this remarkable, that a 15 month old can absorb so much, yet other children take ages to develop motor skills.  This little lass does go to a very good nursery three mornings a week.  There the charges get fed breakfast and lunch and with those come social awareness lessons from birth, absolutely magic!

One of the most unusual and unique gift ideas I’ve heard about lately was a chum who’s husband has a rather whacky sense of worth.  He would often take off on his bike in the summer months out into the deep country – the more remote the better, tiny tent and minimal cooking equpment stuffed carefully into panniers.  When he married my best school chum, she took to the mad cap cycle adventures to keep up with him.  This  year for a noteable wedding anniversary, he decided to vary the excitement level and book a useful fun holiday.  So without actually checking with his dear, patient, lady wife, he booked them for 3 weeks in french hostels where they cared for homeless folk.  I have to say that my pal looked utterly crestfallen when she discovered the true plan. but it turned out to be life changing and of greater worth to them both than all the stays in top hotels could offer.

When you have several grandchildren, some toddlers, others in their teens, it can be a real challenge to find the right gift for them.  A couple of times I’d bought what I was advised was the latest ‘must have’, only to see it scornfully tossed aside because the recipient has already got it – not waiting for the birthday!  it’s embarrassing for me, and for the poor mother of the ungracious little beast.   From friends I hear tales of tantrums and ghastly warlike atmosphere’s taking over the household when someone hasn’t been provided with exactly the right product, in this years colour, from a particular shop.  I have therefore vowed to nip this in the bud,   I’ve told all those I still give to, that I will be selecting from favourite gift sites that offer unique and bizarre themes and ideas that will widen their field of interest and life experiences.  Ho ho, I can get away with anything as a result!