One of the more unusual gifts I can think of passing on to children is the one of gratitude and good manners.  However, the moralising over, another idea, which should stand them in good stead throughout their future lives is some sort of hobby skill.  I was taught to knit by my father – he had been in a branch of the navy for many years and they all learnt to knit – socks and presents for mother-back-home was my Dad’s phrase.  This ability to knit has been an absolute boon on many occasions.  I used to like knitting simple hats and tea cosies at one time – they were easy for my small hands to manage.  I now like to knit sweaters and cardis in colours and designs that I never see in shops.  Being able to choose from a ver wide selection of yarn colours and thicknesses is still an absolute joy today.  The tactile sensation as you check each ones characteristics shouldn’t be under estimated!

The secret to a long and fruitful life is to eat well, drink moderately, exercise lots and relax even more.  It would be really fab if everyone could just get this organised and we’d need no docotrs, hospitals, clinics etc.   But we do.  I have to say that in the major toy superstores, there don’t seem to be as many role play items on show that there used to be.  I always like to visit a proper toy shop whenever I’m tasked with organising the gifts for any child  under 90.  I have definite ideas for the smaller ones – very specific and generally suiting what I think I’d like to receive if I was that age.  It’s not quite on the rocket science edge of things but it works.  Every present I’ve handed over to all the age groups have appeared to be thrilled to bits.  Every one has been gratefully accepted as out of the normal boring run of things.  That, from any age of child is a win win situation for a wrinkly!

Top ideas for kids is something that you can really make a go of, or flop entirely.   I recently stayed with relatives who live in the States.  They have two children under ten and it’s a frantically busy but really happy household.  Games and learning go hand in hand and everything seems to involve some kind of friendly competition.   Be it racing to the washroom or to get the games out of the store cupboard.    We spend hours playing a form of the well known property tycoon board game – except it involved buying breeds of dog  instead of roads.  The piles of chance and community chest are replaced by good dog and bad dog . . . . . which are an equally haphazard selection of fun and unfun things.  But on the whole, we had a real hoot playing for hours after the evening meal.   Those kind of board games that involve counting out money and giving change are so amazingly effective – sheer brilliance.

Sometimes the idea of giftware for children can seem very daunting.  It’s a worry that comes round at least twice a year, and three times if you take Easter into consideration too.   Of course, in my day – hundreds of years ago, the question of whether I was to receive chocolate easter eggs never came in to any question.  We always had about six or seven each.  In those days the thoughts of obesity were never raised and we were grateful for this wonderful treat.  After all, the rationing of the second world war had made everyone race for the treats for decades afterwards.  Now that famililes are being more conscious of the health aspects, east gifts instead of eggs are often appropriate.   Going on to a really good gifting site that dedicates it’s wares to the child market is such a good idea.  There are so many themes and gifts that you would never think of looking at in the high street.

I have a very cute and impossibly busy little great neice.  My word she can shift, and it seems unbelievable that she’s only just two years old.   Never one for hanging around, she decided to completely miss out the crawling stage and instead manages launch herself at an object by literally flying/shunting herself in that direction.  Now though, she has learnt to pull herself up the front of the sofa or big chairs.  She then turns around, triumphantly before attempting her return journey.  The level of concentration and effort for these exercises, together with a very healthy diet controlled rigorously by her mum means she is not going to be a stodgy school child in years to come.   I was rather expecting her sensible mum to opt for toys to help celebrate Easter – but she  has relented on this occasion and will allow a small egg to be received.  From each willing benefactor.

Times change and we often sit back through the year and wonder what’s happened to the months that have shot by already.  It’s now time in my calender for me to check on lots of birth dates and get cracking with the card and gift list.  It starts in January with a sister – card only these days. Then next month, a couple of junior birthdays – this I do like.  Every excuse to visit my local general toy store.  One of the kiddies is two this year so I’ve extended the  wardrobe of the dear little tom-boy soft bodied doll she had for Christmas with two changs of clothes.  This time I’ve bought an oudoor coat and a toy high chair.  I had thought about the stroller push chair but knowing the Mum is very busy, she may not appreciate having to take toddler and a dolls stroller along when time’s not on her side!

I was down in the only really good toy shop for miles – which just happens to be quite near where I live.  I always vow to make more of this stores, but whenever it’s gift buying time for others, it completely slips my mind.   Until this year that is.  I have a couple of early birthdays for men – middle aged men at that.  I recall seeing exactly the right kind of gift when I was making gift choices last time.  Magic card tricks and sleight of hand games – now thwe are fantastic fun, especially f you have an early birthday with all year to learn and perfect your craft by the time christmas makes it’s appaerance . . . .   I asked the assistant and she showed me an amazing range – form which I selected two from each sort.  I even had a hands on demonstration of how to perform one of the harder tricks!

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!