I have been Christmas shopping on and off for a few months now. 'So organised!' I hear you gasp. Yes, well, if I hadn't LOST some of the presents I bought, lost without a trace, then I would perhaps agree with you.
Una is easy to buy for, which makes her hard to buy for because there are so many things out there that you know she would like, nay, love. Fred is impossible. She becomes fixated on things that we know are not really her taste - at the moment she really wants a Baby Alive. Putting aside the fact that Martin and I find them creepy, and think the company cynical in the way they try and hook you into ongoing dependency on dolly food and disposable 'diapers', and also putting aside that they cost an awful lot of money, I am sure that once Fred has pushed all her buttons, seen her wee and poo and blink and heard all she has to say, she will lose interest in it. She's just not especially invested in her toys. There are things that she goes back to over and over again, but they are not necessarily things with faces.
Anyway, for those of you who are buying for smallish persons this Christmas, here are some of our biggest successes in the present buying department:
What is with that ages 10 and up? Are they worried that younger kids won't glean the full educational purpose of it? Or do they think someone might have their eye out? Fred got one of these in her stocking last year (she was 5), it cost about $9 and she has never tired of it. Both girls love making a pet of the little tame rainbow it casts on the floors and walls. I guess if you have a kid who chucks stuff at other stuff it might not be the most sensible toy, but Fred and Una have always treated it with reverence. I mean geez. There's a rainbow in that thing. You gotta respect the rainbow.We got Fred her own MP3 player when we went overseas last year, and this year Martin picked up a pair of these Phillips kid-friendly headphones. Una inherited my ipod shuffle when I got my iPhone. In our small house the MP3 player offers escape and solace through music and stories and Fred or Una will retreat to their beds to listen during the day (which sometimes results in sleep). They also like to lie together in the lounge room, singing the occasional refrain out loud, sometimes swapping to hear what song or story is piping through the other's headphones. Also good for long drives. If we could afford it (we can't), I would get them each an ipod Nano, so they could watch the odd episode of Charlie and Lola or play little games while camping and take videos of each other. Yes, I really said that. I cannot believe it myself.
This German castle retails online in Australia for $18. We bought one at the toyshop in Lorne over Easter for Fred's 6th birthday - it was the speediest present shopping I'd ever done. We got some great Papo figures to go with it, though I must admit Fred doesn't seem all that interested in them (I love them). The castle comes white, you slot it together and decorate it yourself. Martin and the girls had a very happy afternoon doing just that. Ours doesn't look anything like the above, but it's sturdier than you'd think and they play with it often.
We bought the above Ikea trainset ($19.95AUD) for Fred when she was around 2. Over the years we have bought the Ikea add ons - tunnels, track splitters etc - and acquired the odd Brio piece from garage sales. I love the classic simplicity of this track and train, and have never found myself yearning for a more complex set - this is one of the few things I think Ikea does really well. A very very common activity in our house is building a large convoluted track and then creating a town, or zoo, or kingdom, with the blocks all around. Both girls love it, as does any visiting child. These days I notice that Fred often sets the train tracks up for Una, the way Martin used to set it up for Fred. It's grown with them and their imaginations, and it's one of those toys that continues to intrigue me in the way they use it.
This was the quiet achiever. I bought this for Fred's 6th birthday very much at the last minute from Readings. I wasn't sure what she'd think of it (I expected it to get cast aside and rediscovered later, which is often the response to books), but it was instantly her favourite thing. She took it to show and tell. She pores over it. We haven't actually made many of the projects, but I am full of good intentions. They actually look quite feasible, it's just getting organised to do it and Fred catching me in the right mood (she has the habit of asking at bedtime or as we're frantically looking for her socks before school).
This sweet little teapot cafe was Una's 4th birthday present. It's made by Le Toy Van and quite a few Australian online and brick and mortar shops sell them, in fact I'd been eyeing them off since Fred was little. We got an ex-display so it wasn't too pricey, but they generally retail around $100 without the dolls. I know, it was an extravagance. It was worth it though, it is taken out, played with, then carefully packed away afterwards most days. All the little things fit inside the big thing, which was why we chose it, as we have a bit of a storage problem (ie, we have none). It's very, very pink, isn't it? It is also very well made.
Well, I'll stop now. I should go to bed. But I am going to keep going with these posts, because there is something about them I find endlessly satisfying.