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Transformers, Care Bears and Other Grammy Gifts for the Holidays

Little girl with grandmother drawing togetherI love the holidays. Bright lights, sparkling cities, Justin Bieber crooning The Christmas Song and Martha Stewart making cinnamon bird ornaments. Does it get any better?

Yes! Because now’s the time of year when you get to spiff up the kids for family dinners, trips to the ballet, visits to Santa and outings with us.

By “us,” I mean grandparents. We live in that perfect world between the mindless minutia of diapers, Everyday Math and squeezed smashed squash, and the golden glory of first steps, itsy bitsy spider and giant sloppy kisses. Kids want us, moms and dads want to be us, and savvy marketers target us. We love to buy and it shows.

That’s why coming up with holiday gift ideas for our grandchildren is both 1. Difficult (so many ideas, so much cyberspace) and 2. Easy (see #1). So I’ve managed to narrow down my list into 6 simple yet sensational categories. One caveat: These work best for grandparents who live reasonably close by. But all can be modified (and Skype-ified) for faraway families — or reserved for holiday-time visits.

1. Projects. Kids love them! Yes, we grandmas and grandpas can paint and assemble and make scrapbooks, even digital ones, and we can help build robots from kits, which I know for a fact because my husband just spent two days building one with our 4-year-old grandson, actually two if you count the one that didn’t really work so we went back to the robot store and exchanged it for another one, but not before our grandson had a meltdown because he couldn’t decide if he wanted the battery-powered robot or the solar-powered one. But it was fun.

2. Tickets. Lots out there this time of year. Your kids, the ones who work and manage carpools and after-school activities, don’t have time to take in some of these spectacular shows or special events and would be SO grateful if you’d treat the kids to a few of them. Please. The best part: You get to share time, build memories — and start a brand new holiday tradition. And if you’re lucky, maybe the grandkids will be wearing their new …

3. Clothes. They’ll need something adorable to wear to “Annie” or “A Christmas Carol” or those endearing yet endless productions of “The Nutcracker.” These garments need to be a step-up from the usual jean/T-shirt/hoodie combo the kids seem to sport every day, everywhere. I get that giving the kids clothing doesn’t score points in the best-presents-from-grandparents-ever competition (Emily’s grandma gave her a trip to Epcot. EPCOT!), but bring the kiddies to the actual store or the cyber store with you and offer them outfit options. Another priceless bonding opportunity.

4. Tuesdays with Grammy. Or Sundays with Grandpa, or Friday nights with Grammy and Grandpa and a favorite board game or book or puzzle. We realize that kids get busy and this kind of togetherness won’t happen every week. But what you’re offering is the gift of … yourself. Be creative. Find out what the kids like to do. Baking? Baseball? But no plopping them in front of a screen, tempting as that is. OK, once in awhile a session with Toy Story or Madagascar is permissible. But clear it first with The Parents.

5. Toys. Not just any toys. Buy them the kinds of toys you like. These, of course, are the same ones you purchased for your own children. Pac-Man! Care Bears! Cabbage Patch Kids and Transformers! Nostalgia rocks. You can even acquire that once-miraculous technical marvel, Simon. Your grandkids will love it. Ha — just kidding! No they won’t. They can do all those beepy things and more on their iPhone apps.

6. Adventures. We’re not your grandparents grandparents. We’re not even your grandparents parents. They were the Greatest Generation and let’s face it — we aren’t. We like to think of ourselves as the Baby Zoomers. We zoom to yoga, tennis, appointments and committees and jobs. Observing from the sidelines has never been our style. River rafting with the grandkids? We’re in. Skiing, hiking and biking? You bet. Kayaking? Save a seat for us. Activities and escapades like these make great holiday gifts. Our grandkids appreciate it, our kids tolerate it.

Of course, with a little imagination, you can create your very own grammy gift list. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice there’s an underlying theme to mine: We’re infusing what kids like to think of as “presents” with what we like to think of as “presence.” Namely ours. It’s a true win for all.

Linda Morgan is ParentMap’s managing editor, the author of Beyond Smart: Boosting Your Child’s Social, Emotional, and Academic Potential, and delighted grandmother of four.

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