Independence & Fulfillment Article:

Holiday gift-giving tips for grandparents

Finding the perfect Christmas gift for a grandchild can certainly make your spirits bright. But if you're in the dark about what to give, the hunt can be more of a job than a joy.

What do you get the toddler who has more stuffed animals than Toys R Us? Or the teen with tastes as specific as they are mysterious? Do you dare buy your grandson that remote-controlled fire truck with siren, flashing lights and a hose that really squirts?

The possibilities are endless and, at times, overwhelming. To lend some method to the holiday madness, here's some advice from the Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of more than 35 Puget Sound-area organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults.

  • It doesn't hurt to ask. If your granddaughter hasn't already told you (over and over again) what she wants, then ask her. Of course, before you rush out to buy that "dance-glam" face glitter or the latest Britney Spears CD, you'll want to check with her parents to make sure they approve or hadn't planned on giving her the same thing
  • Consider the child's age, interests and abilities. Read labels for age appropriateness and safety hazards. Toys or games that are too complex or too simple will sit on a shelf. And toys with dangling cords, small parts or sharp points and edges are dangerous for small children.
  • Don't blow your budget buying that laptop computer or the 50-piece wooden train set. A modest gift given out of love is more meaningful than a big-ticket item given out of pressure or the desire to impress. If you want to buy something expensive, suggest that several people in the family contribute to the cost.
  • Time is precious. One of the best gifts you can give to children - and to their parents, too - is your time. Make a "coupon book" for your grandchild with special activities to "redeem" throughout the year - a Saturday morning at the park, a shopping trip to the local mall, a series of lessons in knitting or woodworking or cooking, an afternoon of kite-flying at the beach, etc.
  • Passes and family memberships to local attractions - The Children's Museum, Woodland Park Zoo, Pacific Science Center - make great gifts, and they're educational as well as fun.
  • Books are easy to wrap and always a worthwhile gift. Pick topics that have to do with what's happening in the child's life: starting school, moving to a new house or the arrival of a new baby brother or sister. Bookstores and public libraries also can recommend age-appropriate titles.
  • Get creative. Pass along an old toy that belonged to your grandchild's mother or father or give the gift of history in the form of a grandparents' book, photo album or scrapbook that will be treasured for years to come.
  • Money lets them choose. A gift card or certificate to a favorite store is a good option, particularly for that hard-to-please teenager. If you want to set aside or leave your grandchildren money, a financial planner can help. AARP, one of the contributing partners to the Healthy Aging Partnership, has a list of ideas at www.aarp.org/grandparents.

For more information about issues related to being a grandparent and living a healthy, active life as an older adult information, call HAP's free and confidential information and help line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464). HAP is supported by its partner agencies and by the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation and Public Health Seattle-King County.