So what I did this year was scroll through my family photos from the last several years, back to about 2008 or so, with an eye out for what I'd photographed the children playing with and using. For me to photograph something, I generally have to be liking what I see, so photos should show both what the kids like and what I like them to have. I figured that if a category was big then and still big now, then a purchase in that category is likely to be a winner.
Here's what I came up with:
1. memberships. Zoo memberships, science museum memberships, children's museum memberships, history museum memberships, state and national park memberships--the kids never get tired of visiting these places.
It's been over a year since we've had a zoo membership, so I may buy one for Christmas. Will would be thrilled!
I'm boosting the kids' Kapla blocks and Geomag sets this Christmas.
3. face paint and makeup. Natural face paint, professional clown makeup, real makeup, fingernail polish--Syd is into this stuff constantly, and Will occasionally shows an interest in making herself up, too:
If I can find it (still haven't unpacked all the way. May never do so), I've got a "tropical colors" set of our favorite Mehron professional clown paints socked away for Santa to put in Syd's stocking.
4. arts enrichment. Cameras, video cameras, musical instruments, oil pastels, fabric markers, and paints of all kinds--anything that allows the kids to express themselves is a bit hit with all of us:
I really want to buy the kids this little pottery wheel that I've heard good reviews of, but it's more than I want to pay. Maybe we can make ourselves a kick wheel this spring.
5. kits. Science kits, art kits, craft kits--the kids will ignore them for months, and then pull one out and become totally immersed in it for an entire day.
I'm actually going to make the kids a chemistry set, hopefully by Christmas.
6. games and puzzles. Board games, computer games, logic games, video games, card games, trivia games, and puzzles, the bigger the better--the kids are doing these daily, and I love the spontaneity of getting pulled into an epic game of Monopoly or a week-long puzzle featuring otters.
I've wanted to buy Will a complete beginner's D&D setup for a while, including an adventure in a box that can really get her going, but again, it's not in the budget this Christmas. I can DM her through some games on my own, and maybe get her really set up for her birthday.
7. tools. Science equipment, physics supplies, rope, shooting equipment, carving knives, power tools, batteries and wires--both kids, but especially Will, are continually engaged in going about their own productive little businesses.
Santa is going to bring Will a gouge for her limestone hand-carving set, and if I can ever find a heavy weight-bearing triple pulley that doesn't cost more than a week's groceries, then I'm going to snap that baby up, pronto!
You'll notice that I don't have books as a category, but the kids just read too much to make getting them from me a treat. They check out armloads at the library a couple of times a week, return them, and gather a new armload the next time we're out. And yet even without deliberately giving them books at holidays, we still all have a million books. Go figure.
I also don't have toys like Barbies, stuffed animals, or little toy people and animals and cars listed, but of course the kids love them. They buy them with their own money (Syd scored big on a Barbie Black Friday sale!), get them at thrift stores and yard sales, and, yes, they'll definitely find a few Hot Wheels and maybe a couple of Schleichs in their stockings on Christmas morning.
Okay, I'm done. Also, every time I talk about Christmas presents I feel like a monster, on account of there are starving people in the world, and here I am, thinking about toys.