Choosing the right gift for kids during the Christmas season is a daunting task. Maybe, it's because I'm a grown-up. There are so many choices, and they all blend together into one confusing blur.
But looking at it from the eyes of a child seems to make it simpler, I guess. Take my son's Christmas wish list for example.
Just before Thanksgiving, I let him guide me down the toy aisle of our local discount store, the store with the yellow smiley face that advertises low, low prices all the time. Maybe, that was a mistake.
I took a pad and pencil and told him to point out to me all that he saw that interested him. My strategy was to take all the guesswork out of Christmas shopping this year by finding out exactly what he wanted. The result was a long list of toys I never knew existed, and have trouble pronouncing.
You certainly can tell it's a little boy's list. There are things like Bakugan Battle Brawlers, a Bakugan Battle Pack, a Bakugan Bakusphere, a Ben 10 Alien Force Omnitrix Illuminator, and an X-Men Origins Wolverine Electronic Claw.
There are other items like a Transformers Bumble Bee Plasma Cannon, Transformers Power Bots, and a Batman, Star Wars or Bakugan comforter.
Actually, looking at the price tags was none too comforting. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus are on a budget, and seeing the asking price for some of those items gave me sticker shock. Besides, thanks to his dad, my son already has a bunch of Bakugan and Transformers toys.
Every year, I combine Christmas shopping with birthday shopping, because his birthday, being on New Year's Day, feels like a one-two punch. Thus far, we have books, movies, a Harley Davidson twin-sheet set with matching comforter, battery operated race cars, a Stunt Blaster Racer Set, and a Mousetrap game.
I got one of those games for Christmas when I was little, and I thought it was pretty cool. I will probably also get my son a kids' camera, since he shows such an interest in mine, and possibly one more thing, depending on how our budget looks on Christmas Eve. Then, there's whatever this child gets from his aunts, uncles and grandmother, plus stocking stuffers. The kid will make out like a bandit.
I remember writing my letters to Santa as a child, meticulously including every item I wanted under the tree and taking great care to list every little detail about the toy, lest he not know what it was. Usually, I got most of what I requested. One of the best gifts under the tree Christmas morning was a bike with high handlebars and a banana seat. Other great gifts included an Easy Bake oven, and a cowgirl outfit with western-style shirt, vest, hat, boots, and toy pistols with holster. (Despite the Easy Bake oven thing, I was still a tomboy.)
I had hours of fun with something called Incredible Edibles, a kid's cooker with an actual working burner which heated up and cooked flavored goo into insect shapes. Another toy, "Strange Change," involved putting little squares of colored plastic into a mini-oven and watching them unfold into dinosaur shapes as they "cooked." The process could be reversed by stuffing them into a compression chamber and squashing them back into little squares.
The interesting thing is that last week I overheard someone ask my son what he wants for Christmas, and all he asked for was Silly String. Well, if that's it, we can pick up a case or two of the stuff and save a ton of money. Merry Christmas, everyone.
Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org