The “It’s an avocado! Thanks!” kid might make it look easy, but finding the best gift for a kid requires attention to detail — and an ear for their reactions to various toy commercials — as if parents and loved ones don’t already have their hands full with everything kid-related.
Kids can be particular. The things kids like change not just with age, but also with evolving trends from TV shows and new technology. If parents are lucky enough, their kid will write a long list of the precise items they’d like as a birthday gift or a Christmas gift and put it up on the fridge in pride — but sometimes, it can be as much of a crapshoot as coming up with a gift idea for someone else’s kid.
Instead of buying yet another random stuffed animal, here are some tips on how to successfully zone in on the best gifts for kids of all ages.
What to get for a toddler
Everyone is familiar with the “terrible twos” rep that the not-a-baby-but-not-yet-an-independent-kid stage of development gets. At this age, kids are bouncing constantly between the desire to explore on their own and the reliance on parents for most basic needs like eating, getting dressed, or going to the bathroom. That’s a lot of frustrating emotions to go through in a day. Kitchen play sets, toys that involve different motor skills, and anything with music are gifts that can let toddlers feel in charge without too much assistance from a parent — making them ideal for this age category.
What to get for elementary and middle school kids
Potentially a more daunting phase than the terrible twos: The one where the pressure to be cool is relentless. This is that age. Though “cool” can lend itself to multiple interpretations, gifts that contribute to an older kid’s evolving critical thinking skills and sense of independence, responsibility, and style are all smart ideas. These could be anything from STEM toys to beginner’s makeup tools to a fitness tracker or a pretend pet that encourages routine-making. Anything that involves an app, tablet, or e-reader is also a guaranteed win.
What to get for teenagers
Finding a gift that a teenager will think is cool (and that will be on-trend for longer than a few months) might be some of the trickiest shopping you’ll do all year. They’ll probably offer up a few big softball suggestions, but if you’re going the surprise route, remember that they care about brands. Thanks to social media influencers promoting products directly to teens on Instagram or TikTok, Gen Z kids are loyal to very specific brands of tech, accessories, and even water bottles. If you follow the trends as closely as they do (trust us, we do), cracking the “best gifts for teenagers” code isn’t rocket science.
So, without further ado, here are the best gifts for kids of all ages — including toy and non-toy gifts alike:
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