Their curtains have unicorns. Their backpack has unicorns. They got unicorn face paint at the last carnival. So this non-returnable unicorn sweatshirt should be perfect, right? Wrong.
Tip 1: Don’t Shop in Advance
Kid time is like an entire bumblebee’s lifespan. Your nephew has made and lost two best friends, fractured an elbow on the monkey bars, experienced an entire sports season and fell out of love with three trends. Avoid the trend fall-out by asking their parent or guardian what they love right this second (bonus points if you can shop within 72 hours of seeing them) and go with that.
Tip 2: Let Kids Be Your Guide
Kids lie. They tell whoppers. They stretch that truth like an apple-flavored airhead. They’re absolutely going to tell grandma that they like that fuzzy white sweater but then never wear it again. Often, it’s the child’s need to please the adult that spurs them to “liking” an item in-store. In fact, it’s usually done, not out of impatience, but genuine affection: They don’t want to hurt their loved ones’ feelings.
Rather, let them guide you. Try to hide your grimace and go with the flow even if you hate their pick. Odds are, it’s what they will wear again and again.
Tip 3: You’re Always Safe with a Gift Receipt
So you don’t like giving cash or cards – you risk-taker you. If you’re like me, you like showing up with a big, shiny present. But, in the off-chance that they’re ready to swap a lightsaber for Legos, ensure your money is well spent:
* Ensure the gift isn’t final sale
* Visibly secure the gift receipt (e.g., tape your gift receipt to the tag of the actual item)
* Purchase from a store that is local (not out-of-state or otherwise difficult to visit)
Tip 4: Gift Cards Are the Best Cards
I’m often surprised at what a child or teen prefers in their gift card – I’ve had one ask for movie theater credit, another, a frozen yogurt shop, while yet another 8-year-old boy jumped for joy over at a video-game store card. Your best bet is to check in with their parent or guardian, but purchasing cards for a nearby major retailer is always a safe bet, too.
Tip 5: Use a Wish-List App
Still determined to give a real gift? Apps like Gifster, Gift Hero or WishMindr up your success rate. Simply add items to lists from websites, then share a list via text, social media or email. Amazon even offers a wish-list feature on their site (be sure it’s set to “public” so it’s easily accessible).
Tip 6: Give Experiences, Not Gifts
It’s the wrong size. They already have that figurine. That store is for babies. And on it goes. You did everything right – got the gift card, gave them the gift receipt – and still, you missed the mark.
Instead, give a memory:
* Type out an experience, and present it in a card.
** Don’t actually book it. Gauge their reaction, and, if they don’t love it, ask if there is something else they’d rather do.
* Select whether they can go with you or with others
* Use your imagination (and Google): Find cooking classes for parents and children, theatre workshops, factory tours, camping adventures, outdoor adventures (kayak, hikes, etc.), indoor activities (pottery, poetry readings, etc.), visit museums, try new restaurants, go to an athletic or musical event, etc.