We all know that buying gifts for kids can feel like a treasure hunt without a map through store aisles and websites packed for the holidays. But to be alert for clues may not be as difficult as it looks.
Has the young recipient ever offered you one of his homemade cupcakes? Have you seen her tear around on a little ride-on bike? Is the living room often strewn with building bricks or stacking blocks?
Casual buyers looking for presents for children they don't know well need only focus on general interests. Mom and dad will likely take on the "it" gift of the season, or farm it out to grandma, leaving lots of room for other shoppers, whether the giftee is a builder, baker or bookish.
If that sounds too complicated, reach for the classics -- in books, apparel or toys. A sweater with room for size variation, or mittens or hats, for example. Try toys in wood, including eco-friendly bamboo.
Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Wall decor may not feel terribly gifty, but Wallcandyarts.com has chalkboard decals in the shapes of elephants, apples and circles that would please lots of kids. Room organizers that play into a favorite theme can also be fun.
And there's nothing wrong with asking your giftee's parents for a suggestion.
Parents do appreciate it when you ask what might make a nice gift. They want to make sure you're not getting something that maybe somebody else is also getting. It's a lot to return a toy.
A few suggestions by interest:
HARRY POTTER KIDS
Wands: What might the young fan not already have? A beautiful, nearly $40 replica of his favorite character's wand, perhaps. The HP area of the Warner Bros. site has a nice selection of collectible wands complete with fancy boxes straight from the Ollivanders shop. Warning: While fun to hold, they're true collectibles and could break if treated roughly.
Harry Potter Legos: HP sets abound. Reach for the Knight Bus. The purple triple-Decker bus set just out over the summer includes three mini-figures, of Harry, Stan Shunpike and Ernie Prang, along with Harry's owl Hedwig. It can be rebuilt as a regular bus and kids likely won't grumble at having more than one. From Lego.
T-shirts: Chances of you buying a different one than your young HP fanatic already has are in your favor. Look around for quality and sales. A call to mom or dad for the child's favorite house at Hogwarts will help you drill down to just the right crest, robe or scarf, and lead to more token HP-by-house gifts like key chains, magnets and writing journals.
Again, linking LEGO with Harry Potter can be a winning bet. You can go for building sets like Lego Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle or Lego Harry Potter Diagon Alley, complete, with tons of pieces and figurines. Or if you’re in a budget, just buy a set of figurines, they’re never too much too complement those already included with the building sets.
(first published in CBS news)