If you have a toddler or a pre-teen, it probably seems like there's a birthday party every other weekend… and you are probably right. You go out to the toy store, get a gift, come back… and there's yet another invitation.
I used to find myself spending lots of time scouring shelves looking for just the right gift or for something that I'd bought in the past that seemed like a big hit and was both appropriate and affordable. But I've learned some shopping lessons I'd like to share.
First of all, I no longer purchase one gift at a time. I know that my children have many kids in their class, so I often try to purchase two or three gifts (or more) at once. It saves time, gas, and sometimes money. Here are some tips:
You don't need to purchase a gift the day you receive an invitation. Wait for a day of a big sale and plan to make that big multiple-gift-shopping day.
Look for online coupons.
Don't purchase gifts that are strictly for a boy or strictly for a girl. For a toddler, those giant puzzles are wonderful, as are books. You can purchase several and parse them out as needed for a boy or a girl.
For a child who is approaching 7 or 8 years old, you can buy science kits, cooking kits, or educational toys.
Talk to your local toy store and find out if they will give you a discount if you purchase in quantity. I was able to secure a discount when purchasing several gifts of the same type from a small merchant.
Avoid no-name toys. If a toy doesn't have a manufacturer name and model number, don't bother. If it is later recalled, it may be difficult or impossible to check.
And most important: Remember to keep safety in mind when buying a child's gift of any type.
Always start by checking the age recommendation on the packaging. The age grading relates to safety as well as play value. If a toy is labeled for a child over 3 years old, then it may contain small parts and pieces that are potential choking hazards for a child under 3 years old.
Electric toys must be age-appropriate. Check the package for the minimum age and only buy an electric toy for a child who is mature enough to use it—and only with your supervision.
Check toys for small detachable pieces. Do they have small buttons or eyes that can be removed by a curious 2-year-old? A 3-year-old will prod and twist toys. Look for ones that are well made, with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts—possibly with stitched eyes and pieces rather than removable components.
Beware of no-name products. If a product doesn't have a manufacturer's name and model number, it will be difficult or impossible to check if the product has been recalled.
Toy tools need to be the right size. Toy tools, such as rakes and shovels, should be lightweight and fit in your child's hand. A toy that is too large or too tall can be dangerous for a small child.
Keep crafts safe. For children under 3 years old, purchase age-appropriate material that can't be swallowed—no beads, small foam pieces or small pom-pom balls. Look for water-based washable paints.
Be cautious with play clothes. Look for buttons, beads, tassels, pom-poms, bows, or any other small pieces that could come loose and pose a choking hazard.
If you do stock up on gifts, check that the products you are giving haven't been recalled.