Nice list: activities, college fund contributions. Naughty list: Noisy toys and toys with a million pieces. Mkay? Thanks.
Humor Parenting

A Guide to Buying Holiday Presents for Your Nieces, Nephews, and Grandkids That Won’t Get You Disowned

Nice list: activities, college fund contributions. Naughty list: Noisy toys and toys with a million pieces. Mkay? Thanks.

By Jackie Semmens of An Anchored Hope

First off, a disclaimer. 

You don’t need to read this list. Whatever you buy your little niece/nephew/grandchild will be vastly preferred and far superior to whatever their actual parent gives them. Your little loved one will appreciate anything you give them, simply because it is from you. The only thing that your sister/brother/child/friend was thinking of when they sent you this list was themselves and their own sanity. Don’t take offense. They just happen to be selfish. 

But should you wish to preserve that relationship this holiday season, here are a few tips for gifts that will make kids and parents smile.

Nice list:

Contributions to 529 plan

This is the only thing parents really want in their Christmas stocking. It’s not only financially prudent, but there is little cleanup involved as well. But we understand that it won’t solidify that coveted spot as favorite uncle, so read on for more suggestions.


Okay, again, that might be more of a gift for the parents than the kids. But trust us here — a night spent with you is as much a treat for our tots as it is a vacation for us. And if you can actually handle our kids for more than a few hours at a time (God bless you), then hopefully it will be fun for you, too.

Bath toys

Those little squirt toys are adorable and beloved but turn into little fountains of toxic mold when you aren’t looking. I’m forever throwing the ones we get from doctor’s offices and dentist visits away when my kids aren’t looking, so we could use a few replacements. Just not ones that will be squirting black sludge in a few weeks. 


Children’s museum membership, sign up for tumbling class, etc. Trust me when we say that they have enough toys. I know, I know, you won’t get to see their eyes light up when they unwrap a membership card. But in a month they will forget who gave them what and the newness of that truck or doll will have worn off anyway. But the excitement of a favorite activity is fresh every week. Doubly so if you take them next time you come into town. (See suggestion: babysitting).


Seriously, we are so sick of reading the same books over and over every night that we might start inventing alternative endings to Goldilocks and the Three Bears that don’t bode well for human wildlife relations. We always appreciate something new in the rotation. And the kids would, too, I suppose.

Naughty list:

Toys that make noise 

Buying anything that makes noise is an easy way to tell your sister, “You were always my least favorite sibling.” Unless that toy drum set you stuck under my tree also comes with Aleve and whiskey for me, I’m going to start questioning our relationship. In all seriousness, things that light up and make noise are fun and flashy for a few minutes, but they don’t provide long-term opportunities for creativity and imagination that plainer ones do. 

Toys with multiple pieces

That toy kitchen with twenty seven pieces including its own toy vegetable spiralizer IS absolutely adorable. But unfortunately, those pieces will be dispersed across the living room within a week, never to return to their rightful home. I’m beginning to think the major cause of back pain in the United States is bending down to pick up toys 350 times a day. While we might forgive things like puzzles that come in their own storage containers, we won’t forget.


If they are under the age of five, I’m taking it and depositing into their 529 account anyway. If they are over the age of five, and you had them a $20 bill while saying, “Tell your mom to take you to the candy store!” let’s just say that offer better come with a lot of free babysitting, too.


I know. You finally think you’ve got this thing figured out. They are quiet, practical, and if they are all the same color, cleanup is a breeze. But come on. I haven’t brainwashed you that much yet, have I? You don’t really want to be the aunt that gives socks for Hanukkah, do you?

Trust us, anything you give them, our kids will love. And honestly, we aren’t trying to ask you to limit Christmas presents just because we stepped on that toy screwdriver from the toolset you gave us last year in the middle of the night. It’s because we see how much our children love you – toys or no toys – and know that nothing is better than the time they spend with you.

But ignore this list at your own peril. If you haven’t had kids yet, anything that you give us is going to boomerang right back to you when you have tykes of your own.

But if yours have already flown the coop, well, then I guess we are just at your mercy. Go easy on us. Please.


About the Author

Jackie Semmens is a writer by nature and a mother by nurture. She has two rambunctious boys and is willing to chase them all over the hills of Montana in an effort to get them to nap. She writes about family, nature, and the experience of motherhood, occasionally with a touch of humor at