Christmas: Tons of kit, nothing fits

Buying for kids is exciting, and we are as hopeful as them when the parcels are unwrapped at Christmas.

And each year kids’ enthusiasm differs crazily from expectations. They love some gimmicky tat, they ignore massively researched kit, we end up muttering about irritating presents from parents-in-law as we trip over lost parts, or it turns out only the younger sibling wants a shot on that super-expensive item for our oldest. So the oldest gets all protective about an item she doesn’t like. Badly spent money, with jealousy issues thrown in. Classic stuff.

So how can we salvage the mis-match of wishes, proficiency levels, available facilities and actual presents?

A good place to start is assembly. Lots of gifts require a toolbox. I’ve spent the last couple of days reading manuals for scooters on snow runners and for a new (three channel frequency! Hoorah!) remote control helicopter. Initially it was too mild for the snow scooters – now it’s too cold for the helicopter. But even without actual use we’ve spent some happy family time together, learning how batteries work, using allen keys and philips screwdrivers for the first time, with kids rightfully mocking their seniors (“mummy, you say “I assume it goes here” a lot”).

Team Magnus sells gear for all seasons, and parental optimism always cheers us up. In December we ship sledges to Dorset and slip and slides to Inverness. Across the nation parents are crossing their fingers, knowing full well that some kit won’t be in use for weeks, maybe months.  The waiting can be turned into an experience as well. My kids like drawing up lists – how will you pack for that April skiing holiday? What sort of races do you want for your May birthday garden party? Can you draw what you’ll look like when you’re having your first shot on that snowboard?

That leaves that sorry pile of presents which don’t generate any kind of excitement at all. Some uncle has posted something far too complex, or far too simple, or simply the wrong colour. Well this is your son’s chance to shine. Who in his class likes construction toys? Which of his cousins doesn’t have twenty footballs already? Does he have a really close friend who can be entrusted with something special – something too precious for the charity shop but obsolete in your home? Contrary to popular belief I find a lot of kids have a real generous streak. Giving – and thinking about giving – makes kids feel good. And if you have a child who’s more of a hoarder, well, learning to pass up on something you don’t need or want that badly is a social skill.