Gifts for Guys to Buy

Some people are just not cut out to cruise the Barbie aisles. Luckily there are alternatives and you were probably going there anyway. There are fine educational toys to be found at the hardware store, sporting goods store, auto parts store, and even grocery stores, but people usually go there with a mission and forget to browse.

Well, I should correct what I said above. They're not toys. A real tape measure, a length of cotton rope, a disposable flashlight, a plastic wide-angle (fish-eye) lens or convex “spot” mirror—you can't even GET these things at toy stores or educational supply houses.

Here's the warning: If you're not sure what's “age appropriate,” you might possibly get something that's too difficult to manipulate or technically unsafe.

Here's the reminder: Lots of those age recommendations are based on frustration levels and what's “appropriate” in school-year terms. When you're buying for a child you know well, you don't need to live by those manufacturer's recommendations. For a child whose skills and surroundings are less familiar to you, avoid sharp, heavy, and small-enough-to-swallow.

If you want to introduce the concept of “simple tools,” you could get a poster and some little models, or you could go buy a big nut and bolt, a claw hammer and some nails (nail removal is a great leverage lesson) . . . well, you get the idea.

Storage ideas for kids:

tool boxes
tackle boxes
parts drawers
canvas buckets
     (designed for tools
     but could be used for sports equipment)

Kids could use these things for art supplies, Lego, Barbie accessories, little cars, miniature action figures, rock collections—who knows what?

And “who knows what” is a good motto for shopping in odd places. If you go looking for a tool box that doubles as a step stool and seat, you might not find that. If you go looking for something neat the kid in your life would love, you could easily find the PERFECT gift but it might not be something you’d ever considered buying as a gift for a child. Indoor/Outdoor thermometers. Wrenches and a bike repair book. Big nuts and bolts and the wrench to match them. Plastic magnifying sheets from office supply stores. A long-reach stapler to make booklets.

There are some great commercial toys, but there are some that so many other kids also have that they become background. If you think back to your own childhood, there were probably a couple of special possessions you still remember or still have. Be flexible and open in your search for gifts, and consider combining several things into one “kit” or “gift basket.” A magnifying glass and a compartmented box could be a rock or bug collecting kit. A flashlight, mirror and some colored lens covers could be an optical physics kit. I can’t predict what you’ll find that kids might love, but I can predict that if you forget to consider “non standard” sources for children’s gifts they’ll miss out on some memorable treasures!

Enchanted Families, December/January 1998

Later additions:

Note on the lyrics that someone left at YouTube: "Juice shower rods!? He said shower rods and water meters. 2:26"

Wishlists for Unschoolers Strewing Parenting Topics