child opening christmas giftEvery year around this time, there are a few people on your list you struggle to find the perfect gift for. You have the “Person you can never find a gift for because they just buy everything they need” (hi Matt’s dad), the “Person who should be given a line of clothes and mugs that say “I don’t know, just get me anything” because that’s exactly what they say every year, and then, of course, there’s the challenge of gifts for kids.

Kids are simultaneously the easiest and hardest ones to buy for. They’re endlessly appreciative, while being brutally honest. Many of them don’t have it in them to fake sincerity, and I suspect it’s partially because they don’t know that stores have return policies.

So then, it’s pretty important that you begin to shop for the perfect gift for that special child in your life. Here are a few tips so you do your part and don’t help create a new generation of Rachel Greens who end up returning gifts to the store days later.

Child holding holiday gift

How old is the child?

One of the most important things to consider is the age of the child. As much as my 4 year old likes LEGO, and as much as we want to steer her into Harry Potter, there’s no way that she’s going to be able to put together that really cool looking Great Hall set (shown below).

As a parent (as much as for the child), receiving an age appropriate gift is really meaningful. One of the biggest disappointments I’ve seen on my daughter’s face is getting a gift she really likes but can’t do anything with because she isn’t old enough for it, and so it gets stashed, only to potentially be forgotten. Honestly, I found stashed away toys this year that she was given at age 1-2 and had nearly outgrown. It’s just a fact of life when 3 more birthdays and 3 more Holiday seasons have gone by since then.

One of the things I remember asking relatives for is video games, and I’m sure a lot of the kids you’re buying for will too. I was a part of the 8-bit / 16-bit generation throughout grade school, and to be honest with you, I don’t remember there being many sketchy games out there back then. Grade 5 or 6 was around the time the ratings system came out as well, but it didn’t stop me from asking my parents for the first Mortal Kombat. Still, the Game Boy version of Mortal Kombat (which was more watered down than Grade 6 sports day orangeade) pales in comparison to most of today’s Mature rated games. Make sure to just do a bit of research into whether the title’s actually appropriate for whomever you’re buying it for.

The new LEGO Harry Potter Great Hall

Get more info from people around you

If you’re really looking for that perfect gift, you might want to try and scour some information from those around you that know the child you’re buying for the best. If you’re buying for a cousin, or a niece or nephew, their parents might be able to give you a good read. If you’re buying a gift for your child’s best friend, there may be no better judge than your child since they spend so much time around them every day.

It’s important though not to let go of some of the really obvious clues that you might be given. Last year around this time, Best Buy asked me to review the rebooted Teddy Ruxpin. My daughter loved it so much that she asked Santa for it and nearly a full year after the jolly one delivered, she is still flipping him on every couple of weeks to listen to his stories.

Teddy Ruxpin and Char Asleep
My (then) 3 year old slumbering with Teddy Ruxpin after a bedtime story

What are the current trends out there?

I hate to say that some 22 years after the great Tickle Me Elmo debacle of 1996, annual fads are still a thing, and kids are still buying into them. I still remember how badly I was chasing Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, and Hasbro WWF figures, and I’m sure a lot of you reading this remember the fads your parents had to endure.

hottest toys of 2018 fingerlings HUGS
One of this year’s hot toys: Fingerlings HUGS Monkey

It really helps to know what’s trending out there in the general age group of the child you’re buying for. Some will be easier to figure out than others. Spending 5 minutes on the playground with my daughter and her friends basically tells me everything I need to know, but they’re 4 and just want to run around pretending that they’re whichever group of characters or superheroes are causing all the junior kindergarten ruckus nowadays.

I admit, finding the trends is probably a bit harder now that a lot of us have cut cable and don’t see as many commercials between TV shows, but they’re still out there, and if you don’t know them off hand, chances are some of the other parents around you will. Just be sure that you also remind grandma and grandpa that if your child asks them for “Fortnite,” they’re not asking their grandparents for a period of two weeks.

What does the child enjoy doing?

If you really want your gift to enter the “Best gift ever” Hall of Fame, dial into the child’s current (and near future) interests. My aunt probably isn’t reading this, but I still remember that she gave me a pair of inline skates for Christmas 1991. I didn’t know how much I wanted or needed inline skates at the time, but she knew how much I played hockey outside, and come street hockey season 1992, they were the best things ever.

This is a really good opportunity to try to encourage some of the other hobbies they’ve recently shown interest in too, whether it’s STEM, magic, board games, or something else. I’d honestly say that STEM kits (especially those that teach kids about basic robotics) are ridiculously underrated. I don’t know of a single kid that isn’t fascinated by robots in some form or fashion and wouldn’t marvel at the idea of putting something together themselves or playing with something out of the box like Anki’s Vector or Cozmo bots.

On that note, a personal shout-out to that same previously mentioned aunt that got me a Magic Set one holiday because she heard I was interested in it. That got me through my childhood magic phase and helped me realize I’d be a terrible magician.

Little girl opening a magical Christmas gift
Picking the perfect gift can be both fun and fulfilling. Whether it’s the annual fads, something longer lasting, or something that kickstarts new ideas and opportunities, chances are that one surefire pick that will make you the coolest gifter ever is waiting for you at your local Best Buy or online at

To the many of us out there looking for the perfect gift for kids this holiday season, are there any other tips that I may have forgotten that we should keep in mind?

Matt Paligaru
Emerging Technology
A technology nut at heart, I'm always interested in what makes our lives easier and helps us tick day to day. Whether Home Automation, toys, games (board and video) or everything in between, I'm always looking around the corner to see what drives us in today's day and age.