The holidays can be a pretty stressful time, especially for us non-parents with nieces and nephews.
We're not around kids all of the time, so how do we know what they like?
What do we get them that will last longer than Christmas day before being tossed into the heaping pile of toys in the corner?
What do we get them that won't put us in hot water with their parents? (Although, that's not really much of a concern for the cool uncle, like myself).
Each year I'm faced with these questions and turn to the parenting blogs that don't have a clue about my situation.
So here are five holiday gifts for kids I have found to be sure-fire ways for you to get in your nieces' and nephews' good graces.
Event Or Show Tickets
I probably had 1,000 toys growing up, and only remember a handful of them.
What I remember most from my childhood were experiences: my first concert (Britney Spears, no shame), my first sporting event (Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech Big East football), my first theater show ("The Lion King" in Toronto).
So when I'm looking for gifts to satisfy the offspring of my siblings, I search for tickets to a show or event that will last in their memories longer than the $30 action figure.
Perk to this gift: You can go, too, so it's kind of a gift to yourself as well.
You've probably heard of wine/beer/liquor of the month clubs, specialty food subscriptions or even BarkBox for dogs.
It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that there are some pretty cool subscription boxes for kids that are fun and typically have some sort of educational aspect attached to help you feel like you're contributing to the kids' development as well.
Plus, this gift is kind of like giving 12 presents in one.
This one might be for slightly older kids who will appreciate the significance of the gesture, but you can still probably pull it off with younger kids if you throw a gift card into the mix.
My uncle set up a trust fund for me when I was 12, and I am forever grateful.
If you're like me and can't afford a standard trust fund with the legal fees and such, there's a cheaper option called a Kiss Trust that allows you to assign the beneficiaries (aka your niece/nephew), when they can take the money out and for what purpose they are allowed to take the money out.
Plant the seed now, reap the benefits later. We're forward thinking here.
Like the show or event, you can also benefit from this gift yourself if you're willing to take on the baggage of caring for kids during a trip. But like I mentioned, experiences last in the memory bank longer, so it could be worth it for the kids' benefit and yours.
If you're feeling especially giving, you can splurge on a trip to a theme park like Disney World or a beach vacation somewhere that will really earn you brownie points with the kiddos.
If you're feeling a little more strapped for cash — let's be honest and realistic — you can take the kids on a day trip or overnight trip to somewhere you liked as a kid or somewhere you know will be cool.
Avoid trying somewhere new. Better to do something with which you're familiar and avoid a potentially boring disaster.
Items That Last Longer Than a Week
Not all toys as gifts are bad.
If you choose wisely and are probably willing to spend a little more, you can likely find something that will be used for the year or longer if you're really good at your job as the cool aunt/uncle.
Some things that I had as a kid that lasted me for years: video game consoles, bicycles, treehouse, sports balls magic sets, card games.
Make sure you have an idea of what the kids likes, or ask the parents.
Don't be the person that goes to the store and asks for the most popular item or goes online to see what's popular. Put in that extra little bit of effort to see what the individual child is interested in before making a purchase and losing cool points, resulting in possible alienation from the rest of the family forever.
Just kidding. That won't happen ... probably.