|Let's talk toys for a second, shall we?|
Christmas is a fun time for your five year old boy. Boys this age are usually getting started in sports, so there's all sorts of sports related things he wants. Maybe he wants his first baseball glove, or maybe he wants a basketball. Reading is also starting to become a thing at that age.
Boys this age also are into all sorts of vehicles and action figures. Legos, trucks, dinosaurs, things that shoot any sort of projectile are good. Anything that zooms, crashes, or has some sort of appeal to the prehistoric reptilian brain we men have - you're good.
Accordingly, as a parent of a five year old boy, I've got some rules for you. I'm not going to address safety, because I'm starting with the assumption that no one is getting a five year old an actual sword, knife, gun, or motorcycle. So there.
In reality, if you have a five year old, you probably are hoping for a toy that your son will love so much, he'll take it into his room (or outside) and play with for hours...possibly without you. I can remember playing with legos in my room for hours, building castles, spaceships (lots of spaceships) and all sorts of other things without once asking my dad to come help me. And I think my dad was cool with that. In fact, he probably enjoyed having me spend a little time on my own using my imagination, rather than having him build lots of things for me.
Rule No. 1: Thou shall get your boy something that he can play with on his own, or at the least, with your preferred level of parental assistance. For instance, if you're thinking about legos, pay attention to the age range! Don't get your five year old a lego set that is for ages 9-13 and expect to have him assemble it like a mini-McGuyver. You're going to need to be in there...pretty much constantly. And you may have to basically do it for him.
Remember, five year old boys are still developing their fine motor skills, and manipulating those little pieces can be difficult. Getting him something that has an axle and a wishbone suspension isn't a good idea. So, legos are great, but just be aware of the age range and be aware of how much you want to be involved.
Transformers are another area that might need parental involvement during play time. Our son loves Transformers. Up until now, he's had these kind of Transformers that go from vehicle mode to robot move in one move. This is great because the coolest thing about Transformers is that they Transform super-fast in the shows. For instance, in the cartoons Optimus Prime jumps up, and transforms in the air before he hits the ground. Accordingly, our son can take him all over and transform him on his own, have all sorts of imaginary Transformer adventures on his own, and really get into it without coming to me for assistance at all.
If you give him a Transformer that is too complicated and takes too many moves, it's like handing your kid a Rubik's Cube and telling him to have fun. Guess what? He's going to hand it back to you and ask you to do it after he gets frustrated. So again, keep in mind your child's limitations and how much you want to be involved with the toy. It's easy to get frustrated when you're five.
Caveat: Now, this rule is balanced with how much you want to challenge your child, how much you may or may not mind helping out, and how much you may or may not want your child to play independently. So I'm not saying don't get legos or transformers, I'm just saying you may need to manage your child's expectations. Our son actually got a pretty complicated Transformer recently, and it turned out great. He loves it even though he can't transform it on his own. He's so into Transformers, it doesn't matter that he has to take it to me to go from one mode to the other. He also doesn't change it from mode-to-mode every five minutes.
This brings me to Rule No. 2: Thou shall not get your five year old son overly fragile toys. Everyone remember the wisdom of the Old Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit?
'When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.''It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
Your five year old boy is a tornado. He's full of energy: playing, running, jumping, and karate-chopping his way through life. Don't get him a delicate collector's edition Hess Truck that you're going to fuss at him for getting sand and grit in the wheels. Probably don't get him anything that you want to be a "collector's item" if you want him to actually play with it.
Don't get him anything that has multiple pieces to be a complete set, where you're going to get upset if one piece gets lost. (Because one piece will certainly get lost.) Don't get him some super expensive telescope, because he'll probably end up using it as a light saber when you're not looking.
You know what's super durable? Those big steel Tonka trucks. Those things are bomb-proof, which is about the same as being kid-proof. They don't have motor that's going to break, they aren't electronic, so no worries about water, and they won't crack like cheap plastic. Try to find older ones that are almost all metal, if you can.
Some of our boy's favorite gifts are things that are virtually impossible to break. I know this because they've "flown" off of the top of the clubhouse, been stepped on, gotten wet in the bathtub, been slammed in a door, been muddy, and been slept with.Go with something tough. The worst thing is having a toy that breaks on Christmas Morning.
Caveat: This doesn't mean the concept of respecting your toys goes out the window. You should still teach your child not to leave toys out in the yard overnight, not to intentionally try to break toys, or otherwise be disrespectful of toys. It's just that life happens.
Rule No. 3: Books are never a bad idea. Yes, I know that books aren't durable Tonka Trucks, but you also want to balance out some of that running around with the time when he's going to be in bed looking at books. Five is prime time for learning to read, and books open up a wonderful world of reading that will lead to infinite adventures for you boy. Even if your five year old isn't reading, if you get him a book on dinosaurs with lots of pictures, I promise you he will sit down and look at it.
Rule No. 4: Not everything has to be an amazing, whiz-bang, super-toy. Pay attention to the stuff your kid is interested in. Yes, television commercials will be showing remote controlled dinosaurs that light up and shoot laser beams and stuff, but kids are really not that complicated. Also, they want to be just like their dads, so getting your boy stuff that is "like dad's" is always a safe bet.
If you're a handy guy, getting your son a real tape measure that is "just like dad's" is huge. If you're a sporty dad, getting your son a jersey of the team you like is an easy winner, because he wants to cheer for whoever is "your" team. Whatever you're into, he's probably interested in it, because five year olds are big into being "just like dad". For instance, one Christmas we got our son some pants that matched mine and he thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Rule No. 5: Finally, thou shalt have your boy remember to be grateful for all gifts. Yes, children build up huge expectations for Christmas gifts. It's just how things are. Christmas Morning is a huge day, so make sure your boy keeps things in perspective. Remind him that everyone should be grateful for everything they get and that acquiring things is not the point. This is a life-long goal, because eventually your five year old is going to be thirty-five. You want to raise a young man with a true spirit of thankfulness and gratitude.
With that, I'll throw it open, what else do people think about when buying gifts for kids?