Christmas Gift Ideas for Boys
Does Christmas shopping have to be a burden or puzzle? Not necessarily. If you have good ideas, and the right attitude, you too can survive the annual shopping flurry.
A few principles we’ve adopted over the years help manage the gift budget for our family. First, having multiple sons (six in our case) introduces economies of scale. We taught our sons to share most of their gifts from the beginning, so they don’t blink at ‘presents for the family’. It also means they don’t expect a large pile under the tree for each person. We also believe that a new/old gift – old books, a toy handed down, a family keepsake – may have greater value than a brand new item. Practical gifts can be a lot of fun, too; underwear is still underwear, but things that encourage them to grow up a little, like real tools of their own, can both entertain and teach.
So here are some of the gift ideas we’ve found useful for our boys:
Constructive Things – LEGOs immediately come to mind. After two decades collecting them, if we don’t have ten thousand pieces of LEGO ware, then we’ve got twenty thousand. You may need to shop around if you don’t want to buy into the licensed character sets, though you can reinterpret them, too. We changed the “Indiana Jones” narrative into a paleontology expedition, for example. Likewise, we have no trouble chucking out one or two problematic pieces from an otherwise great set – just be neat with the package! For preschoolers, LEGO has the DUPLO junior line, too.
Fischertechnik is a great line for older boys. It was originally designed for engineering simulations, but the technicians found their kids liked playing with them, too. Now they’re packaged for building all kinds of models, some with motors, sensors, and controls, others for historical models or workable toys. The pieces don’t fall apart by themselves during active play like LEGO tends to, either. Oh, and why not spend a few more dollars and purchase plastic storage bins for them?
What if you just can’t afford new sets? We’ve suggested to our less-solvent sons that hunting through the closets and bins, finding the misplaced pieces, then repackaging them in a bin with the directions (we keep all directions in one file drawer) would be a great gift for their younger brothers. You could do the same thing with bins of outgrown toys from a friend’s house or “freecycle”.
Do you remember model kits, plastic cement and tiny jars of paint from your youth? They’re still available, and your son might enjoy building one with Dad (who might enjoy it, too). Kits are available for a few dollars on up, and many of the toxic chemicals in glue and paint have alternatives or have been phased out.
Imaginative Things – Boys like to collect realistic gear to suit up as knights, soldiers, ranch hands or explorers. Sometimes this can double as useful clothing items (a western-style winter coat, for example, or an Army surplus field jacket). Our fellows have had fun with a stack of inexpensive cowboy hats we bought by the dozen from an importing company specializing in party favors.
Speaking of Army surplus, many towns have one of these dream emporiums available. You’ll want to chaperone any visits by younger boys because sometimes the other merchandise is, well, edgy, but we’ve never met a boy who wasn’t thrilled to shop for canteens, web belts, compasses and folding shovels. A little investment can go a long way here.
For pretend-world-play indoors, we prefer Playmobil when we can afford it; it’s built so well the castles and ships we bought when our grown-up son was a toddler still look like new. A more affordable option, though more limited, is the GeoTrax system of toy trains. It’s great to have things you can add to over the years – it simplifies shopping for grandparents, too.
Useful Things – Boys appreciate having their own tools. Maybe they can’t handle Dad’s 16-ounce framing hammer, but they work fine with a smaller, lighter tool. Take a look at what is most useful for your family; construction tools might be awkward around an apartment, but standard maintenance tools like a tack hammer, pliers and screwdrivers are practical everywhere. Cull lumber from the lumberyard can give him an inexpensive way to try his skills. A technically-inclined son might enjoy his own precision screwdrivers or drafting instruments. One of our boys wants tools to get a lawn business going — new, old, from yard sales, he doesn’t care! Another son recently suggested that his brothers find free classical sheet music online, print it out and make him a notebook to play the piano from. It’s practically free, but a big time savings for him. All of our sons have been thrilled with gifts like a briefcase and power tools as they become teens.
Boys want to do real things. They want to be men!
Ballistic Things – Should boys be allowed to play with toy guns? We think so, for several reasons, but we do forbid them to ‘shoot’ their family members or friends, or to play out activities that would be sinful in reality. There are only cops visible in our yard, the robbers are imaginary. In our family we do use toy weapons to teach firearm safety, otherwise, they are the props the boys use pretending they are pioneers, soldiers, policemen, and hunters — all God-honoring roles.
Toy swords take some supervision — they can really raise a welt, whereas a cap pistol at ten paces is just a noise. Bows and arrows, or slingshots, are truly weapon material and need to be handled with care, but can be great fun. Our sons particularly love their three man slingshots for hurling pine cones and snowballs.
We have always lived near other homes and in subdivisions so real guns, even air rifles, require an excursion to use safely (and legally!). We teach our sons how to handle firearms and to shoot safely, but not as frequently as we would if we had more land. Teenagers are fully capable of owning and caring for firearms, though; the National Rifle Association and 4-H offer classes in hunter safety, target shooting, and competitive sport shooting, if you are looking for more opportunities in this area.
Don’t forget ballistic rockets! Our boys have always loved model rockets. Of course, what boy wouldn’t like something that goes boom and flies away?
Books and Games – Used book stores and library book sales can be a source of inexpensive pleasure for your young men. Old series books like The Childhood of Famous Americans, G.A.Henty, and the Landmark Books are full of excitement and entertainment, but also history! We also love audio books – what a great thing to take in the van on a long ride.
Games that the family can play together are a hit here, too. We love games everyone can play like Pit, but also harder games like Mille Bornes and Clue – we just team a younger child with an older one. The younger children mostly want to roll the dice and move the ‘man’, while the older boys get into the strategy; as a team they can all play together. Games like Catch Phrase that can be played in a crowd are great when other families visit.
Active Things – The old standbys, balls and bicycles, are always good for gifts. One family recently told us they bought used bicycles, sanded them down and gave them in pieces to their boys with paint in their stockings. They had many hours of fun putting their ‘new’ bikes together and customizing them with their dad.
Video Games – Top on the list for many boys are video and computer games, but we think they should be last on most lists. We do allow our boys to play video games and game systems, but for the most part we keep them at grandmother’s house for an occasional or weekend treat. Why? Most boys love exciting, action-packed games the most and those games fill a boy’s system with adrenaline, then leave him with no way to be active. We find that boys who spend a lot of time playing video games tend to get cranky and irritable with the rest of the family. They’re all charged up with no place to go! The exciting inaction just doesn’t work out too well for us. We do like computer-based games that have some historical or practical premise, like Age of Empires or Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. They are time consuming to learn, though, and isolate both the player and the computer from the rest of the family.
As we get past the idea that our boys need the latest hot toy and think about what will not only give them pleasure, but develop their skills, their imaginations, their minds, souls, and bodies, we’ve found that gift giving has become a lot more fun for all of us!
Hal and Melanie Young are the authors of Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys, an acclaimed new release from Great Waters Press.
“…this book is a breath of fresh air…” – Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart.
Reprinted from The Homeschooler’s Notebook
Look closely at the picture – it’s a boy with a yo-yo! Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, ca. 440 BC. Photo by Bibi Saint-Pol. Wiki Commons