How to Live With, Be Around and Give Gifts to Kids: Holiday Season Special



You’ve made it. Everyone is one piece and probably delirious. DON’T YOU LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR.

If you’re the parent, I don’t know what to tell you about surviving the actual holiday events. Good luck and remember, you’re not alone. Millions have come before you and millions will follow. Stay strong. I believe in you.

But for those of you who are NOT parents, here’s my advice on making your festive interactions with tiny humans the most enjoyable experiences they could possibly be.


Because you’re childless, it’s your duty to periodically entertain the children in your immediate vicinity. It’s just the nice thing to do and, let’s face it, the kids are probably the most interesting people in the house.

You should arm yourself with candy and gum, too. Almost all small people can be distracted from questionable behavior/adventures with a stick of gum. This really only applies to a specific age range from about 3 – 9 years old but, as a wise 7th grade math teacher once said, do not underestimate what a 12 year-old will do for a Lifesaver.


Sometimes young people need gifts, and occasionally those gifts must come from us. It’s just the way the world works. It’s customary for children to make wish lists (ahem), theoretically making things ‘easier’ for you, the gifter. But um, Christmakwanzakkuh isn’t a Burger King drive-thru. I don’t necessarily want to give them what they want; I want to give them what I think they’d like or what reminds me of them. I’m very selfish this way. Also, w/r/t children, I very often have ulterior motives and will be doing my best to influence these tiny brains to become someone more like me, or at least someone I could be friends with down the road, which is roughly the same thing.

So! It’s with this open-minded, selfless love that I’ve compiled a list of things I think you should give to the small people in your life. You’ll probably agree with me and then we’ll go get drinks. But first you have to make sure you’re ready for the onslaught of tiny/mid-sized humans hyped up on gingerbread and covered in wrapping paper.

You Will Need:

1. pocket knife/box cutter
Every damn thing is blister wrapped and taped up from here to next Sunday. You could use scissors, I guess, but a pocket knife will really reaffirm your gayness for any relative who might still be in denial.

2. batteries
You may not need them, that’s true, but I bet you will. If you really want to amaze people, be the one who just happens to have a 9v.

3. small screwdrivers
Both heads!

4. ziploc bag
For the extra parts, accessories and operating instructions. The number one excuse parents use for not letting their kids open toys at other people’s houses is “you’ll lose something!” Oh but look, you have this handy zippery bag for all the things. Now every young beast agrees that you are The Best Adult.

Things You Can Give to People Younger Than You

LEGOS. I would stay away from themed or licensed sets. Themeless sets offer more room for creativity. If you really want to be a hero, buy an accompanying storage bin with a fucking lid and give it to the parents later. Few things suck more than your child being given MORE toys and yet nowhere to put them.

Books About Legos:

+ The LEGO Ideas Book
+ The Cult of LEGO
+ The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide
+ The LEGO Book

This Melissa & Doug 60-pc Wooden Blocks Set is one of those toys that kids will play with until they’re um, forever. They will play with these forever. Again, I implore you to include a storage bin. No one will ever be able to get these bastards back into the box they came in.

Kids make the best movies. Hands down, no exaggeration. You can prove this buy giving them a Flip MinoHD or Kodak PlaySport.

I can’t personally speak to the pros/cons of Anime Studio 8, but for an early illustrator with access to a computer, this might be neat.

Even though I’m still stuck on turn 35 of the Original Perplexus, the Perplexus Epic looks amazing and everyone loves these spheres of timeless frustration. Story Cubes and Story Cubes: Actions provide creative writing prompts, possibly in game-form? This seems almost better than Scattegories, which also makes a good gift.

Obviously you should always give kids books! My favorites are Wreck This Journal, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, anything by Mo Willems (but especially the Pigeon books), everything by Shel Silverstein, and for the slightly older humans, Fahrenheit 451 and obviously, The Hunger Games. If you want to take the graphic novel route, look for Flight Vol 1-8, the Amulet series and Herobear and the Kid

The Plasma Car is a necessity. End of story. There’s also the Plasma Bike, which teaches the baybays how to balance so they’ll be ready for real bikes one day.

Lalaloopsy? Yes. This seems dumb to include, but they’re so fucking cute and if you have to buy a gift for a girl who likes dolls, you may as well get her one with black button eyes!

For Kids Whose Parents You’re Not Very Fond Of

2. SILLY PUTTY: This will always get stuck in something later, but it’s cool because they’re not your kids so it won’t be your stuff.
3. WATERCOLORS / FINGER PAINTS: Ughhhhh watercolors and finger paints are SUCH a hassle to set up. Between the newspaper, the smocks, the cups of water that you hope they won’t knock over, the sticky fingers, the towels, the PAPER and then it has to dryyyy waaaah. You see where this is going.

And now you deserve a drink. What did you always want that you never received? How do you feel about Lincoln Logs? What will you be giving your young humans this year? Does the license plate game ever get old? Favorite holiday tradition?

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L has written 310 articles for us.


  1. I NEVER RECEIVED THE 64 BOX OF CRAYOLA CRAYONS. Granted I did get the Barbie Dream Boat that came in with a built-in battery operated blender. But seriously, where were the crayons?

    Also ever since Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, I can’t handle button eyes.

  2. I always wanted one of those little electric camo-covered cars… I would have even settled for the Barbie-themed one. DAMNIT, I JUST WANTED TO DRIVE A CAR. It never happened. :(

    My little sister got one within like five minutes of being born, though. Totally not bitter.

  3. Laneia I feel like I have seen very little of you on various internet locations lately and that has been making me very extremely sad. So this post made me extra happy because a) it is you and b) I like when you talk about little humans.

    Remember that time you were on internet vacation for like two weeks? Man, I missed you then almost as badly as I missed you this time. Please don’t ever leave, I’ll bribe you with whiskey.

    There is a very nice Makers Mark holiday gift set at Albertsons right now.

    • I too love you, Laneia, and would also contribute to whiskey if you tried to leave us.

      I’m getting kids books because I work at Barnes and Noble, and who doesn’t want their kids to have books! But I’m also hoping to find amazing board games. We have a big board game section but it’s very overwhelming, so I’d love suggestions. The family I’m looking to buy for particularly enjoyed Clue last time I heard, about 18mos ago, and the kids are 11 (girly girl) and 13 (hands-on, practical boy). Ideas, anyone?

      For another family, I plan to buy this: for the girl, and for the boy, some of the soldiers from Toy Story. Suggestions also welcome as replacement for soldiers, but it’s all I’ve seen this kid play with. That and lego but he has the huge crate already.

      Huge thanks to anyone who can help!

      • biensurmacherie: BANANAGRAMS! omg. also dominoes are good for a wide age range bc it’s all about counting/colors.

        for the soldier replacements, you could buy blind boxed (er, wrapped) lego minifigures? actually, blind boxed vinyl toys are a good option, too, but maybe that’s just for a certain kind of child — like the nerdy kind. like mine.

    • rachel! <3 i do remember that vacation! you don’t even have to bribe me with whiskey — i am here forever ever. my mom bought a gift set of knob creek when she was here for thanksgiving and it came with COASTERS. i feel like i’m on mad men.

      • Forever ever sounds great to me thank you.

        The Makers set has two glasses with red wax on the bottom just like the top of the bottle does. They’re so neat! I’m excited about it like small people get excited about exciting small people things. I’ll bring my wax Makers glasses to set on your Knob Creek coasters? We can smoke candy cigarettes and then it’ll really be liked Mad Men!

    • YESSSS when I was almost 16 (18 now, not that long ago) I was playing with one in Target and my sister took a picture of me and I sent it to my mom and told her I didn’t want a real car for my birthday*, I wanted that.

      *moot point, I didn’t get my license for another two years after that, and also no way would my parents buy me a car, but you know. it’s a trope.

  4. I love this when we were small we had to spend 4hrs in a car to visit relatives.. (probably not long compared to journeys in america but really long here) so around christmas time our parent distracted us by getting us to count christmas trees in house windows along the road side.. and if our concentration on this was broken and the words ‘im boooooored’ were uttered my mother went with ‘wow look at that huge horse’ and we’d then be distracted looking for the big horse… recently i made this journey with a little person i was minding and yes i did use both of these tactics its amazing how good a kid can be in a car for 4hrs with the simplest distraction…

  5. THE PIGEON BOOKS ARE SO GREAT. The capslock is necessary. They are that great.

    My friends’ older tiny human is getting this book: and their younger tiny human is getting this one: I’m planning on getting them each something small to go along with the books, but I have no idea what.

  6. Is it strange that I want both of those suitcases? I’m 25 and normal luggage is boring/expensive/not covered in aliens.

    Also, Legos are fantastic, but do they still make those things called Erector sets? My cousin had a bunch of those when we were little and I still can’t even. Worst/best name ever.

  7. thank you. i love this. i am the adult cousin that organizes games of hide n seek, reads bed time stories and offers to go for a walk with the one little cousin who is flipping their shit over >insert child tantrum motive here<

    but i never give gifts cuz i think it's too much cuz all of the little cousins gets mountains of sh*t like wayyyy tooooo muchhhhh shhhhiiiiiiittttttttttt haha

    however, there is a cute well-behaved boy child in my family that just might be getting the plasma car and he has you to thank.

  8. true story: i love the noisy toys. drums, keyboards, singing books, whatever. but, no matter how many times i ask my tiny 3 year old human what she wants for christmas, she always answers “a bird house”. what the fuck does she know about a bird house? where did she become aware of their existence? she’s getting the elmo drum kit anyway. and, i guess a bird house.
    also, she asked me the same question so many times earlier tonight that i offered her a popsicle post-bath just so i didn’t have to hear that question again.

    • Their website says 3+, but if you’re okay with him scooting it at first, rather than realising its full potential, I think he’d be okay. Also, if I were his parent I’d really appreciate a gift that he could grow up with and find new ways to play with, you know? I think that’s a valuable quality.

  9. This is so great. I love buying Christmas gifts so much and especially buying Christmas gifts for babies, but everyone in my family has become a boring adult now so I guess I have to wait until whenever they start having babies. Also, this — “I don’t necessarily want to give them what they want; I want to give them what I think they’d like or what reminds me of them.” — is absolutely my gift-giving philosophy. Giving gifts is like an extra nice form of communication or art! It totally takes the fun out of it to turn it into just some transaction, its terms agreed upon.

  10. To pass the time in cars I always look at the clock, find a spot in the far distance(sign,overpass,curve,etc., and try to predict what time it will be once the car reaches that spot. Best way to pass a long trip.

  11. These articles so insanely relevant to my life right now. See: listening to NPR in the car with children, why setting up the painting supplies is awful, and shopping at three different stores looking for the LaLa Loopsy with pink hair and only being able to find one with light purple that’s hopefully close enough to do the trick. Please never stop writing them.

  12. I give art supplies. As the resident art school cousin it’s
    A) Something I have easy access to
    C) Have you ever given a kid a notebook and some crayons/gel pens/colored pencils? Shit keeps them entertained for HOURS.

  13. Last night I befriended a 5 year old little beast in a mall and convinced him of the existence of Santa!! He said he didn’t ask for anything because his dad told him there was no santa, so I pulled the tried and true “but who feeds the reindeer?” :D

  14. “a pocket knife will really reaffirm your gayness for any relative who might still be in denial.”

    this. I am doing this. can autostraddle tell me which one to buy on amazon? cause I feel less guilty buying things then.

  15. I am currently waiting for my little human (niece) to become big enough that I can organize a treasure hunt that involves magically appearing ink pirate map (via lemon juice and fire, look it up!). She is currently too little for me to put such thoughts in her mind because I don’t want her to burn my sister’s house down.

  16. Those of us with kids who are travelling in a tiny car with them for hours to get to our in-laws house really appreciate it when aunts and uncles do things like spend 15 minutes playing with our three year old and holding our baby so we can 1) go pee alone 2)drink a cup of coffee without having to microwave it 75 times or 3) finish a conversation with the wife without 147 interruptions

    Also please avoid loud toys-we won’t forget where they came from and we WILL give them back to you when you procreate.

  17. The shy kid guide is awesome because I was a major shy kid and no one in my family ever, ever, EVER tried to make it easier on me. I have childhood trauma from trips to visit family abroad and having to interact with strange adults in my weaker language AND getting mocked for my efforts by the immediate fam- that majorly sucked for little me. If I ever have a tiny human who takes after me, I will remember this tip and give them a hand. Others, please help out your shy kids; they’re not doing it on purpose and it’s not cute to them.

  18. I loved the role playing dialogue/responses. Hilarious. It made me think of this article that I read awhile back on how to talk to young girls:

    This is relevant to those of us meeting young nieces/cousins/etc for the first time (or who don’t remember us). It’s also good for being introduced to young girls in general. Instead of focusing on the “aren’t you so cute/pretty/adorable” it says to ask the little girl “what book are you reading” or something to promote confidence and interest in a girls mind rather than her appearance.

    “…one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. ”

    Great read!

  19. “for a girl who likes dolls”.. ha, why just girls, my godson would beat out any girl in the enthusiasm department over that doll…he loves Coraline and GroovyGirlz. Too bad the Lalopaloozy model is a bit pricey. Seen anything similar for cheaper?

    • when i said “if you have to buy a gift for a girl who likes dolls,” i was referencing the gender divide that parents can sometimes enforce on their children’s toys. as in, “you can only buy dolls for my daughter.” i assumed that readers would come to the article with the feeling that they would never ‘have to’ buy a gift for a boy who likes dolls, because we’d all actually LOVE to buy dolls for boys, due to our obsession with subverting gender norms etc. i apologize for not making that clearer.

      as for the price, there are mini lalaloopsy dolls that are a little bigger than polly pockets! also there are mid-size dolls. i’m just obsessed with them, i think. i want the treehouse set.

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