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Giving each other Christmas gifts

Posted 07 December 2017

The secret to giving perfect Christmas presents!

Christmas is a great opportunity for grandparents to indulge their grandchildren – but what’s the best strategy for making sure their gifts last past Boxing Day? And what are the ideal presents going the other way? In this Love Retirement for LV= article, Tony Watts (@tonywattswriter) talks to grandparents who have discovered the secret to giving perfect Christmas presents.

  • Parents will have an insight into what’s needed
  • It’s possible to find a gift the whole family will love
  • Often it’s enough to ignite a child’s imagination

The key to a great Christmas

Over the years, Caroline and Tony Meaker have bought lots of different Christmas presents for grandchildren Gabriel, Sebastian and baby Sara – including a keyboard that is encouraging the two older ones to take a real interest in making music. But interestingly, it’s often been the stocking fillers that have struck the biggest chord.

‘They also use them to read in bed, make scary faces at Halloween and even adapt them as lightsabres for fights.’


Key to ensuring the gifts will be appreciated, says Caroline, is talking to the parents first.

‘In extended families like ours, there’s a real risk that presents can be duplicated – especially things like children’s books. Also, the parents will tell you what they really need for their children. We often mix practical presents like clothes along with the toys.’

Almost every grandparent will tell you that time spent with the children is the best present of all.

‘They live abroad, so we don’t see them on the day – except on Skype. So when we stay we have a pretend Christmas Day: presents in the morning, Christmas songs playing, crackers and paper hats with dinner, eating chocolates sat on the sofa while watching a seasonal film… all ending with a torch-lit night walk.

‘The last one we spent together was in November – but it’s never too early for a family Christmas, and the memories last all year!’

Train set at christmas time

The family with a one-track mind

Geoff and Chrissie Carter’s three grandchildren – Lily, Charlotte and Alfie – know what to expect each Christmas: more track and rolling stock for their ever-expanding Brio wooden railway.

‘It lives here and comes out every time they come to see us. It now reaches right round the ground floor of the house,’ says Geoff. ‘And we never have the same layout twice.

‘They get other presents as well, but the train set has become a firm favourite. They inherited some track from our children and loved it so much that we’ve just kept going. Chrissie is a keen charity shopper and ‘carbooter’, and she collects it all year round, so it’s not an expensive option.

‘On top of that, our other two children buy each other train kits for Christmas and add it to the collection!’

Twins Lily and Charlotte are coming up to four, with Alfie now two, so Geoff expects the train set to be a family favourite for a few years yet.

‘Alfie also has a Thomas the Tank Engine which doesn’t actually fit on the track, but that doesn’t stop him trying to ram it through the tunnels and under the bridges.

‘It’s a game that fires the imagination and, if I’m honest, we all enjoy playing with it as much as they do.’

And in return?

‘We always get exactly what we want,’ says Geoff. ‘A calendar with their pictures on each month. It’s something you keep and then compare with the next one to see how much they’ve grown.’

Let's play house

Several years ago, Beth and Amin Hamid bought what they describe as a ‘very basic wooden playhouse’ for grandchildren Nasir and Idris.

‘It lives in their garden, and seems to inspire a lot of great role play,’ says Beth. ‘It’s been everything from a shop to an eagle’s nest, and even Darth Vadar’s bedroom. It served as a workshop on one visit after they’d read a book about a rabbit building a go-kart with granddad.

Christmas gingerbread house

‘I must admit, we did buy rather a large one, we got a bit over enthusiastic, but we know it’s going to get played with for years to come and probably become a den where they can hang out.

‘We’ve always tried to buy Christmas presents that will last, and also help get their imagination going. The playhouse has been worth every penny.’

The most prized return gifts for Beth and Amin are pictures the children have drawn and anything they’ve made – all of which proudly go on display. But Beth also appreciates another gift that she can share with her grandchildren through the year.

‘I always ask for bulbs which we plant together and then watch as they come out in spring. It’s two magical moments for the price of one.’

The gifts that make the biggest impression don’t have to be big ticket purchases, and sparking children’s imagination and love of role play will usually mean a present has a longer shelf life than other toys. Finally, surprises are lovely, but consulting with a child’s parents will help make sure you buy something that hits the spot with them too!

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