Big holiday gifts are all well and good, but it's always fun to have a few little extras to surprise and delight your child, whether something to stuff in a stocking or a few more boxes to scatter beneath the tree. Save your imagination and your pocketbook with these six ideas for fun and festive extras. Many can be thrown together at the last minute, should you find yourself in need of emergency presents.
1. Items of Obsession
If your child is obsessed with certain items, and you're satisfied that the hoarding of said random objects is not a problem, create a Christmas treat by gifting your child a bunch of those treasured odds and ends. Put a season's worth of shopping bags in a box for a kid who digs them. Fill a gift bag with miscellaneous receipts. Stuff a stocking with free car magazines from the supermarket. String a bunch of old keys on a keyring. You know what your kid loves. Make a little magic. (But don't be disappointed if this is a bigger hit than that big expensive toy you blew the budget on.)
2. iTunes Gift Card
Use my instructions for setting up an account with a gift card, and some iTunes plastic (or a paper certificate printed from your computer, for last-minute gifters) can give your child the experience of personally shopping and paying for beloved tunes, TV shows, or apps -- and working within a budget. If your child's not ready to shop the iTunes store in person, use the store's gift-giving feature to print out a certificate for an app or an iBook and make a present out of that.
3. Printable Coupons
Sometimes the best present is a promise -- of extra computer time, say, or less time in time-out. I've made a set of coupons you can print and give as a special little bonus for your child, but if they don't suit your child or family, use the idea to customize your own. Or try the coupons from these About.com sites for more to give or inspire you:
Fatherhood (coupons for teen girls and teen boys
4. Do-It-Yourself Sensory Items
Use my guide to do-it-yourself sensory tools and toys to throw together some items that will delight your child and also continue work being done in therapy. It can be as simple as a funny whistle and a bottle of bubble soap, as potentially messy as a bin of rice with some small toys at the bottom, as crafty as a weighted stuffed animal, as personal as a favorite type of fidget item. Give a couple of items or put a bunch in a box for a sensory kit. Well, you'll know it's a sensory kit. Your child will just think it's fun.
It may be a way to give your child a gift with posters of a favorite character or hobby, or a way to start training your child to keep track of assignments or activities, or a way to mark the passing of days, or just a fun little joke- or puzzle- or photo-a-day routine to share together. Whatever the purpose, calendars are easy to find in stores and generally present a large variety of choices. If your child loves looking at photos of friends and family, you might also consider putting together a customized calendar -- most photo-processing places will print these up from digital photos you've uploaded and laid out. If you hit on a kind of calendar your child likes, you'll have an automatic gift choice for Christmases to come as well.
Okay, so it's going to be hard to wrap yourself, and hiding in a big plastic bag under the tree would probably be a bad idea. But your time -- your enthusiastic, focused, uninterrupted time -- is just about the best gift you can give your child. Consider "buying" that time by putting toys together the night before, readying games to be played, releasing playthings from their plastic prisons, preparing food in advance, and otherwise freeing yourself to be available for playtime. Your child will love to have you, and also maybe be relieved by the lack of instruction-cursing, packaging-pummeling, free-floating holiday hysteria.