by Yvonne Gardiner
"WHAT would you like for Christmas?", I ask my grandchildren, expecting a helpful answer. The responses are mixed.
Gift vouchers are the current favourite request from the older ones.
They have very definite views about what they can live with - brand names, advertised products, specific colours, whatever their friends are obsessed with... and there's no doubt they like to shop!
"I don't really need anything," announces the eldest.
That's a refreshing but surprising comment, coming from a teenager, but when goaded he does concede that he might need new clothes and shoes (necessary as he's growing about a foot a month)... and another video game could possibly be squeezed into the extensive collection.
It's obvious that youngsters are heavily influenced as consumers by their peers, and advertisements on TV and in brochures.
What's on the best-seller list for children is usually a good guide to sought-after gifts. Expect these products to sell out early in the lead-up to Christmas.
Tried-and-true favourites include Lego, Smiggles, Monopoly, Disney products, super heroes and Ooshies (if you've got a 10-year-old, you'll know what I'm talking about).
So, talk to your children, find out what they'd like to receive... then don't delay, go out and buy as soon as possible!
In any case, this means you avoid the Christmas rush. Also do some research online to find out the products suitable for the age of the child, and what's trending in the toy department.
So-called creative, educational gifts are a big hit and a worthwhile investment - they keep the kids active and hopefully make them smarter.
Examples include building a dinosaur, embroidering a painting, making a bracelet, putting together a puzzle, drying flowers.... you can help, and make the experience that much better for the child.
Board games like chess, Scrabble and Game of Life lead to interaction and sharing experiences with others, as well as handing out lessons about winning and losing.
Encourage outdoor play and even more social activity with a trampoline, cricket set, a bike, tennis racquet, pool toys or model aeroplanes.
Children also live in a hi-tech world, and we can't ignore that.
The time will come, around school-age, when they'll need a laptop and/or iPad.
Before they go to school, buy them gifts that are fun to play with, and help them learn about families and the world around them.
Soft toys, dolls, train sets, are all-time favourites.
What grandparents, older relatives and friends give to children is priceless.
They offer undivided attention, unconditional love, the benefit of their experiences and warm generosity.
Christmas gifts are like end-of-year bonuses... and we all like that sort of surprise!