Spend time, not money. Don’t buy presents; give your time instead. Make coupons for the kids/grandkids to redeem for a day with you doing one of their favorite things. Maybe your grandson will want to spend the day building a snow fort with you. His sister might choose an afternoon of baking Christmas cookies. The teenager could ask for help changing the oil and rotating the tires on his not-so-new car. Or maybe your niece will just want to curl up on the couch with you and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer while eating popcorn and sipping cocoa. What you do doesn’t matter—just so you spend time together building precious memories.
Take a trip. Take a politically-minded grandchild to visit your state capitol building. Accompany an art-lover to a watercolor exhibit at the museum. Take your doll-obsessed daughter to see an antique doll collection. Escort your space-intrigued nephew to an air and space museum. It doesn’t really matter where, just go with your kids/grandkids wherever they enjoy going.
Get tickets. Buy tickets for an event your child would enjoy—and attend with him or her. Take your granddaughter to a minor league soccer game. Go to a skateboarding competition with your niece. Take the teen to see his favorite Christian band in concert. It may not be your favorite activity (don’t forget the earplugs), but he’ll never forget that you cared enough to go with him. Or find an interest you share. If you and your nephew both love to write, attend a writers’ conference together. Go to a men’s conference with your almost-grown grandson. Take the little one to the circus. Introduce your daughter to something you love and think she may enjoy—like a steam engine show, a ballet performance, or the rodeo.
Give lessons. Find out what lessons your children/grandchildren wish they were taking—piano, guitar, karate, ballet, fencing, singing, gymnastics, drawing, oil painting, swimming, hunter safety, etc. Pay for some lessons and drive them when you can. Better yet, take lessons with them. Take a computer course or sculpture class with your daughter. Assistant coach your grandson’s basketball team. Consider giving lessons yourself. Do you play the flute, work with wood, or quilt? Your children/grandchildren would enjoy learning skills twice as much if you trained them.
Concentrate on hobbies. Think in terms of your kiddo’s interests; then go a step beyond that. Buying your nephew a baseball glove for Christmas is a great idea—just be sure to dust off your old glove and play catch with him in the yard. Buy your niece those violin books she wants; just be sure to attend her recital. If you play an instrument, work up a duet to play together. Get that telescope your budding scientist craves, then set it up in the back yard and study the stars together. Buy two copies of that new book by your bibliophile’s favorite author. Both of you can read it and form your own discussion group. Give your grandson the rifle you’ve been saving for him, then take him deer hunting.
Shop for clothes. Yes, I said shop for clothes. But don’t choose them yourself. Take your kids/grandkids shopping. Set the spending limit and let them pick (parent-approved choices only, please).
Remember ages and stages. Your newly-licensed nephew is more likely to enjoy a prepaid gas card than a visit to the children’s museum. And your teenage granddaughter will likely prefer a salon visit over a zoo visit. Choose according to their ages and maturity levels.
Present a family gift. Consider giving a family membership to the YMCA, theater, science museum, historical society, or zoo—and go with them. (Many of these places allow grandparents to attend as part of the package or offer the option of adding extra adults for a small fee.) Take your family out to their favorite restaurant or go bowling together. Go on vacation as a group (the kids will like someplace with a pool).
Consider the future. When choosing a gift, think of its lasting effects. Give toward the future by presenting the children you love with savings bonds or stocks. Make deposits into their college savings accounts. They’ll appreciate it later—when they aren’t drowning in student loan debts. And maybe you can take them on college visits yourself. Be part of helping them achieve their life goals.