Ask the Horizons Team: Ideas for engaging birthday gifts

Question:

My son’s 12th birthday coming up in a few weeks and I’m stumped about what to get him. I don’t want to get him anything related to video games/”screen time” since we have really worked on limiting his exposure to that. I’m looking for some ideas of engaging activities that he could enjoy on his own or that we could work on together. Do you have any ideas for me?

-Sue in Michigan

Answer:

Hi Sue,

The gift-giving dilemma is one many parents have, especially when it comes to gifts that support development and engagement. Here are some ideas and resources you may find helpful:

  1. Snap Circuits – These come in different kits, but I like the Snap Circuits Jr. set best as a starting point. It has a book of projects that kids use to build things with electronic components. They can make a circuit board that runs a little fan, a light bulb, makes sounds, etc. The book has over 100 different things they can make – ranging from very simple to more complex. I use this with many kids at different functioning levels and it works out very well. If your son wasn’t able to do the projects on his own you could work together to make them. Snap Circuit kits are available in a variety of places online.
  2. Games – I love playing games with kids, as there are so many opportunities for enjoying time together while working on various skills. Make sure you are getting games that promote thinking and problem solving. Some games your son might enjoy include Doodle Dice, Pick and Draw, Knot-So-Fast, and Spot It. Marbles: The Brain Store has a fabulous selection of games for all ages and ability levels. You can check them out online here: http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/
  3. Passes to area attractions and museums – If you’re looking for gifts that can be used throughout the year and don’t take up space in your home, then passes to places/events can be a great option. I know families who give their children a membership to the local zoo every year for their birthday, and it’s something they enjoy all year long. Other ideas include local museums, places that provide art classes/pottery making, open swim sessions, Bounce Party sessions, etc. Think about where your son enjoys going and see if you can get a membership or gift certificate for him.

I hope some of these ideas will work for your son.

Happy shopping,
Nicole