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Child Sense: Gift buying for the senses

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It's the gift season again, and in this economy it's another year of lean budgets. We don't want to disappoint our children, and we want to get them gifts that they will enjoy. Many a time we buy presents to excess and they end up playing with only one or two of them. By buying via their sense, you will be able to save time, money and anxiety by picking a present you know they will respond to.

Tactile children will respond best to toys that allow them to do things, especially if they get to do things with you. Miniature kitchens, small vacuum cleaners, toy carpenter tools and Leapfrog computers will all hold great play value. If they have older siblings try to buy them an age equivalent toy, for example if their big brother gets a game boy, they get Leapfrog equivalent. Often their brother's old one, cleaned up, with a few stickers also does the job. 'If there is anything that they are attached to of yours, such as your handbag, sunglasses, or cell phone, now would be the time to either give them your old one or have Santa bring them an equivalent.

Visual children will respond to differently wrapped packages. They will like the box and the paper, nearly as much as the gift inside. Aim for crayons, pencils, paper and paints. They will like dress up clothes, as well as figurines of their favorite TV characters. They will be very particular, so pay attention to the small details like color, and size, etc. These children will be very clear and vocal when it's not exactly what they were thinking of. Visual children like collection pieces they can display, a collection of cars, of teddy bears or of dresses for Barbie. They will appreciate clothes, such as a beautiful dress or a shirt that matches Dad's.

Auditory children love sound, so CDs, stories on tape, musical instruments, or toys that play a tune. Giving things that come with a story, of how and why it was bought for them, will be remembered and kept special, as to will tickets to the local kids' theatre. They will like all the usual kids' toys, but will gravitate towards the more logical and mathematical, like blocks and puzzles. Activities that can be done together whilst chatting are always good, play with clay, drawing, bead making, etc.

Toys that allow for fictitious conversations will be a hit — Barbie needs friends to talk to, and a nice lounge setting for them all to chat on. Karaoke machines also tend to be a winner; just remember that any auditory toy you buy you also will have to listen to.

Taste and smell children will like anything personal you give them. Sometimes less is more to these children. A T-shirt from their favorite grandpa is worth more than an elaborate set of Lego blocks. A special night light from Aunty Sue, or special doll from Dad will be held special. Don't make the mistake of trying to replace older toys however; if they have a favorite teddy, a new teddy is only going to cause loyalty problems for the sensitive taste and smell child. Toys that cater to their imaginary, sensitive world are good; fairies, and stories that are then read by you will be adored

Gift buying for your young child needn't be about mass, it's just about getting that special gift that makes them feel special. So use your knowledge of their dominant sense when you go shopping, you will be surprised how easy finding the right gift will be.

Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of Child Sense. Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.