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Struggling to choose Christmas gifts for your 9-, 10-, or 11-year-old?



Calah Alexander - published on 12/10/18

You could ask an expert child psychologist for recommendations ... or you could just go with your gut.

Okay, y’all, we’re halfway into December which means that unless you’re a plan-ahead Black Friday-style shopper, you’re scrambling to get Christmas gifts for all the people in your life. Like I am, because I am not skilled in the planning-ahead department.

For bigger people (adults and teenagers), gift giving is usually pretty straightforward — I find out what they want and/or need, and I buy what I can afford.

For little people (4- to 8-year-olds), I can usually rely on the lists they start making (or requesting I make for them) in mid-September. Even though their lists from this week take precedence, there are currently no fewer than 15 lists stuck in random drawers in our house, should I need backup.

But what about those medium-sized people, the 9-, 10-, and 11-year-old crowd? If they haven’t yet outgrown the holiday toy list, their enthusiasm for impossibly-packaged toys is usually waning rapidly at this age. But aside from age-inappropriate requests (because no, I am not buying iPhones for children who still need to be reminded to brush their teeth), it’s kind of hard to find Christmas gifts that they’ll be excited about and that they will enjoy for longer than the Christmas break.

Lucky for me, The Strategist has brought in a child psychologist to answer the dilemma of what Christmas gifts are best for those tricky 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds. 

“At the age of 9, children begin to form real social relationships and friendships,” says Dr. George Sachs, a clinical child psychologist who specializes in ADD and ADHD treatment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. “Many children even begin to have best friends and start to have sleepovers with peers.” And as they continue their cognitive development, fourth graders “are able to focus better for longer periods of time and can pursue specific interests,” he says. “They’re able to learn in a holistic way and not just learn that things are ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’” “Particularly with kids who don’t like to read, I actually recommend graphic novels or anime,” says Sachs, “because it’s getting them reading, which is the most important part.” Lego is a perennial favorite across all age groups: “You can’t go wrong with Legos,” says Sachs. And academically speaking, kids at this age are beginning to do more complex math problem-solving like multiplication and division, according to Sachs.

Seriously, God bless this man. I have a reluctant reader in this age group, and I’ve been warned against my desire to offer many graphic novels or anime because of the fear that it would get her into the habit of relying on pictures instead of her imagination. But no matter how many books I’ve pointed out in the library, she is consistently drawn to the graphic novels. It’s a relief to hear that letting her dive into the world of graphic novels won’t actually work against my desire to get her reading.

I also have a technically-minded math whiz who loved Legos when he was younger. As he’s gotten older, though, he’s been bored with the superhero and city-themed Lego kits offered to kids his age. I’ve been wondering if I should branch out and try more complex things like Lego robotics, so yay! Affirmation is a beautiful thing.

I feel like we’ve learned an important lesson here: when it comes to choosing gifts for your kids, you don’t have to wait for a child psychologist to give you permission to get the gifts you’ve already been considering. After all, no one knows your child as well as you do, so trust your instincts!


Read more:
How to choose Christmas gifts that your kids won’t tire of

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