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Top 10 gift buying ideas for Christmas

Updated on November 5, 2012

As the Christmas / Holiday season approaches, we all begin to scratch our heads and scramble around for appropriate gifts for everyone we know and some we don’t know. It can be a stressful nightmare.

It doesn't have to be.

This article gives some practical and helpful pointers into the top 10 gift types that will help reduce brain racking the next time you have to choose a gift or buy presents at Christmas time.

First step is to figure out your overall budget. Divide your budget up as appropriate for each person you need to buy for.

Now, with each person in mind, think about the following Top 10 gift subject areas to find the right gift at the right price for them.

#1. Hobbies

Everyone has a hobby – unless they are very young or very old. If they don’t have time for hobbies now, but you know what used to float their boat – there’s your opening.

See below for a few suggested popular hobbies.

A selection of popular hobbies

Racing (horse)
American football
Racing (motorsports)
Aqua aerobics
Rock climbing
Horses / riding
Roller skating
Ice hockey
Rugby League
Ice skating
Rugby Union
Bike riding
Jiu Jitsu
Scuba diving
Show jumping
Bungee jumping
Table tennis
Cross country running
Kung Fu
Mountain biking
Water polo
Water skiing
Ping pong
Weight training
Working out
Racing (drag)
Football (soccer)
Racing (greyhound)
Zip line

Once you have latched on to their hobby, think about everything that entails. Examples:

  • Animals => books on animals, animal soft toys, annual pass to a nearby animal park, new hutch for their pet rabbit, a brightly coloured bridle for their pony!
  • Sports =>, replica team kit, sports ball / bat / mit / etc. book or DVD on their favourite player or team.
  • Gardening => anything from organic seeds, knee protectors, ornaments, decorative pots, automatic watering system.

#2. Interests

Similar to hobbies in terms of applying some logic: what do they talk about, get excited about, used to have fun doing? Stamp collecting? Fishing? Art? Cooking? Or any of the following:

Suggested Interests

Model aircraft
Model making
Model trains
Video editing

OK, they might have everything there is on – say Meditation. In that case, give them an experience or talk on the subject (if your budget will stretch to that); or maybe the latest book in a different approach to the subject area; or a history.

#3. Books

This area should always be considered – even if you know the person isn’t a big reader.


For BABIES, high contrast, touch and sound books work best for their developing brains. Consider:

  • Faces (Baby's Very First Book) by John Fordham
  • Baby's Very First Book: Farm by Jo Lodge
  • Baby Touch: Peekaboo by Ladybird
  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson - gorgeously engaging illustrations.

YOUNG CHILDREN love beautifully illustrated books and engaging stories or rhymes that fire the imagination or lull and calm the soul. Consider:

  • Anything by Julia Donaldson (Gruffalo, etc.) - children love the easy rhyming structure.
  • Animal: Laughing Giraffe by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway OR Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman - both beautifully Illustrated
  • Fairy tales are always a hit – but go easy on the Grim’s variety! Suggest “Fairy Tales for Little Children” (Usborne Picture Storybooks).

For OLDER CHILDREN, adventure, mystery, comedy and practical stuff always hits the spot. Some suggestions:

  • The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More Roald Dahl
  • Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
  • Cooking up Storm by Sam Stern

As for the ADULTS…what about

  • Biographies
  • Crime thrillers
  • Fantasy / romance
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Travel

The classic board games (such Snakes & Ladders, Frustration, Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, Drafts) are a must if you know they don’t have them.

#4. Games

This category is really aimed at the younger end of the scale, but it doesn’t need to be. Tyry to make them as inclusive as possible – the more people can join in playing, the more fun.

There are countless games to consider:

Educational: Shopping List, Alphabet Lotto, Match & Count, UpWords, Memory
Active: Charades, Skittles, Fishing game, KerPlunk, Operation, Buckaroo
Board: Lotto, Tummy Ache,
Classic: Dominoes
Construction: LEGO, building blocks, Meccano,


- Card games: Top Trumps, Playing cards (+ book of playing card games), Last Word
- Board: Labyrinth, Frustration, Game of Life Adventures, Family Trivial Pursuits
- Active: Twister, Table Top Football, BopIt Bounce, Pictionary
- Cerebral: Junior Scrabble, Yahtzee / 5000, Brain Master / Mastermind
- Classic: Connect4,

- Subbuteo
- Arctic Force Snowball Crossbow
- iCade for iPad
- Atari Flashback 3
- Addictaball
- Air Table Tennis

- Pac-Man Plug 'n' Play
- Star Trek Catan
- Angry Birds On Thin Ice Game
- Pac-Man IR Racers

#5. Practical

If you know the near future plans of the person you are buying for then buy something to help them on their way. E.g. someone’s about to set off on a year’s travelling, buy them travel books, kindle, camera, etc.

Otherwise the following practical gifts will always be used:

  • Diaries
  • Calendars (including planning)
  • Something interesting yet usable around the house or kitchen (e.g. ornate olive oil bottle, cherry de-stoner, copper jam-making pan, pasta maker, coffee bean grinder, etc.)

#6. Gadgets

It’s easy to spend a tonne of money on gadgets – think gaming stations, handheld games, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc. But if you are buying for a gadget fan, there are many less costly alternatives that they might like:

  • Mighty BoomBall Speaker
  • Waboba Water Ball
  • Bike SpokeLit
  • Cyber Clean
  • USB Cup Warmer
  • 12-in-1 Multi Tool Pen
  • Thirsty Light
  • 3D Movie Viewer for iPhone

#7. Unusual

The market for the unusual is significantly untapped. Think of the amount of stuff that is sold last year that was the same or similar to this year’s offering.

One of the best places for unusual gifts is an organised car boot sale / attic sale. Although a lot of people are sniffy about rummaging around in someone else’s “throw-outs”, chances are if you persevere, you will find some very interesting, unusual and occasionally rare items.

If you don’t have the time for car boot sales, try the “Collectables” section on ebay – where you can find everything from sports memorabilia and autographs to Breweriana and “Unusual” section – including Polo-shaped calculators and syringe-shaped pens.


#8. Creative

Making stuff can be fun, rewarding and low cost. Edible creative gifts are always extremely popular. Here are some creative gift ideas:

  • Your own label jams, pickles and chutneys
  • A selection of rich biscuits (cookies)
  • Home-made chocolate miniatures (chocolate clusters, caramel shortbread, etc.)
  • A home-made hamper (include any of the above, topped off with a bottle or two of wine)
  • Small, stuffed cotton dolls (think worry dolls)
  • Lavender bags
  • Family portrait
  • Family calendar, mugs, coasters – you name it!
  • Knitted items (scarves, mittens, etc.)

#9. Cultural

Building on the “Unusual” section, look further afield to other cultures and get ideas about gifts. Examples:

  • Latin American: Gaucho Accessories (including bracelets with silver, necklaces & pendants), Bombillas & Mate Gourds, Alpaca Clothing
  • Chinese: Embroidered painting, tortoise ornaments, Traditional Chinese china 'Beautiful women Diao Chan', wooden cup wad set, Mah-jong Case.
  • Arabic: teapot & cup set, home decoration arabic calligraphy, selection of Lebanese cakes, scented wood (oud)
  • Jewish: Rosh Hashana dish, Shabbat hand towels, Pesach apron, Flower chanukiah, Hamsa and heart pendant


#10. Classic

If all else fails, go for the classic gifts that are bound to be appreciated. You so the following will work – but note the caveats!

  • Chocolates
  • Flowers
  • Jewellery
  • DVDs
  • Clothes, Shoes, Handbag, Perfume/After shave – These are very subjective gifts, so only buy when you know the person well!


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