The Dos and Don’ts of Buying Gifts for Kids Close In Age

There’s a lot to be said for having kids close together in age. For starters, when you come home with infant number two, you’re already in baby mode, used to running on zero sleep, trading off diaper duty, and baby proofing. You haven’t yet rediscovered what wine tastes like. Plus, the kids are bound to be natural playmates, since they’re close in age. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with much griping from the older sibling, who won’t be too in love with (or aware of) the spotlight yet.

On the other hand, it’s a pain in the butt to have two kids simultaneously circling the terrible twos, and you won’t have as much time to get to know each of your children as individuals…and neither will their relatives. Now, this isn’t always the case, but when it is, the holidays are when this unhappy circumstance prominently rears its ugly head.

My sister and I were born 18 months apart. (My mom likes to joke she had “Irish twins.”) Come Christmastime, our more distant relatives would either act like we were twins, buying us multiples of the same exact gift—not ideal for two little girls who share all their toys and count on the holidays for amassing booty—or treat my sister as if she were eons older. Maybe when we were 21 and 19 I could see the logic behind this, but giving a 10-year-old 50 dollars in an envelope and an 8-year-old only 25 seems a pretty arbitrary distinction, in my humble opinion. (Or maybe that’s just my younger sibling syndrome kicking in?)

If the kiddos in question are a boy and a girl, gift giving without offense is a much easier task (unless the kids are coming from a gender-neutral home). However, if you’re shopping for two girls close in age, here’s a handy list of dos and don’ts, coming from someone who knows:

1. If they’re younger, buy the kids gifts that they can share: This is a pretty safe option. There’s always some “It” toy on the market they’ll be happy to have, and half the joy of Christmas is unwrapping a package that’s nearly your height. An Xbox with two controllers is a lot more exciting than two of the same Barbie doll.

2. If you must buy two of the same gift…Make it something like bikes, which they can ride together and variations in color or appearance are so much less important than function that no one will care if they get green or purple.

3. On buying clothes: Unless you’re one of those magical people that can nail down a person’s taste after meeting them only once, gift cards all the way. Kids grow faster than bean shoots, matching outfits are only acceptable when you’re too young to know what you’re wearing, and you don’t want to give anyone body image issues by buying them an outfit that’s a size too small.

4. On gift certificates: I’d honestly say, lame as unwrapping them may be, these are your best bet. Opt for two different retailers, tell the girls to go halfsies with the credit or swap, whichever they prefer. If you must differentiate between older and younger when it comes to prices, keep the gap around ten dollars.

5. Go for an experiential gift: Science shows that buying experiences instead of things will actually make us happier (plus we tend to regret the purchase less). Splurge on a trip to Walt Disney World for the whole family, or, for a less lavish gift, a few tickets to a local, kid-friendly museum or attraction are sure to please.