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The Best Gifts for Kids You Have No Choice But to Buy Presents For

Don’t know what to give your nephew, bestie's baby, or even your own kid? Try these fail-proof gift ideas, from a metal detector to live bugs.
December 16, 2021, 4:52pm
the best gifts for kids
Composite by VICE Staff

A few weeks ago, I went to a dinner party for my grandparents’ 60th anniversary. My cousins and I range in age from 18 to 35, and have not yet given up our Youngest Generation status by procreating. I say this to let the record show that not only am I not a mom, but I’m also hardly around kids at all. And this is how I prefer it to be. 

It would seem that I have no credentials for telling you what to buy for a child, but that would be false. One of my I-can’t-explain-how-we’re-related relatives has a four-year-old who hand-selected me to sit next to her during dinner. Thus, it was revealed to me that I’m actually a child whisperer. Now I’m here to share my wisdom. 


The Resident Kid and I played with a plastic Peppa Pig and then moved on to an impromptu game with imaginary rocks. Both were equally fun in her book, which just goes to show that it doesn’t take much to impress a kid. While you could probably get away with giving the random kid in your life an imaginary magic wand, the unfortunate news is that most grown-ups have lost their sense of wonder and they would prefer if you shelled out a little cash for their offspring. From Grateful Dead onesies to classic books such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, I’ve come up with gifts for the obligatory kid on your shopping list—and some gifts for the child who has everything—so you don’t have to. 

Start ‘em young

While you’re still out planning your summer around Dead and Company’s tour dates (me too), some of your friends are having babies and wistfully streaming shows on Here exists the one article of clothing where your two worlds still collide: a onesie with the lyrics to “Ripple” printed on it. 


Grateful Dead Ripple Onesie

Telling our nephew that Jerry Garcia is the real Man in the Moon:

Blue Mountain Dyes

Jerry Garcia Moon T-Shirt (Toddler)

The Child for a child

I am 24 years old and I am the proud owner of a crocheted Baby Yoda stuffed animal. My mother had it made for me by a kindergarten teacher she works with, who probably did not assume that I’m an adult. This summer, we had company over, and their three-year-old borrowed my beloved Baby Yoda for the whole duration of their stay. The separation anxiety was real, and if I ever encounter this child again, I’ll buy her her own Baby Yoda from Etsy. 


The Child Alien Baby 8-inch Knit Plush


A pinch of fairy dust

For something genuinely unique, opt for this personalized Fairy Care Package, which includes a personalized hand-written letter from a Fairy stamped with an authentic Fairyland postmark amongst other treasures. When the child goes on to be a best-selling storybook author, they’ll have you to thank. 


Personalized Fairy Care Package

Apologize to the parents ahead of time

I have actually been present when a giant remote control shark was gifted. My grandmother was not happy to have a flying water creature threatening to disrupt her immaculate dining room, but the then-six-year-olds (and errant dads) were stupefied by the mindless fun. 


Remote Control Flying Air Shark Toy

Help revive the magazine industry 

In a last ditch effort to save print media, try to hook the random kid in your life on magazines while they’re still young and impressionable! 

National Geographic

National Geographic Kids - 1-Year Subscription

If you really want to give them coal

Not every child is a peaceful cherub, and we all know it. If you want to get them coal (but know that would sever your relationship with the child’s creators), opt for geodes! They’ll be mesmerized by the hidden crystals, and you can revel in your own secret passive-aggressiveness. 

Gem Center USA

Break Your Own Geodes Kit

If smashing doesn’t feel like the move, perhaps a bit of rock tumbling? National Geographic makes an excellent beginner’s kit:

National Geographic

Starter Rock Tumbler Kit

Even I want clothes that I can color

Let's be real: No matter how old you are, you wish you could color dinosaurs onto your clothes. Since these don’t come in adult sizes, get them for a kid and live vicariously (and enviously) through them. 

Selfie Clothing Co.

Color-In Dino Pajamas


Somewhere over the rainbow

How else will you show that you’re the cool aunt to borrow records from one day if you don’t give your niece or nephew a musical instrument? Since drums and electric guitars will get you excommunicated by the parents (and they frankly cost more than one needs to spend on someone under a decade old), a ukulele is the next best thing!  


Everjoys Soprano Ukulele Beginner Pack

A book for parents and children alike

Sure, it may be years before the kid in question gets the Little Prince’s secret—“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” But until then, they’ll enjoy the story of the fox and the rose, and the parents will be glad to read something that doesn’t rhyme. 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince (Paperback)

The simple pleasures 

Kids can be wonderfully entertained by the simplest things—and that should not be overlooked when you’re shopping for them. Where we see a crayon, they see a portal to hours of fun. This giant sketchbook will be their imagination’s playground—even if only a parent could love the artwork born of it. 

Sandy Art Sketchbook

Giant Sketchbook (800 Pages)

BAPE makes the kind of beautiful, graphic coloring book that will become a keepsake once it’s filled-up with their scribbles:


Orange Milo Coloring Book

Bugs are cool

In second grade, my class hatched caterpillars and released the butterflies into the wild. Sure, this was twenty years ago, but joy from nature is timeless and can be enjoyed by all.

Clearwater Butterfly Company

Butterflies Kit With 10 Live Caterpillars


Insect and Butterfly Net

Because a tree house is too much

If you were shopping for your own (fictitious) kid, maybe you’d get them a tree house. But you’re not shopping for your own flesh and blood, so they can get the next best thing: this cool tree pod swing. 


Kids Pod Hammock Chair


Treasure hunting

Where we see literal garbage, kids see treasure. This metal detector will keep them occupied for hours while you try to hang out with their parents, uninterrupted. And if they do find any gold, they’ve got to go splitsies with you.  


Waterproof Metal Detector for Kids

For the wishers and hope-ers

For the child whom you sense is also a kindred spirit, give them poems for the journey of growing up. Just follow Shel Silverstein’s invitation: “If you are a dreamer, come in, If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...”

Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends (Special Edition)

I don’t need to remind you that this isn’t your kid that you’re shopping for. This is one of those situations where it really is just the thought that counts. As long as that thought leads to a present, that is.