Help Me Hank offers guide to buying gifts for tweens and teens

By Tony Statz - Producer

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. - Any parent will tell you buying holiday gifts for your children gets more difficult and more expensive as they get older.

Kim Keaton Williams of West Bloomfield said her mother warned her and she found out mother does know best.

"While they're young, don't feel you have to spend so much -- you're going to have plenty of years ahead of you where they're going to be very expensive," she said.

To relieve some of your holiday stress, Help Me Hank rounded up some tweens and teens at Williams's home in West Bloomfield to find out what's on their holiday lists. As you can imagine, each of the five children included some kind of technology on their list, from a Hoverboard, to an iPhone 6, and MacBook.

Given those holiday wishes, the parents we spoke with say the first step is managing your tween's expectations.

"I want them to enjoy what they get, but I also want them to understand there is a budget," said Keaton Williams. "I have a very detailed spreadsheet to be honest where I have to track my budget, because I need to stay within budget."

Finding great gifts: Expensive doesn't mean best

Even if your children are hoping for hi-tech gifts, experts from The Toy Insider say hi-tech doesn't have to mean high-prices.

"Tech toys absolutely do not have to be expensive. You can find tech toys on the shelves that range from $5 to hundreds of dollars," said Ali Mierzejewski, senior editor at The Toy Insider.

Dhe warns parents and all gift-giving relatives the first step is to know what really interests the young person.

"You can buy the flashiest toy out there on the shelf, but if your kids not interested in RC (remote control) or video games, they're not gonna love it," said Mierzejewski.

Instead, the most critical step you can take is to pay attention to your child's hobbies and interests. Make sure any gift you buy connects back to those areas.

"If they're interested in fashion, you can buy them clothes for Christmas, or you can get very good toys that help them become fashion designers," said Mierzejewski.

The parents we spoke with agree.

"Keep your eyes open as to what the kids are interested in, what their focus is on," said Shruti Mathur Nandakumar, a mother of two.

Tweens, teens, understanding limits

The good news for parents: The teenagers and tweens we spoke with do understand there are spending limits and they are prepared to have backup gifts on their lists.

"I worry about it cause I know how much that actually is, because I have to earn my allowance most of the time," said Ethan Tobin, a freshman at Walled Lake Central High School.

"I always have like more reasonable gifts...that are less expensive," said Reeya Mathur, a 7th-grader at Walnut Creek Middle School. "Gift cards. I like arts and crafts."

"They don't exactly give a budget, but I kind of know if I ask for one big thing, that will be it," said Taylor Williams, a sophomore at Walled Lake Central High School.

So, setting expectations, knowing your child's interests, and talking about their wish lists are all crucial steps to finding the perfect gift for tweens and teens.

As your children get older, there is a light at the end of the tween gift challenge. Teenagers start to have an even greater understanding of the high cost of high-tech gifts. Kim Keaton Williams said she's noticed a change in her children as they started working and paying for some things themselves.

"Now, they're starting to appreciate things at a different level because they have to put some skin in the game," she said.

The Toy Insider's list of gifts

If you're still stumped for some gift ideas, you might try some ideas from The Toy Insider. It's a website dedicated to providing consumers with the most up-to-date insight on toys and children's entertainment. It's kind of like a Consumer Reports, just for toys.

It's team of experts have come up with a list of hot gifts for tweens. They include:

*Stikbot action figure which an be used to make stop-motion movies. ($9.99)
Trivia game called Spit It Out. ($19.95)
*A Yo-Kao Watch ($39.99)
*Nintendo 3D SXL  ($199.99)

For a list of more toys for every age group, follow this link. 

Whatever you buy for your tween or teen, don't forget the gift receipt, just in case!

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