What do you buy a two year old anyway?

I'm pretty sure two year old people can't conceptualise being born, or celebrating the anniversary of that.

Within the next week my two nieces are turning two years old. And since the last issue of WATV a nephew has joined their ranks. It's fine, I like batching my tasks.

I'm pretty sure two year old people can't conceptualise being born, or celebrating the anniversary of that.

I interviewed one nearly two year old on the subject. She told me she was eighty five years old (this was also the number of stickers she dumped out the box onto the floor, and the result when she took my temperature.) She reported that her mother was the youngest person in the room. When asked if she knew what a birthday was she said yes, but declined to elaborate further.

Which is to say, at this point, she doesn't have a clue. Other people's birthdays are just weird things that happen sometimes. Filed under all the other inexplicable things that make up the world a toddler lives in.

And yet there's a lot of pressure around it all. A Pinterest-worthy party, presents, are they hitting their milestones, presents!

So, presents. There's a lot to take into account.

Yesterday I was searching through cheque books so we don't accidentally give the newcomer more or less than his sister. Setting a precedent is useful for yourself from the beginning. I calculated I may well have nine niblings when the dust settles. Which inevitability leads to budgetting issues. Also, depending on your family's propensity for drama, these discrepancies could lead to recriminations.

Speaking of the rest of the family, that's another factor. Got a lot of family spoiling them? Or not so much? Grandparents always buying clothes, or massively age-inappropriate sports equipment? Maybe go the other way. Mostly long distance people sending cheques? Maybe go the other way.

One of my nieces lives in a flat in London. One lives in a picturesque cottage in the countryside with a dedicated playroom. You bet I am calculating available floor space and factoring that into any gifts.

It doesn't matter the child rearing philosophy - I do as I'm told. Doesn't mean I'm going to buy an 18-rated video for an eight year old because their parents would let them play it. But if there's a "no plastic" rule - or any kind of rule - I follow it. An innocent kid's birthday ain't the time to get into it.

This is a weird source of contention that never occurred to me, but it really helps to go into this with no expectations. I'm not even expecting a thank you. Certainly not from the kid, and not even the parents. No strings attached, not even emotionally.

There's a lot of money spent on kids and sometimes I think that needs to be spent on the parents or the family infrastructure. There must be some parents watching their children getting hundreds of pounds worth of gifts that they play with once, with a terrible sinking feeling when family finances are being stretched to the limits.

What do two year olds want? I imagine that my nieces, on their second birthdays, will want what they always want. Which is to be listened to, played with, and given attention. They are not going to remember this day, but we all will. It'd be nice to think I acquitted myself with mindfulness, care, patience, and love.

As a bonus, here are some of my ideas for birthday presents for two year olds:

  • Spotify Family so everyone can keep their own algorithm pure and clean. Or similar subscription.

  • A family trip / day out / weekend away. Some form of experience.

  • Something mission-critical as decided by parents, or a contribution towards it. These kids they be growing, breaking things, and hoovering up resources all over the place.

  • Housework. I'd get my sister a cleaner and a laundry service in a heartbeat if I thought she would ever consent to the idea. A one-off clean the week before a kids birthday (especially if a party is being hosted at home) is effectively gifting a child a less-stressed parent.

  • A donation to a relevant or meaningful charity. I've got a recommendation below.

  • A cheque. Either for the kid's savings fund, or for the parents to get what they actually need once the dust has settled.

  • A babysitting IOU. A home DIY IOU. An errand-running IOU. Any sort of IOU you think would be helpful.

  • A photoshoot by yourself. Less about the camera, more about being a patient and happy-to-oblige Instagram boyfriend. Or a photoshoot by an actual photographer, which is more about the camera, and the art and skill.

  • Organising / helping to organise the party.

I love Unicef's Inspired Gifts where you can buy vaccinations, maternity and medical equipment, school supplies, food and nutrition, and support Unicef's amazing work. It's easy to find gifts that match the developments in the kid's life like being born, having vaccinations, going to school and such.