Santa’s got nothing on you. Even though you spend 10 months out of the year away from your hometown, you come home to endless hugs and love from your little cousins. You can’t bribe your cousins with Snapchat filters from college, so how do you keep their childhood adoration going strong? Let’s just say I know a thing or two about solidifying your spot as favorite cousin—even on a #brokecollegestudent budget.
Check out the 10 best kid gifts for that little booger that grows an inch (or seven) or loses a tooth every time you see him.
1. The best surprise—you
The worst thing you can give your little cousin is a broken promise. You don’t want to say that you’ll make it to his Christmas show, only to get stuck on campus with the last final exam time slot. Instead, make your entrance by never telling him when you’ll be home. That way every time you come home, it’s like Christmas morning all over again.
Stuck on campus working that part-time job this holiday season? Don’t break the bank buying your little sister the latest limited edition Barbie to make up for your absence; that’s what grandparents do. Instead, send her a card via snail mail. Whether the card features her favorite princess or Hallmark’s hilarious Hoops & Yoyo, she’ll always think of you when she sees the card on her nightstand.
3. Cousin Slumber Party
I asked my 9-year-old cousin Mikey what he wanted for his birthday so I could mail it to him. His response? “I just want a cousin sleepover.” Basically, he asked for the one thing I couldn’t give him. It was a knife to the heart. Being in college means dancing at bars. Being home for the holidays means playing Just Dance in the living room with your favorite little critters. These memories last a lifetime, and your cousins will remember you as the coolest big cousin out there. Add this to your night’s itinerary, straight from Mikey himself: “Me and [my brother] Nico can probably bring [the game] HedBanz. We can make cupcakes, too.”
Add some vintage Minnie and Mickey into your little cousin’s repertoire. Little kids may think they can find it all on Netflix, but we know better. Plus, it’s not like we can actually afford to take them to Disney, so these videos make a suitable alternative.
Use your influence to instill some school spirit into the next generation. When game day rolls around, you want your little brother to Tomahawk Chop, Gator Chomp, throw up the “U” or whatever your school does. Not to mention you can swing by the bookstore on your way to class, pick up your gift and call it a day.
6. Dress-up Costumes or Sports Gear
From Batman capes to Frozen gowns, your little sibling will want to wear this gift absolutely everywhere. If you know your little brother or sister’s favorite activity or sport, buy them cute gear they can show off to their friends. “I want cheer things, like cheer practice clothes and bows,” said 9-year-old Ariana.
7. The Crayon Box You Always Wanted
Throw it back to your tantrum during school supply shopping trips when your mom refused to buy a Crayola pack over 12—or even worse, anything of the Rose Art variety. You longed for a 64-pack of crayons, with the sharpener, but times have changed. Kids need more colors to up their cool factor at school.
Why work so hard to earn the favorite cousin spot if you can’t have a little fun? As the older and wiser cousin, you need to instill some sense into these kids, but you can also add a little dangerous adventure in there, too. Pro tip: You might want to get a helmet to go with this gift—just to satisfy their parents.
Will the children of 2016 know the cinematic excellence of Elf? Don’t deprive them of movies before their time; they deserve a film that doesn’t involve Legos coming to life. Make a night out of it and make spaghetti and meatballs with a little syrup on top.
10. A “Big Kid” gift
There comes a time in every kid’s life when she believes she has transitioned into adulthood. As such, she needs the “big girl” essentials—especially after P.E. class, when things start to get a little smelly. “I like perfumes and having different scents, but my favorite it A Thousand Wishes from Bath and Body Works,” 14-year-old Madison said. If your little cousin is a boy, please steer him away from Axe to literally any light cologne. No one should ever have to smell that horrid smell.