Gift ideas for small foreign children?

On an upcoming trip, I will be visiting some old friends who I haven’t seen in so long that they have each created one six-year-old girl and one four-year-old boy since I last saw them. I’d like to bring some small gifts for the kiddies, but am completely stumped; I usually get books for kids if I don’t know their tastes, but the children in question are not English-speaking (they speak French and German respectively), so books are somewhat problematic.

What are some good gift ideas for little kids? Preferably things that a) have somewhat universal appeal, and b) are uniquely American and therefore likely to be something that they don’t already have? More help is needed for the boy gifts; having once been a six-year-old girl, I have a somewhat better grip on what they might like.

Little metal cars, esp american ones, they are cheap & kids love to see what american cars look like.

Legos! Oh wait…

Matchbox cars of American models, maybe?

There are lots of kids’ books that have very little text. What about one of the Richard Scary “Busy Books”? The ones that feature cartoon animals dressed as firefighters, nurses, etc. I bet foreign kids would get a kick out of those, learning the English equivalent of their word.

My sister-in-law was an au pair in France, and her homemade brownies were a huge hit with the family she worked for. If it wouldn’t be too much of a pain, maybe you could make a uniquely American dessert like brownies or chocolate chip cookies for the kids. Then leave them the recipe so that they can re-create it once you’ve gone.

There is very little that is uniquely American that can’t be got anywhere in Europe. Lincoln Logs come to mind, but they don’t seem much of a toy to me. Toy american cars sound a good idea, may I suggest a toy Lincoln Prowler or hot rod as being both cool and American.

A pony is always a good idea. No language problem there.


Dolls and cars. Both are American yet universal.

Somebody help! I’ve fallen out of my chair and I can’t get back up.

How about some art stuff? There are a huge variety of new markers and pens of various sorts–gel, glitter, glue, glitterglue, etc. and interesting sorts of paper and stickers and such stuff. I don’t know how unversally these are available these days, but they are good for those ages and easy to transport.

Just as a side note–I went shopping for my kids when I was on a business trip in Edinburgh a few years ago and was somewhat bummed by how similar the selection was to what I could get at home.

Robert Sabuda just came out with some wonderful popup books of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. They’re amazingly fun just as toys, even if you can’t read a word (I just spent a while hanging around a bookstore watching the adults play with them). Also a nice first introduction to some classics. A reading parent could easily supply enough storyline in the proper languages.

When I was little, my Argentine relatives would frequently come and stay with my grandparents. They always brought us a little something Argentine or South American - I remember some neat little Chilean dolls, and a Chilean wall hanging that I still have. I have some little horn spoons and a mate. Some of the gifts were a little age-inapropriate, and I didn’t appreciate them at the time, but I treasure them now.

They have brought my boys some little dinner plates with Argentine soccer team logos on them. I suppose team logo stuff pretty well permeates the world, but the kids seem to like it. Maybe a little stuffed bear with an American Flag on it?

Although 4 might be a little young, a small pile of nice shiny state quarters might be a good idea.

A big box of Chiclets they can sell to earn money for the family.

Had friends return to Germany and for the little boys in the family, they bought some inexpensive cowboy boots from Walmart - was a HUGE hit with the boys. (Strongly suggest you get shoe sizes and remember, European sizes are different than ours - but most shoe stores, even Walmart, has a chart with conversion sizes).

Sadly, however, there are not really any more good gifts that can only be bought here - or only be bought there. Used to be hard to bring gifts to the US from Germany when I lived there, and equally hard to get things from the US for Germans. You can really get almost everything, everywhere.

Then again…kids are pretty easy.

And I wouldn’t be too quick to discount the books in English idea…those kids are going to learn English at some point in their life, and a really neat, well illustrated book in English will, if nothing else, be something they will keep on their bookshelf and read when they learn how.

Or just take a stack of Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Superman comic books. At that age, it is fun to look at them no matter what language, and in years to come, it will make learning English more fun.

Toy guns. Kids love toy guns.

Barbies are a lot more expensive in Euprope than they are here so it will seem like a lot bigger gift to the little girl than it actually is and little European girls like Barbies and are familiar with them.

Candies are always popular too. Kids like to try what kids from other cultures like.
IT’s been a while since I was I n germany but Smurfs and Mickey and Minnie Mouse were very familiar faces to them as I recall.

Kids are pretty universal though…anything that makes noise should go over pretty well. :slight_smile:

I got it…
Chick Tracts!
No where but America would have such a thing (I hope) they are for children, they are cheap, and they would be funny to read in a secular society.

Maps. Or a beach ball that looks like a globe.

Simple to play Kid’s games. But I’d hazzard a guess to check with Mom and Dad to be sure they aren’t already on the rack.

Jacks and Marbles came immediatly to mind but I can think of NO kid who plays them these days. They are both very easy to explain how to play, but a bear to step on at 3 am on the way to the bathroom

Board games like Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, Ants in the Pants, Don’t spill the beans,or don’t break the ice. Again, even with an English instuction sheet, very easy to explain and to play.

You could tote a few interesting Family games, like Monopoly, in it’s original form,or a form only available in the US, (like NASCAR or NFL) or even the Game of Life. Of course these may be available in Germany, but to have them in English might be a ton-o-fun.

Godspeed on the trip!

Second cher3 on the art stuff; can’t really go wrong with that.