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It's a magical time of year. The off-key singing of Christmas carols. The fire hazard of dry pine trees decorated with strands of short-circuiting electrical lights. The barely enthusiastic expression on your son's face after he unwraps his brand new videogame and thanks you with a forced smile.
Yes, years ago your young one would jump all over the living room on Christmas morning proudly touting his newly acquired bit of gaming goodness with unbridled glee. But as he got older that youthful enthusiasm faded with each passing year.
Well, you can't really blame him. After all, you've bought the boy a videogame every Christmas since he was old enough to hold a controller. That makes you awesome. It also makes you predictable. You see, he's expecting the gift of gaming now. He also happens to be an expert on the exact size, shape and weight of a wrapped game, so he knows what's under the wrapping paper before he ever tears it off. It's not that he isn't grateful, he's just not surprised. What can you do?
Fear not, wayward parents, for I have several tips for keeping your gamer guessing on Christmas morning. You see, it's all in the delivery. Giving him a game in a way he isn't expecting will make things a lot more fun and drag a genuine smile out of him.
First thing's first. This particular strategy relies on the fact that console games come in DVD cases. If you're buying a hand-held or computer game, skip this section.
Still here? Awesome.
OK, as I noted above, if you simply wrap the game as is, the shape and weight will be enough to tip young Sherlock off to its contents. But that's OK. You're going to use this to your advantage.
Buy a pack of empty DVD cases. They usually come in packs of 10, but you really only need five. Now, you're a smart cookie, so you've probably already figured out where I'm going with this, wrap the empty cases individually and put them under the tree with the wrapped game. Junior will see the similarly sized gifts under the tree and won't know which one's the videogame.
That is, until he picks them up.
You can't underestimate the little guy. To him, the weight difference between a game and an empty DVD case is a dead giveaway. The problem is the game's instruction manual. Simulate the extra weight by stuffing a dozen index cards into each case. Throw in a blank DVD, too, if you have some lying around. Now you have five or six similarly-weighted and -sized boxes under the tree, and he won't know which one is the diamond in the rough.
See that smile creeping across the boy's face as he discovers the first empty case? He knows he's getting a game but sees that you're mixing things up a bit. You're making Christmas morning more fun, and he appreciates that.
A wrapped DVD case is easy to spot. Two or three stacked together? Not so much.
Take that console game and bundle it with two or three empty cases, or better yet, bargain-bin DVDs. If you really want to throw him off, don't stack them neatly. Wrap them with one facing one way and one facing the other. It makes a cross. Imagine what it looks like wrapped. Alternatively, you can wrap two games side by side. Just put a piece of cardboard above and below to help the package keep its shape.
This can also work with hand-held games. They're usually cheaper, so if you can afford to bundle a two or three together, go for it.
A less fun but certainly cheaper way to disguise your gift is to simply drop the game in a padded mailing envelope and wrap it that way.