You spend hundreds of pounds on a toy for your child and then they spend all day playing with the box - isn't that always the way? Buying presents for kids can be incredibly difficult. When they're young, it's hard to anticipate what they might like and when they're older, they usually want what their friends have. So if you're finding it hard to think of a toy to get your child for their next present, you're not alone. It doesn't have to be a completely trying experience, however - follow these simple tips and you could have a new toy that your child will love in no time.

First, it's important to remember that the toy is for your child not yourself. Grown-ups adore some toys as much as kids - but when it comes to presents, you need to get your child something they will love and not something you want them to play with. Next, make sure you're looking at age-appropriate toys. When your child is six or seven, they'll probably be excited about that science experiment kit - but if they're only three or four now, they won't know what to do with it. And don't be tempted to buy a present for an older child and wait until you're old enough to use it. The likelihood is it'll get buried under other toys and household items, and you might only find it again when your child is getting ready to leave home.

Moreover, don't restrict yourself to gender-specific toys. Your son might not want a new Barbie doll but your daughter might love a train set. Marketing for children's toys may subtly encourage a gender division - i.e., toys for boys often come in blue boxes, while those for girls may be in pink packaging. Try to see past these outer layers and think about what your child really likes. If you've got a daughter that loves to draw and read comics, buy her a comic drawing kit - even if it's got a picture of a boy on the front. And if your son really wants an ice-lolly maker, there's no reason he shouldn't have one just because there's a girl on the box.

Simultaneously, you should ensure that your child has a healthy smattering of educational toys. This doesn't necessarily have to be a boring present, as educational toys in the 21st century are as fun as they are informative. For example, a popular item in kids toys departments is a toy cash register. Children love pretending that they run a shop and, if you buy them some toy money, they'll be learning basic mathematics as they play too. Or why not introduce them to grown-up games from an early age? Scrabble Junior, for instance, is a great way to get children making words and testing their vocabulary.