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I have three boys (2, 5 & 7) and from my years of parenting them I have come to understand something about toys: there are toys that just take up space, and then there are toys that encourage hours of imaginative/independent play. I aim for the later. And if they don’t take up a lot of space & have a million little parts- BONUS! As Christmas approaches it can be hard to find something worthwhile to spend $$ on. Sure, there’s tons of crap to choose from, but what will really be worth the investment? I don’t know about you, but I am really in the mood to simplify our holiday season. I want to focus on those quite magical moments together and serving others rather than running around like a chicken with my head cut off checking everything off a holiday “bucket list”. So I think we are going small this year. I think a small Christmas is healthy for kids sometimes… or all the time… what do you think>>?
Anyway, we will still be getting our kiddos SOMETHING, so here are my suggestions if your at a loss of what to get that wont just end up as clutter around your house:
- Magna-Tiles: If you haven’t yet discovered all that is magna-tiles yet you gotta get on board! We started playing with them a couple years ago and I have decided they are definitely JUST if not MORE cool than Lego’s, but don’t have a million little pieces so small you suck them up in the vacuum without realizing it, you know, until you hear that awful noise… They are pricey though, so keep an eye out for killer deals that are sure to be coming this holiday season. Amazon has a great set available here.
- Walkie Talkies: Go old school! Your kids will think they are the coolest thing. We have 3 acres and my boys love taking their walkie talkies outside and playing adventures together. Sometimes they keep one and I keep one so I can keep checking in on them. We take them camping, on road trips, play hide and seek. They are a blast. Amazon has some great ones for kids here.
- Razor scooters: A classic. How can you go wrong? Especially at the killer price they always put them out at around black friday.
- hungry, hungry hippos, connect 4, battleship (the electronic version), and other board games they can play independently (if they have a sibling to play with!) Beware though that these games do break the “million little pieces” rule. But my kids will play all of these games together often with little direction or guidance from me. Win-win.
- Trampoline: I know this idea is not a novel one. But jiminey-christmas, talk about hours of play. And in my opinion the best kind of play: outside play. Let boys be boys. If you have room for a trampoline in your yard you can snag one on black friday for REALLY, surprisingly, affordable prices. And talk about the wow factor on christmas morning! We have a 14 foot trampoline we ordered from walmart. They shipped it to the store for free- easy peasy! And an unexpected positive benefit: it can also double as an outdoor playpen for non-walking babies! Before my youngest was walking I would stick him in there with a few balls, zip up the net fencing and he could just crawl around enjoying the outdoors while I got somethings done in the yard. This one from amazon is very similar to the one we have.
- Kiwi Crate: Give the gift that keeps on giving! This is a monthly package that arrives for your kiddos full of hands on learning in science, art and engineering. If you have a little one that likes to tinker and create this is perfect for them. My little guys LOVE Phineas & Ferb and my 7 year old is always trying to replicate all the elaborate things they create on the show. Kiwi Crate is for ages 5-8 (they have Koala crate for younger ones) and will send them everything they need to create, explore & learn something new and fun. I saw they are running a black friday deal as well, so head over to check out sample crates and learn more!
- Remote control flying thing-ys: There are so many out there. And sometimes dealing with charging and batteries is a real pain. But BOY do my boys get a kick out of them. The particular one we have is the propel brand and we got it at costco, it looks like they dont sell it anymore. But there are some cheap options like this one on amazon as well. Look around and keep an eye out on black friday, there are sure to be some great options on sale!
- Wooden train sets: There are so many brands it can be confusing! But one thing I hate is owning like one set of geotrax, one set of thomas the train, one set of brio, etc! It’s maddening. Same with other things, some mega blocks, some duplos. Simplify! Pick one brand and stick to it so they all work together. It will be more fun for your kiddos to have one huge collection of something that they can build with rather then a bunch of odds and ends. Take a day and declutter and donate all those odds and ends! Pick something and stick to it and keep adding to their collection each year. For us its the wooden train tracks. We mostly buy the ikea and brio brand which WILL work together, though it does take some muscle 😉 Amazon always has great deals on brio this time of year.
- Something they need: Think ahead to the coming year, will they need new soccer cleats? Are they going to outgrow their bike helmet? Will their rain coat fit them next fall? What about their rain boots? Are they going to play a new sport and need all new gear? A lot of these expenses we can predict, and when I can get away with calling something I would have to buy them anyway a present- I DO!!
- An experience: And the best for last. To me this is far and away the best gift you can give your kiddos of any age. Guaranteed NOT to be something you suck up with a vacuum or fight with your kids about picking up. Ideas: tickets to a local childrens museum or special exhibit, a trip to the zoo with mom & dad, a night out to get dinner & a movie with mom or dad, a trip to visit cousins or family somewhere far away (stick the plane tickets in their stocking!), tickets to a professional sports game, and of course you can never go wrong with the whole “we’re going to disneyland!” thing. I’m currently in the process of trying to convince my husband to forego Christmas gifts almost entirely and rent a cabin up in the mountains in the snow. If you are a going to plan a trip for them, purchase a few items that they can use for their trip and wrap them up as clues to open on Christmas morning. New snow pants, for example, in our case.
Notice Lego’s did NOT make my list, much to my son’s dismay. He loves Lego’s and they do bring him hours of independent/imaginative play BUT… I cant stand them. Until he is old enough/responsible enough to keep them off the floor- they are a no-go for me. Other things that intentionally did not make my list are tablets and video games or video game systems. So far we have been able to scrap by without any of these things. I’m holding on to that for as long as we can. Fighting about TV time is enough for me 😉
What makes your top list? What have you found the most worthwhile to invest in for your kids? I hope my list got your brain flowing and will help you on your path to a magical Holiday Season with your kiddos 🙂