When I asked on our Facebook page what sort of gift guide would be most useful, the majority was in favor of a budget-friendly ($30 and under) list that spanned the ages of babies, toddler, preschoolers and had a few ideas for older children as well. Because the skill sets of kiddos range wildly from one child to another AND because some toys are just always fun (seriously - I'm 33 and still enjoy some of these, hahaha!) no matter what your age - I've arranged this roughly in order of age - but the rules are not hard and fast. Some of the "baby" toys will be fun for preschoolers and whatnot. So be sure to at least skim the entire thing because you might find a great idea for your kid in another "age" area. Though I've created this gift guide with Christmas and winter holidays in mind, it can be used for birthdays and other special occasions just as easily. And for even more ideas, be sure to check out our Creative DIY Gifts for Kids guide, our Basic Art Supplies by Age guide, and our All Time Favorite Books for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers. :)
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We LOVE our baby swing. It's great for kiddos from around 6 months and up. If you don't have a tree to hang this from, you could also hang it off a deck or from your ceiling (we have swings in both of those places). If you're not sure how to safely secure a swing in either of those locations, I'd recommending talking to some experts at a home improvement store (like Home Depot in the US) who can direct you to the appropriate tools. Please be sure to always (even in a tree) test with an adult's weight to be sure the swing is secure and attached correctly. Another great gift is any sort of inflatable ball. This one is HUGE! We love crazy giant inflatable balls because they store really easily when you're not using them and your kids will get a kick out of playing with a ball almost as big as they are! And finally this Haba First Blocks set has been one of my kids' favorites. Haba toys are truly amazing - very high quality woods and all natural safe dyes. I cannot say enough great things about this company and both of my kids just adored that little man in the car.
We now have a huge ball pit, but prior to that we made one out of this small inflatable pool. To stay under $30 you can buy one set of 100 phthalate free balls It's fun with a set of 100 balls, but it takes around 200 to completely fill it (just so you're aware). A tunnel is also a great toy - totally collapsible for storing if you are tight on space.
This next set of toys compose our favorite bath toys. They also double as fantastic water play/water table toys. The Kid O Nesting Cups are frequent players in our Simple Sensory Play as well. The Koi Toy is nicknamed "Awesome Fish" at our house because, well, it's totally awesome. He lights up when he's wet and glows in a rainbow of colors. And finally our water bugs and net are almost always involved in bathtime and enjoy frequenting our water table in the summer.
Every baby needs a set of keys, and these are our favorites . So realistic! Little X also loooooved this Mozart Music Cube . Yes, it totally lights up and plays music over and over, but his baby self would never forgive me if I didn't include it on this gift list. Older babies will enjoy learning how to press the button and make the plastic balls jump and spin with this Poppitoppy toy .
Play balls are always a hit - and this Set of 4 Sensory Balls are loads of fun. They are different shapes and textures and great for teething (phthalate free), learning to roll a ball, and just generally exploring. Though we don't have this identical mirror, it's great to have a baby safe mirror around for little guys to explore. This one is super highly rated, so I included it. :) Mirrors are always a win. And finally, a slinky is not a baby toy - so please if you choose to use this with your baby provide constant close supervision - but little X has always been fascinated with our slinky from such a young age. They really are such a fun classic toy!
We don't have this model of a kid-sized Dyson , but they don't make ours anymore - I think this is the updated version. It's seriously hilarious if you have a Dyson (we do) and even if you don't, this is a rad little vacuum. It has low (but real!) suction and makes some great vacuum noises. It's not only a hit with our kids but EVERY kid who comes to play at our house. If you don't already have a set of Wooden Building Blocks , it's another classic toy that we highly recommend. It's something that will grow with your child and be played with for years. Finally our favorite method of teaching toddler to color with markers is any of the Crayola Color Wonder sets. As little X is currently learning mastery of markers, I am again reminded of how much I love the fact that these markers mark nothing but the paper. It's so great to allow X to explore with the markers without holding my breath for his clothes and basically all of our furniture, LOL.
When we lived in a smaller house we just did not have room for a play kitchen. And S didn't mind one bit! She had this set of pots and pans and was happy as a clam to sit and cook on the living room floor sans kitchen. These are great pots and pans that have been with us for over 2 years now and still look brand new! The train is another toy that's been with us for almost 2 years and we seriously play with it all the time! It's great at transporting any of our small Playmobil or Safari Ltd figurines. It rolls really well on carpet as well as hardwood. It's also big enough that little toddler hands can connect the train cars. And finally kids love tents . There's just something universal about that, I think! This is another great toy if you are tight on space because it collapses down and can be easily stored. It will continue to be fun for many years!
Our favorite Ikea Paper Roll Dispenser is way expensive on Amazon, but I've included it so you know what it looks like. S got this paper roll holder and several paper rolls for Christmas last year and we LOVE it. You can control what size paper you want and the paper is actually pretty great quality. But save yourself a ton and buy it at an actual Ikea. :) A baby doll is a great toy for any toddler - and if you know me well, you know I am going to say that this is a great gift for a girl or a boy. Both. Yep. If you're not quite convinced, there is a great collaborative article written by an Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, and Clinical Psychologist about the benefits of both boys and girls playing with dolls you can check out here. And finally a slide ! Because slides are fun!!! We like to put ours so it lands in the ball pit for extra fun. Oh, and this slide does fold for compact storage if you are tight on space! :)
We love the Whittle World toys from Melissa and Doug - they are nice and big and sturdy for lots of pretend play. We have (and love) the airplane set - but all of them look awesome. A doll stroller is always a big draw for toddlers. Not all of them use the strollers to push dolls - some of them just like to push a stroller. Because it's fun! And finally, we are obsessed with Playmobil over here and love that they have a series of toys (Playmobil 123) that don't pose any choking hazards - no removable tiny parts! YAY! So if you've got a toddler who is still mouthing things - this series is a great way to promote imaginary play safely. :)
Of course we have to list liquid watercolors. Of course. These are a set of 10 liquid watercolors available on Amazon that we have tried and loved! The colorful straws and connectors are a favorite gift - you can build just about anything with them - we've built a hot air balloon, a car, a bed, a house, and a rolling ball! So much fun to be had! And of course hanging rings . (Yes, another of course, hahaha) If you haven't seen how we use ours, you can check them out in action here.
The Battat Take Apart Toys are all so much fun. S loves that she can operate a drill and there's some great problem solving when it comes to figuring out which drill bit needs to be used, and which direction the drill should turn. We are a big fan of all of them - the roadster is the easiest, so if you've got a younger child, I'd recommend that one. Duplos are always a hit. And they work with the regular small legos (did you know that? We recently figured it out and felt pretty smart.), so they can live on even when your child has graduated to smaller and more complicated Lego pieces. And finally Playmobil. Oh how we all love Playmobil. My kids like playing with the small sets (vs. the big houses/ships) and building the people/animals houses out of blocks and whatnot. They really are so cute, detailed, and so much fun!
A fun gift that will come into play in spring would be a Butterfly Raising Kit. S got one for Christmas a few years back and I enjoyed that it was a fun surprise to bring out for her in the spring (you don't want to release butterflies until it's warm outside). We are also totally in love with the Playstix building sets. They're like newer, brighter Lincoln Logs. So cool. You can also buy sets with wheels to build cars and planes! And finally Hexbugs are super cool. We have a few varieties and always enjoy getting them out to play. They are SO lifelike - it's amazing to interact with them.
Our Doctor Kit is a staple around here. S is always tending to an animal (or one of us!). I added some gauze rolls and a package of bandaids from the Dollar Tree to ours and it's something that's played with almost daily. If you have an older child, a first pet may be something you consider. Betta fish are super low maintenance easy pets - this is the tank we use for ours (you can see it in action here). S loves being in charge of feeding the fish, and X loves staring at them on the wall. :) And at the bottom there is a representative Safari Ltd TOOB . We looooove our miniatures and Safari Ltd TOOB sets appear in basically all of our Small World play. They have a huge variety of figurines and these would make some fabulous stocking stuffers. :)
Since my little ones are both under 5, I am not super well-versed in all there is for older children - but since several of you requested ideas for older children when I queried on the Facebook page, here are a few ideas. Some of these I've played with myself, some I've heard great things about from friends, and some of them my friend Monica recommended (thanks, Monica!) since she often buys gifts for older children. First up are these amazing pop beads . They are technically for older children, but S has a set at her grandparent's house and they are SO cool. I may play with them every time I'm over there.... :) Plus Plus Building Blocks look amazing - I have not played with them myself but Monica says they are well loved by the older kids she knows (and seriously - how cool is that car on the box!?!?!?). Since games are a great way to play with older children, I included several of them. Rory's Story Cubes come highly recommended by Monica, and Blokus is a highly reviewed game on Amazon that I have heard great things about.
Set is maybe the coolest game ever. It's really most appropriate for a grade school child - but it's really fun even for adults. We own this and my husband and I love playing it with our friends (and each other!). I have heard nothing but amazing things about Snap Circuits and can hardly wait until S is old enough to try them!!! Qwirkle I have not tried, but have heard amazing things about. The K'Nex Education Series comes highly recommended from Monica. And finally, my second favorite game - or maybe it's tied for first with Set - I can't decide - is Quiddler . Again this would be for a much older grade school child (or for adults - I seriously love this game!!!). It's a really fantastic game.
Phew. That was a HUGENORMOUS list. Hopefully this gives you all some ideas for fun gifts for kids not only this holiday season, but also for any other gift giving occasions that arise! :)
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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children. As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family. I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.