If there’s one place on the holiday list that people will often make exceptions, it’s for the kids. Many grandparents (ahem) simply don’t understand the concept of “cutting back” when it comes to their grandbabies. These gifts for kids encourage creativity and playfulness.
Be sure to consider giving gifts of experience for memorable Christmas or Hanukah giving.
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Choosing the best gifts for kids
If you’ll manage to stick with all homemade gifts for your kiddos, I applaud you. If you’re able to convince the grandparents to stick with something simple, hooray! But if you find yourself trying to figure out how to give your children a fun gift that suits your greener, more minimalist style, here are some ideas.
These gifts for kids will endure the test of time, holding up to hours of play.
My kids spent hours trying to master the skill of a slingshot — they loved the challenge and nobody lost an eye. This one is made of beechwood and leather.
Made in the USA, this set of horseshoes is a perfect gift for a family who loves to play games. Play the official way, in teams of two, or let the kids make up their own rules. Ages 8 and up; $80
No batteries required for this fun toy. Originally used by Australian Aborigines for hunting, boomerangs have been confounding and occupying children of all ages for years. Ages 6 and up; $12
Yes, it’s plastic, but this fire truck (as well as the other options from Green Toys) is made from recycled milk cartons. In America. And it comes packaged in recycled corrugated boxes with no plastic or twist ties. Ages: 12 months and up; $22.
There are so many great books for kids and young adults I couldn’t begin to list them all here. But if you’ve got a reader on your list — or want to inspire a reader — books can’t be beat. Need some ideas for picture books? Here are ten of my family’s all time favorites.
Montessori-style Christmas gifts for kids
These “play silks” come in a rainbow of colors. Preschoolers love to twirl and spin with the flowing fabric, and I know from experience that they come up with lots of other creative activities to use these for. This is one of those gifts for kids that will be used over and over again. Ages: 2 and up; $18.
Metal tavern puzzles
If you’re shopping for a teen, a difficult-too solve puzzle like this one will provide an uplugged challenge. Ages 10 and up; $22.
Real garden gear
There is nothing—nothing—more fun to a child than digging holes. This set includes real garden gear for kids; they’re not toys. They’re just sized for smaller people. My kids each had small shovels and loved having their own. And what better way to get kids involved in gardening?? Choose from a shovel, hoe, or rake. Ages: 4 and up; $15.
Musical instruments make perfect gifts for kids
An ‘ukulele is the perfect size for a child who’s showing an interest in learning to play music. My son started playing when he was about 12. The ‘ukulele is so much more manageable than a full sized guitar. This is a decent instrument to start with — not a toy, but not super expensive. If this is just what your kiddo has been looking for, be sure to search Live ‘Ukulele for lessons and tips to get started! Ages 4 and up; $54.
Board games for kids
Older kids and teens will enjoy The Settlers of Catan, a “board” game that can be set up differently each time you play. Players collect resources to build roads, settlements, and cities. Pieces are made of wood and the board hexes are sturdy paperboard. This is one of our go-to games and is a great gift to give an entire family. Ages: 10 and up; $38.
Gift card games to your favorite kids
Another of our go-to games, Set is a card game that requires critical thinking and deduction skills. Adults and kids can easily play together — and don’t be surprised if you’re bested by the younger generation. We’ve owned this one for years. We’ve gotten so much use out of it that I’ll forgive the fact that the cards come in a plastic box. Ages 6 and up; $12.
Here is what I like about Brio train sets: They are wooden. They can be expanded upon with new pieces and parts, making gift giving for the next several years a no-brainer. And kids will get hours of use out of these things. Hours and hours. (We still have ours packed away for way-in-the-future grandchildren.) I consider this one of the best gifts for kids if you’ve got family members who like to add to sets for special events — there are lots of small trains to be added, as well as track extensions. Ages 2 and up; $50.
Originally published in November 2013; this post has been updated.