A few years ago, when my girls were very little, I learned 2 hard lessons as a mom, lessons that completely changed the way I viewed parenthood. Here they are:
- My kids will have junk food, sometimes, and there is nothing I can do about it.
- My kids will have junk toys, sometimes, and there is nothing I can do about it.
This was a humbling lesson for a woman who made her own organic baby food and bought wooden toys from obscure French and German toy catalogs. Yes, in spite of my best efforts, my girls love candy and never met a piece of plastic they didn’t want.
But this isn’t a list of junk toys. I trust that you can find your way to the Barbies and the plastic princesses and the Star Wars action figures all by yourself.
And it’s not a list of eco-friendly, aesthetically pleasing toys that your kids will never play with, either.
This is a list that will make both of you happy. I hope. They’re fun, sure, but they also educate. Inspire. And encourage your kid to get creative, get moving, or both! Here, my picks for the best gifts for kids.
(Don’t Forget: The pictures are linked, so just click on any picture to shop.)
Looking for a gift that will help your child focus on the true meaning of Christmas? These sweet resources will engage and inspire your child.
An adorable plush, colorful storybooks and coloring books tell stories from the Bible for little ones to enjoy and understand, from the story of Creation to Christmas to other themes, such as “Don’t Judge a Rock by it’s Cover.” And they come in both ebook and softcover book versions, starting at $2.99. TheChickenLivers.com or Amazon.com
Love this concept! A group of owl students star in these enchanting videos, that teach us about God through his creation. My kids are watching these on repeat! $9.87 for first DVD on Amazon or Owlegories.com; app is free.
YouVersion Bible App for Kids
My girls adore this free, interactive Bible story app, which brings the stories of the Bible to life. They retain the information, too, because in a recent Sunday school class, Eva was able to name some of the miracles that Jesus performed. Bible.com/kids
Oh, the dullness… Sure, they beat some of the more mundane learning tools that we used to use, but most educational toys are so boring! Fortunately, this season, you’ll find a couple of new toys that are as appealing as they are informative.
Edwin the Duck
A classic bathtub toy gets an upgrade, with educational games, stories, and music (from the Edwin app or your own playlist). There’s even a lullaby app that will adjust the color of Edwin’s light and play music or white noise. And it’s still waterproof! So cute! $99.99, EdwintheDuck.com
Ask Amy Doll
Continuing the trend of applying modern technology to childhood classics, the Ask Amy doll talks and answers questions in an amazingly natural way. $120, AskAmyDoll.com
Personalized Puffin Classics
This friendly little guy plays games, explores and solves challenges. There is an accompanying app for every age group and learning level, so it can grow with your child. So cool! $150, Amazon
This was a hot toy when it launched last year, and it keeps getting better. The recently launched Numbers game really makes math concepts come to life. Other games include Newton, Masterpiece, Words and Tangram. $99, Amazon
Teach children the value of investing with a gift of stocks or funds through Spark Gift. For as little as $20, you can buy stock for a child, and send a gift certificate to commemorate the purchase; SparkGift.com. Or consider a piggy bank that allows children to divide their money into categories like Spend/Save/Share.
Crankiness is a sure sign that kids need to get active and blow off some steam! Help fight cabin fever with these fun toys that encourage physical fitness.
This cool new hybrid toy allows kids to quickly navigate snow, grassy hills and even sand dunes, and it works on flat terrains as well as hills. The handle provides balance and control, creating a safe, fun play experience. $49, Amazon
Phresh Yoga Mats
These colorful mats are printed with symbols that guide children into proper yoga poses, and make learning yoga so much fun! It also comes with a poster filled with poses and games for kids to try. About $38, Amazon.
This fun, open-ended toy can keep kids busy and active for hours. It can be used as a hammock, rocker, balancing toy and whatever else they can imagine. $179, Hearthsong.com
When I really want my kids to get creative, I turn to the pros. My friend Aimee has a paint your own pottery studio for kids that offers amazing activities, so a gift certificate to Whim Wham is always a hit. At home, I keep it simple (and not messy) with straightforward kits like these!
Crayola Creations Thread Wrapper
I’ve been on a Crayola kick since we took a field trip to the fun-filled Crayola Experience a couple of months ago. This ingenious Thread Wrapper will be a huge hit with my little fashionista, Lola. I also plan to give the Cling Creator to Eva! It lets you make your own custom window clings! $25, Amazon
Cooper & Kid
I am always looking for projects that Kevin can do with the girls, especially Eva, my budding engineer, but they always involve so much preparation. I went to 4 different stores yesterday looking for the parts to one project, and still didn’t find everything I needed. That’s why I love this concept. For $65 a quarter, your child gets one Cooper Kit filled with hours of STEM projects, activities, books and fun! CooperandKid.com
These are the cutest STEM and craft kits ever, especially for little squirrel lovers like mine. This acorn contains everything you need to make 3 squirels. The sets are eco-friendly, simple and adorable. This site also offers ingenious sticker kits that let you make a Wheelbarrow, a Speed Racer and a Sun Lounge. Kits start at just $5.99; SquirrelKing.org
If you still haven’t found something to entertain, educate and inspire your kids, consider giving an experience instead of an object. A family getawaay, tickets to a favorite concert or play, or a special day out are all amazing options! Like her mama, my 9-year-old Lola loves to be pampered, so the next time we find ourselves in New York City, we are going to pop in to the Milk & Cookies Kids Spa, where every service ends with milk and a fresh baked cookie. What are your favorite experiences to share with your kids?