teachmama’s holiday gift guide for kids and family 2012

teachmama's kids' gift guide 2012I’m not a big gift-guide gal, and I’ve only ever created my first holiday gift guide for kids and families back in 2010.  And two years seems like forever ago.

Though our recommendations in our first gift guide still rank as our faves from then, when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were 6, 5, and 3, I figured it was time to update the list.

So here’s the official teachmama Holiday (or any day) Kids’ Gift Guide for 2012: Maddy is 8, Owen is 7, and Cora is 5 years old.

It’s full of items we love and have used in the past few years as well as items that are on our list for this season.

Without further ado, here’s the skinny. . .

  • teachmama’s Holiday Gift Guide for Kids and Family 2012: these are just some of our faves and some ideas for more creative and thoughtful gifts this holiday season.

Games: I’ve said it time and time again, we’re a game-playin’ family. So it doesn’t matter if it’s cards or dice or a board, we’ll play it if it’s here.

teachmama holiday kids gift guide 2012

Love: Zingo, Scallywags, and BINGO!

  • Rush Hour & Rush Hour, Jr: These are our g0-to games for birthdays for the 5-8 year old sets. Though we do not have regular Rush Hour at this point, it’s on our wish list from Santa, and we just lent our Rush Hour, Jr. set to a gal who couldn’t get enough of it at a playdate this weekend.  We’ve shared our Rush Hour love before. . . (from Thinkfun)
  • Rory’s Story Cubes: The Regular Rory’s Story Cubes & Rory’s Story Cubes Action: Tiny little dice with pictures of things or actions that you can take absolutely anywhere. A perfect stocking stuffer, most often I have a set in my purse for long waits at the doctor’s office or restaurant.  Love, love, love that these dice can be used as story starters for writing, storytelling, or creative thinking of any kind.  Add it to stockings along with another little fave, Iota. (from Gamewright)
  • Shape-ometry:  It’s like our old-school Tetris in real life. My husband came home from school one day, singing the praises of this game, and once we tried it, we all loved it.  Critical thinking, geometry, and planning all wrapped up in one pretty package. (from ThinkFun)
  • Scallywags: Aaaarrrgh! This pirate-focused game is perfect for any little pirate-fan but it’s also   (from Gamewright)
  • Scrambled States of America: Seriously a ton of fun, this game gets kids talking, thinking, and playing with our happy united states. Kids should be independent readers, but even with support, it’s a great family game.  It’s both a book by Laurie Keller and a game from Gamewright.
  • Bingo: We. Love. Bingo. We usually ring in the New Year with a mad bingo tourney, and this year will be no different. Love that the game includes anyone and everyone, love that the game helps kids learn numbers, and love that you can up the challenge factor by adding more boards to the mix.   Also love that we finally found number 64 who was lost for months and months.


Crafts & Puzzles: Some are new-to-us and some are oldies but goodies. But for us, crafts of any sort are super holiday gifts–and new packs of markers, crayons, and paints–are perfect stocking stuffers!

teachmama holiday kids gift guide 2012

Love: Peel & Press Mosaics, Stencils, & Wikki Stix

  • Stencils: Yes, the basics. But stencils are great for kids of all ages. Cora, at 5 years, particularly loves them right about now.
  • Wikki Stix: Those waxy, skinny straws are a fun gift or stocking stuffer, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora still love theirs.
  • Puzzles: We’re really into bigger jigsaws and floor puzzles lately, and with inspiration from the kids’ great-grandmother, Nana, we’ve kept a folding table up in our living room with a 1,000 piece jigsaw on it–so any time we want, we can hunker down and work on it.  We also love the big USA floor puzzle & Safari floor puzzle from Melissa & Doug,


Toys: We’re big toy fans over here–we have dolls, cars, and train sets, you name it.  Many, many are hand-me-downs, garage sale finds, or were gifts.  Here are some of our faves:

teachmama holiday gift guide 2012

Our toy faves? foosball, legos, and the Wii Building set

  • Hexbug Nano: These little robot bugs are still Owen’s faves. And this year, he’s asked for ‘a few more Hexbugs and a racetrack for them so [he] can race them with his friends.  I found the Hexbug Nano Racetrack Habitat which I think he will loooooove.  My advice, if you go the Hexbug route, is to order a pack of batteries right along with it because they go quickly.
  • Easy Bake Oven:It’s on Maddy’s list this birthday or holiday, since she’s into baking and cooking.  I haven’t heard much about it but do look forward to checking it out. (And maybe the mini-sizes of baked goods will be great for this sweet-toothed family in the New Year!)

    teachmama holiday kids gift guide 2012

love: Highlights, Sticker by Number, & PUZZLES!

  • Foosball Table & Ping Pong Table:  We totally scored big by seriously stalking some re-sale sites and garage sales in our community this past summer, but still our Foosball & Ping Pong table see a ton of regular action.  I like how they get the kids moving even in the wintertime.
  • Caboodles Organizer: I’m thinking about something like the Caboodles Tackle Box and Organizer for our little Cora who is a collector and organizer of all things tiny, shiny, and beautiful.  Something like this may help to keep her room organized a wee bit.
  • Personalized Shirts and Items: My littlest one lacks the name-personalization that Owen and Maddy have because her name is just a bit more on the unique side. So all she has asked for is to have her name on a mug (not written, but actually ‘stuck’ there), her name on a necklace, and her name on a shirt. I’m thinking I’ll go with Shootie Girl for Cora’s personalized tee, since my girl likes some bling, and I’m up in the air for the cup and necklace.
  • Dress-Ups & Costumes: Many costumes from Halloweens of past, along with new dress-ups from great companies like Melissa & Doug–or even cool thrift shop finds–make an awesome holiday gift for kids.  Even scarves, shoes, hats, bags, and belts can be added to a big plastic or wooden bin, and kids will play for-EVAH.

Electronics: As the kids get older, we’re doing more electronics–so we really choose carefully what we bring into the house. Otherwise, they’d be plugged in 24/7.  Here are a few of the devices we believe are really worth our kids’ time:

teachmama holiday gift guide 2012

Our electronics faves Wii, Leapster GS, & Vinci

  • Geomate, Jr, Geocaching GPS: I’ve had my eye on a Geomate, Jr for the kids if I can find a good price on one, especially since now we’re (woot!) 3 for 7 on our geocache finds! (Not sure what I’m talking about? You must read about geocaching. . . ).  UPDATE: Just went to buy the Geomate, Jr, and the reviews are not so great. So we’re leaning more towards the reliable Garmin Worldwide Handheld Navigator.
  • Leapster GS: Long, long, lontime fans of LeapFrog, we do love the Leapster GS and for several reasons. We love that all of our Explorer and LeapPad games work with the GS; we love that everything has an educational focus; and we lovelovelove that it’s completely safe, ad-free, and age-appropriate for our kids.  Add to that the sleek design, the built-in camera and video recorder, and it’s a seriously awesome device. (from Leapfrog)
  •  Walkie Talkies: This year, we think our kids are ready for them, so we’ve found a set–that includes three handsets–which we believe our kids will really love.
  • VINCI Touchscreen Tablet: This is really new for us, but at this point, Cora really digs it–and I do too for the focused learning potential.  The VINCI is a touchscreen learning tablet with specially designed learning curriculum for little guys–and I mean little ones. The research-based, highly organized curriculum hits on six different levels and three different stages. Cool. (from VINCI)


Alternative Gift Ideas: Tired of toys? Want to add a little more depth to your holiday this year? We do too.  And it doesn’t even have to be holiday time to make that decision; one of Maddy’s girlfriends asked that in lieu of 9th birthday gifts, everyone make a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  We thought it was a fabulous idea.  Here are some other ways to give a little bit bigger this year:

 teachmama holiday kids gift guide 2012

love: giving big, thinking big, thanking big

  • #blog4cause: Join us. Check out the many ideas and suggestions we give to parents and families for how they can give back this holiday season.  Join #blog4cause and perhaps it will be okay once you adopt a child from another country, raise money for hurricane victims, or help a local family by providing gifts and food.
  • Shot@Life: Check out their Gift Shop after Thanksgiving, or spend as little as $20 and actually see where the money is going.
  • Maiden Nation: An organization I am new to hearing about, but one I’m looking forward to supporting. Consider the Kiss Kiss Bracelet designed by Chan Luu and made with paper beads by Haitian artisans.  Your purchases will make a difference.


Just a starting point–just a few ideas–but hopefully this will give you an idea of some great products out there and some of our family’s personal faves.  I’m sure I’ll be adding to it in the next few days and weeks; I feel like there’s a ton I’m forgetting. . . . like magazine subscriptions!! Don’t forget to consider giving great reads for kids that come regularly–like Highlights or High Five!

. . . . But for now, happy holiday shopping for kids and families!

 Please, please please let me know what you think–are some of these YOUR faves? What did I miss? Let me know!


fyi: Affiliate links are included in this post.  We did receive some of these products from companies, but the large majority were purchased by our family on our own dime.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experiences as a parent and educator.




  1. Martha says

    Great list!
    Search pet TickleMe Plant to grow a crazy fun plant that moves and closes its leaves when you Tickle It!

  2. Dana says

    Thanks for the list! I’m totally stumped on Jack this year (8 years old)–he loves videogames, but I’m not sure I want to feed his addiction! I’m going with the walkie-talkies and some keva contraption blocks. Bridget loves animals and would love to have a kitten, but I don’t think that’s going to work this year. I think I’m going to get her a donation to National Wildlife Fund–comes with a stuffed animal and a certificate. I think she’ll dig it!


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