Friends! It’s only the second week of November but already I’ve received two dozen emails from you asking for my gift picks for this holiday season.
What should you get for your preschool nephew?
What does your second grader absolutely need this year?
What will your tween totally love you forever if she receives?
How about your babysitter, your mother-in-law, or your sisters?
Right! I love this time of the year, and I love gift-giving.
And I’m so flattered you care about what I think. I am so excited to share!
I’m trying and have finally assembled it all: the must-have gifts for kids and families 2014.
And though I usually can shove all of our faves into one happy post, this year? Not so much.
So yes–here are the must-have gifts for kids and families. Our holiday picks.
But we’ve also got our Must-Have Gifts that Give Back and Must-Have Books as Gifts posts, too.
So hold onto your seats.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Must-Have Gifts for Kids (and Families!)–2014:
For our teeniest teenies: (babies – first year)
- Match & Build Soft Blocks by Melissa & Doug K’s Kids: Soft blocks with patterns, numbers, letters, and more. Perfect for any new baby’s first holiday.
- Bug Jug Fill & Spill by Melissa & Doug: Super cute for kids under a year and up through the 2’s. Each little bug is bright, sweet, and full of fun textures. Any toy that comes with its own container is a huge win for me. And kids love filling and dumping this little bug-catcher. Also really love Pretty Purse Fill & Spill, Picnic Basket Fill & Spill, and Sports Fill & Spill.
- Caterpillar Grasping Toy or Friendly Fish Grasping Toy by Melissa & Doug: My nephew loved these like crazy. Smooth wood moves in a way that is totally intriguing for little hands.
- Gear Toys: My nephew loves the Caterpillar Gear Toy and my sister has requested the Switch and Spin Gear Board for her almost 2-year-old.
My First Crayola Egg Shaped Crayons or Crayola Jumbo Crayons: Even our tiniest tines need to know that they can make marks on a page! Get them started early.
For the little guys: (ages 2-4)
- Deluxe Pounding Bench by Melissa & Doug: My sisters have been eyeing this set for their boys for a while now. I know that my nephews will love this.
- My First Crayola Triangular Crayon Set: A great step up from the baby crayons, these triangular crayons help kids develop the all-important tripod grip and still have bright, bold colors.
- Cool Rain gear: I loved having super cute rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas for Maddy, Owen, and Cora when they were tiny. Kidorable has sweet patterns for little ones, like the lady bugs, frogs, and fire trucks. [Use coupon code UMBFR and add a FREE umbrella to your $20.00 purchase. You need over $20 without umbrella cost. YAY!]
- Personalized Cozy Chair: Every kiddo in my family gets his or her own personalized reading chair when they turn two. Really. And honestly, the kids love ‘their’ chair so much that often they become their ‘go-to’ cozy spot for reading, relaxing, and playing. You don’t have to go crazy here, but you can if you’d like. Check out these chairs that I adore from The Land of Nod; they start at $99, and they’re the perfect holiday gift!
- Personalized Name Puzzles: From Frecklebox, I love these simple name puzzles and think I’ll definitely grab some for my nephews this year. I am betting they’ll particularly love the Underwear Collection one and firetruck one!
- Personalized Story Books: We have had personalized story books for our kids for as long as I can remember. Every kiddo needs to feel like he or she is the star, and seeing a first name in print will do the trick! Love these from Frecklebox.
- Spot-It: Super little game for kiddos with super-sharp eyes, we have had Spot-It for years and still pull it out often to play. Love. This. Game.
- Play-Doh Fun Factory Deluxe: All kids need Play-Doh, and all kids need a play center where they can make Play-Doh spaghetti and snakes.
- Role Play Sets: I’ve gone on and on about the benefits of pretend play, even as recently as this fall. Cora loved the Magician Role Play set, and she had a blast entertaining her pals on the soccer sidelines. I highly recommend any of the Melissa & Doug role play sets for little ones; they’re perfect for getting those imaginations going strong!
For the bigger guys: (ages 5-7)
- Folding Princess Castle (or Folding Medieval Castle to be more unisex), by Melissa & Doug: Geared for children ages 3-10, this castle is a total fave of my nephews and my own kids. Cora absolutely loves it. Don’t forget the Royal Family or Deluxe Play Set with horses!
- GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine: Cora fell hard for GoldieBlox after she tried this exact set. It’s awesome, from start to finish. I’m thinking definitely the GoldieBlox Action Figure Zipline or the Dunk Tank Set for my 7-year old niece.
- Order’s Up! Diner Play Set or School Time! Play Set: We had a chance to try both of these sets this year, and they are totally and completely adore them both. Both sets are like little treasure boxes of fun. Everything that kids need to play a full game of diner–from cooking to serving and eating the goodies–and everything kids need to play school–from lesson planning to learning to grade reporting–is included.
- National Geographic 24 in 1 Space: There’s a Dinosaur set with this collection, too, and both are awesome. Kids build things that actually light up, and each set has a ton of different objects to build, so kids aren’t limited to a once-and-done thing.
- Personalized Bean Bag Chair: Though my kids’ aren’t personalized (poor kids!) they do have beanbag chairs and love them. Owen plops down on his while playing video games, and everyone uses the bean bag chair in our book nook.
- Personalized Journals: Cora loves anything with her name on it. These little journals from Frecklebox she’s going to adore.
- PlusPlus Building Blocks: These? So cool. Picture tiny little plus signs made out of plastic. They come in a zillion colors, and kids simply use them to build 2D or 3D objects. Very cool. Popular in Denmark, I think, but may be tricky for little ones who aren’t super savvy with their fine motor skills.
- Deluxe Roominate: I actually met the gals behind this product at both Toy Fair and at a Radio Shack event this summer, and honestly? They’re awesome–the inventors and the products. Created by two women, an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer, who wanted better toys for girls, this whole line is geared toward bringing girls into engineering. The Roominate products are a blend of hands-on building and circuits. So totally awesome.
Multi-Craft Weaving Loom: I wrote about this cool, not-so-little multi-craft weaving loom a few weeks back. Totally fun holiday gift with endless crafty possibilities.
For the biggest guys and gals: (ages 8-11)
- GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit: We’ve written about our love of GoldieBlox, but I seriously continue to share the GoldieBlox love to anyone who will listen. We love this set, and it’s a super gift for our tween girls.
- littleBits Electronics Kits: I was introduced to these kits at a Radio Shack event our family attended this summer, and my kids absolutely were in awe of them, as were my husband and I. There are several options here, but each one of the littleBits kits involves kids actually playing with light, sound, sensors, and energy–without the hazard of soldering. Young ‘makers’ could do a ton with the Base Kit, but I’d probably think about getting the littleBits Electronics Deluxe Kit for all three kids to share.
- Zing Bow and Arrow Set: Owen received two of these sets for his August birthday and loves them. He and the neighborhood kids play with them for hours. The only problem is that they come only with three arrows. For Christmas, we’re getting Owen the target and extra arrows.
- Vera Bradley Small Wristlet: Maddy and her pals are all into Vera Bradley. I know she’d love a small wristlet or zip bag for school or cheer.
- Gravity Maze: My kids have totally loved playing with this new game from ThinkFun that is literally a marble run and logic puzzle all in one. So cool.
- Saucer Chair for Tweens: Maddy (sob!) graduated to this ‘big kid’ saucer chair recently, and it’s perfect for her bedroom. She loves it. I’d go black for a tween boy and a fun pattern saucer chair for a girl.
- Sports Gear — caps, tees, and sweatshirts: The O-Man is totally into all things soccer, football, and basketball now. He would love just about anything from Fanatics.com. [If you order now, you can grab 20-60% off of caps and tees and grab free shipping with orders over $50 with code 50SHIP]
- Skallops: From E & M Labs, these are crazy little wood clips that actually hold playing cards together so that you can build structures with playing cards. Remember Marcia and Greg’s card tower from way back when? Our lucky kids have it so easy. No dangling bracelet will knock this tower down!
Crayola Virtual Design Pro-Fashion Set: This would be a huge hit for Maddy and Cora, I know. I saw it at Toy Fair this year, and I was in awe of how absolutely awesome it was. Combines traditional coloring with graphic design, and then it all comes to life in an app. Sounds involved, but it’s not. Simple and so cool.
- Fandango Gift Cards: Going to the movies is such fun for kids, but it does get expensive after you add it all up. We’re huge Fandango fans over here, so gift cards will definitely be stocking stuffers for my three, okay, Santa?
- Amazon Gift Cards: My kids are becoming savvy shoppers, so Amazon gift cards are a big win for them, since they can find just about anything their little hearts desire over there. Even Aero for Maddy, Game Stop for Owen, and Charming Charlie for Cora would be a huge win.
- Tenzie: It’s a fast frenzie. . . it’s TENZIE! One of our most favorite summertime games, Tenzie is a dice game. With a million, trillion options for play. Pair it with the 77 Ways to Play Tenzie book, and it’s a perfectly awesome game for kids of all ages.
- Word-A-Round: Love this game from ThinkFun. Word-A-Round is a little tricky, but basically it’s words in a circle and you have to figure out what the word is. Fun for everyone. It’s my personal fave because (cough) it’s the only game I’m able to beat Owen in at this point.
- New watercolors, sets of markers, cool, twisty colored pencils, and gel pens. Because it’s a great time to replenish those art supplies!
- Play-Doh Case of Colors, even for the big guys or Model Magic–because kids love this stuff!
- Create super-cute custom bracelets, necklaces, and rings for your kids at My Bling Place: LOVE these and they’re surprisingly affordable!
- Name Labels and tags from Mabel’s Labels: Every year I go for the Stocking Stuffer Combo for my nieces and nephews. Because really? What mom doesn’t want their kids’ things labeled?
Tooth brushes: Not sure why, but we always had tooth brushes in our stockings. And so do my kids.
- Trampoline: I can barely believe I’m sharing this, but our kids have begged and pleaded for a trampoline in our back yard for so many years, that I finally think we might cave. I think we might cave. I know they’d love it. But I’m not sure I will be able to handle it. The Skywalker 15 ft round trampoline comes with very high reviews, as does the much smaller Skywalker 8 ft round trampoline. I secretly with my kids were small enough to fit the Little Tykes 3 ft trampoline, but that one would be a better match for our tiny nephews.
- Tumble Trak: My kids have wanted a mat like this–one they can practice their flips on–for months and months. It is a super gift for kids in gym, cheer, or tumble classes!
- Subscription Services:
- Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids. Packages include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8 years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years). Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because kids are thinking, moving, and creating. They love these.
- Little Passports is another fun subscription service, and this one focuses more on teaching kids about the world around them. Early Explorers (ages 3-5 years), World Edition, (5-10 years), and USA Edition, (7-12 years) has something for just about every kid on your list!
- Playstation 4 Destiny Bundle or XBox One: Our kids have played our Wii long and hard for the past five years. Five years. So we’re thinking it’s time to move on since at this point there are no new games being made for the Wii. I’m keeping my eyes open for a good deal on the Playstation 4 or an Xbox One. Any advice? I’d love to hear it!
That’s not even it. I’m on such a roll and I know there are like a million awesome things that I’m forgetting.
Want a few rockstar deals on some of these products and more?
Subscribe to teachmama.com and have access to our super-special holiday deals page. So fun.
Also check out:
Need a bit more inspiration?
Check out our gift guides of years past. Though the dates have changed, the suggestions are still some of our faves.
Click on the picture for the link:
Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out:
- Holiday Fun Fact and JOKES Lunchbox Notes (with Hannukah!)
- Holiday Time Fun Fact Lunchbox Notes
- Little Holiday Notes and Jokes
- Holiday Notes for Families
- The Polar Express tradition
- Scratch-off Cards
- K-Cup Advent Tree
- New Year’s Family Interview
- Happy Holidays Backyard Birds
fyi: We did receive some of these products from companies to try, but the large majority were purchased (or will be purchased!) by our family on our own dime. I do work with some of the companies above, but I also work with a ton more that I didn’t mention. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experiences as a parent and educator. I’m sharing the best of the best here–our faves.
fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy.
Great gifts! I’ve never heard of the game Tenzi, but it seems perfect for my numbers obsessed 5 year old. Thanks for all the suggestions.
YOU are so welcome!! Tenzi is SUPER fun. Soon you’ll all be singing, ‘it’s a fast frenzy, it’s TENZI!!’
We got a hand me down trampoline several years ago. My son uses it every.single.day unless it is raining (we live in CA so we have plenty of dry warm-enough days). I think we are going to get a new one since this one is actually starting to fall apart (we are its third owners). Best family gift you can buy!
thanks for letting me know, Jennifer!! Do you have a brand you’re looking at?