Okay, this New For Us Friday is totally new for me–my first gift guide ever. And it includes absolutely no giveaways or freebies, no sponsorship, no nothin’ baby–just my own family’s faves for your perusing pleasure.
Numerous readers have emailed me asking for gift ideas (and fyi, I’m so incredibly flattered you even care what I think!!), so here it is. One person even emailed me last month to remind me that last year I promised to do a gift guide this year (which I totally forgot about, thank you). I wish, wish, wish I started this back in July because I’m sure I’m forgetting tons of things, but anyway, it’s a start.
In no particular order, here are some of our family’s favorite things, and perhaps you can find a few things that your little lovies might enjoy as well:
- Sandra Boynton books: We have rocked out for years to Barnyard Dance, Pajama Time, Snuggle Puppy, Hey Wake Up, Birthday Monsters–you name it. I’m pretty sure I have them all memorized, since I read and sang these catchy rhythms to my babies from the time each were infants up until. . .well, tonight, when Cora picked the whole lot of Boynton’s for her before-bed books. Love ’em.
- The Bear Series, by Karma Wilson: Bear. Love, love Bear. Karma Wilson’s another fab author whose use rhythm, word choice, and stories are total ear candy. We love all of her work, but we especially heart Bear.
- My Very Own Name Book: Maddy and Cora have one, but for some reason, Owen doesn’t (gulp!) and I better fix that asap. Maddy and Cora love theirs, and I love the way these books focus on names, first and last, and how they incorporate animals as well. Also love the end with all the thumbnails of animals and animal facts.
- Laura Numeroff’s If You Give A. . . books: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is one of our family’s longtime faves. All of Laura Numeroff’s books are great, but (shhhh!) Cora loves them in particular and is getting a mini-set of four If You Give A. . . books this holiday. EEEEee.
- Roger Priddy’s Counting Colors: Given to Cora for her 3rd, this is a great book that combines counting, color-learning, spying, and reading. Very fun.
- More favorite authors: I can’t even begin, we have so many favorites and so many are worth mentioning. It’ll have to be its own post, ready before the holidays. . .
- Magazines we love: Highlights, High-Five, and Your Big Backyard make super gifts–a subscription for a little one is like a gift every month!
- Melissa & Doug Alphabet Stamps: We’ve used these alphabet stamps steadily for the last three years. I think they’re awesome, and Melissa & Doug products are sure to be top quality and well worth your mulah.
- Melissa & Doug Stamp Sets: We have about three of these sets which we use often, but for the younger kids, the bigger sets like the Expression Stamp Sets are very cool. My sister got these for Cora last year, and they’re great.
- Beads:a big bucket of beads is sure to yield hours of fun for any kid, especially if you throw in some fancy string or pipe cleaners for creation-building.
- Crayola Model Magic: We’re huge fans of Model Magic, after our fab Christmas ornies last year. It’s easy to work with, dries quickly but not too quickly, and it’s a fun step between Play-Doh and clay.
- Crayola Crayons/ Markers/ Pencils: Seriously, my kids love a new pack of crayons or markers, so they’re usually a natural stocking stuffer. The Jumbo crayons really helped Owen rock his tripod grip way back when, and we love the Crayon Tower, the Twistable Slick Stix, the Mini Twistable Crayons, and Silly Scents. We love the PipSqueak markers and pencils, and the Color Wonder markers still top our lists. My teenies loved the Tadoodles, and anything crafty–glitter glue, fabric markers, window markers–anything is a hit.
- Play-Doh: With or without the sets, Play-Doh is great for kids. We’ve had the same Hair Salon and Ice-Cream Making kits for the last four years. Or, skip the sets, add some dried noodles, some popscicle sticks, or some plastic utensils, and it’s still a great gift.
- Cranium Hullabaloo: Love, love this game that has little guys listening to instructions, movin’ and groovin’, and gettin’ some exercise. Oh, and they’re practicing shapes and colors, too, which I totally dig.
- Playing Cards: ‘War’ Cards, as Owen calls them. Any deck will do. We play Crazy 8’s, Go Fish!, or War. All. The. Time.
- Left Center Right: A teeny game to shove in your bag and pull out while waiting at restaurants or at the auto shop (okay, and LCR is totally worth playing at home, too!) that teaches left and right. Fab.
- Mattel’s Skip-Bo Junior & Kids’ Uno: Owen and I have just discovered Skip-Bo, and we’ve played it daily for the last few weeks. He loves it. It’s all about adding to 10, figuring out which pile of cards to use so you’re out of cards first–pretty cool. And everyone knows Uno. Love it.
- Gamewright Games–Finders Keepers: We’ve shared our Finders Keepers love before; it’s a great game for little detectives to practice their spying, along the lines of Scholastic’s I Spy books that are also totally awesome.
- Gamewright Games–Hissss: Love how this game teaches critical thinking and strategy all in the name of cute snakes.
- Gamewright Games–Feed the Kitty: Simple counting, dice-rolling, and cat-feeding are this game’s basics. Fun.
- Gamewright Games–Take the Cake: Colors, shapes, and fine motor skills are worked on with this sweet favorite game!
- Lucy Hammett Dog Bingo: Love, love, love our Dog Bingo and still play it often. I would highly recommend visiting Lucy Hammett’s site for about a million other types of Bingo Games–you name it, she’s got it. And if she doesn’t, then you can have it made.
- Schylling Checkers and Chinese Checkers: We have this exact–really basic–tin that has regular checkers on one side and Chinese Checkers on the other side.
- Hasbro’s Guess Who? Game: We have the Disney version, thanks to a summertime yard sale, but this game is awesome for so many reasons.
- Puzzles: The more puzzles, the better. We love puzzles around here. The wooden knob puzzles for little hands, the peg puzzles for slightly early preschoolers, jigsaw puzzles for the bigger kids. Love the jigsaws in a box and the HUGE floor puzzles by Melissa & Doug.
- Magnetic Letters (and Numbers): Uppercase, lowercase, block letters, big numbers, small numbers–whatever. Get these and get them fast. The learning opportunities are endless.
- Magnetic Poetry: A smart and useful gift for kids (and adults!). Who doesn’t love to play with magnetic words?
- Blocks: Really any wooden blocks work. We have small square ABC/123 blocks, small shape blocks, and I also think these Standard Blocks (by Melissa & Doug) are fab but we don’t actually have them.
- Big Cardboard Blocks: My usual standard gift when kids hit the big #2, I love these. Sure they take up a boatload of room, but so what? Kids love them, and they’re fantastic for developing motor skills.
- Melissa & Doug Take Along Tool Set: One of the first ‘big kid’ toys we had, this is a great toy for even little, little ones (I think, even though the age is for 3 years +).
- Legos, Legos, LEGOS!: We’re on a major Lego at our house, with Owen and Maddy especially being big-time Lego builders. We’re into the Lego City series now, and (shhhh!) all the kids are getting a new set this holiday. It’s the ONLY thing on Owen’s list this year. Seriously.
- Kid Knex: My pal, Heather (awesome friend and mom to three boys!) convinced me two years ago to pick up a set of these for Maddy and Owen, and I’m so glad I did. They’re a movable Tinker Toyish thing with connecting abilities and instruction books like Lego sets.
- Tinker Toys: We got this big ole tub of Tinker Toys last year, and everyone still loves them. I secretly hoped for the wooden set that I remembered, but the only ones on the shelf were plastic. They make great flowers and many other things that my kids create.
- Fisher Price Little People: from the barn to the carnival set to the house with the pink roof, our kids love these sets. I love the simplicity, the sounds, and the quality of each and every set. We especially love the Fisher Price Nativity set which I take out each December, and Maddy and Owen still love to play with it.
- Fisher Price Magna Doodle: We’ve only got the most basic of these guys, but we’ve got two and love them both. We take our Mini Magna Doodles on the road with us on car trips.
- Parents Brand Pop-Beads: My favorite gift for 4 year old’s, this barrel of snap-on beads is fantastic for jewelry creating and fine-motor skill building.
- Parents Brand Animal Hospital and Doctor Kit: I love the quality of these toys and the durability. Every kid loves these. Though I cannot find the proper link, here’s another animal hospital set & doctor kit.
- Melissa & Doug Play Food: We love the Pizza Set, the Birthday Cake Set, and the Cookie Set. We also love the Wooden Cutting Food , and I secretly hope Santa brings the Tiered Special Occasion Cake and the Sushi Slicing Set for us.
- Melissa & Doug See & Spell: Love it. Such a smart toy.
- Dress-Ups: I always buy discounted Halloween costumes to add to our mix of old dresses, thrift shop finds, our old Halloween costumes, hand-me-downs, hats, purses, gloves, shoes, and accessories. Buy a bunch, throw them in a huge plastic tub, and it’s an incredible gift.
- PlanToys Wooden Car Garage: Owen has spent hours and hours and hours with this garage for the last few years, parking and re-parking his Matchbox cars. It’s held up beautifully, and I’m glad Santa brought it.
- Fisher Price Snap ‘N Style Dolls: My mom bought some of these dolls for Maddy when Maddy turned 2, and I think they’re awesome. They’re perfect dolls for little hands that aren’t quite ready to change doll clothes on their own; Cora loves, loves them.
- American Girl Doll: We did it. Last year. We invested–seriously!–in a ‘just like me’ doll for Maddy’s birthday, and she has literally played with Kiera (or Kara, she changes her name occasionally) for hours on end. She’s not all American Girl clothed; we’ve added to her wardrobe from other places, but I think this doll has been a worthwhile gift for Maddy.
- Leapfrog Tag and Leapfrog Tag Junior: Maddy and Owen jumped right to the Tag, and Cora still prefers to use the Tag Junior. For many reasons these are great toys; in fact, we’re adding to our Tag library this holiday.
- Leapfrog Explorer:We love, love, love this device, as it is our first–and only–experience with an electronic game of its type. Again, for tons of reasons Maddy, Owen, and Cora love this and are also adding to our game collection this holiday.
- Fisher Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera: Maddy and Owen received these cameras two years ago, and they’re still kickin’. Everyone loves them, and although the quality of pictures isn’t too hot, it doesn’t need to be. My kids just love that they can handle their own camera, take pictures wherever and whenever, and delete shots as need be.
- Fisher Price fp3 Player: We have the original pink mp3 player, and it may be a little outdated (I can’t find a link anywhere), but we still use it for car rides and Maddy still keeps it in her room so she can listen to songs and stories I’ve downloaded on the device.
- Vtech Little Einsteins Blast-Off Learning Laptop: Given to us as a gift a while back, this is still a go-to for our kids. It’s simple, but the alphabet games and song games are ones that my kids sill find fun to play.
- Personalized Songs and Name CD: by MediakMusic.com, Maddy, Owen, and Cora each have their own personal You Are My Friend CD–and we still listen to them! The love them. Kids love to hear their names–I love to celebrate their names!–so these CD’s are our standard gift for close friends and family members for first birthdays or first Christmases. LOVE these.
- Laurie Berkner, Victor Vito and others: love her.
- Steve Songs, CDs and DVDs: love him.
- Barenaked Ladies, SNACKTIME!: love them.
Whew. This was actually a lot of work, and I’m sure I’m missing some biggies, but it’s a start. I hope it’s helpful. This isn’t even including our outside toys–bikes, scooters, sports equipment, balls, or gloves. Ack. Maybe a summertime guide should be on my list of to-do’s for springtime. . .
Remember, these are suggestions that work–or have worked–for my kids who are now 6 (almost 7!), 5, and 3, so they may or may not work for other kids. (But I’m pretty confident most or some will!)
Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out:
- Best Gifts for Kids and Families 2014
- Best Gifts for Kids and Families 2013
- Best Gifts for Kids and Families 2012
- Best Gifts for Kids and Families 2011
- 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: 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’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy.