Every year a few months before Christmas rolls around I start brainstorming unique gift ideas for our four kids. Christmas gifts to remember (and that get used…a lot!) are what we’re shooting for!
Move along Santa…..we have enough toys here!
When my oldest two were young we had toys, as in enough toys for a village. Storage containers are kinda my thing and we had ’em all filled to the brim. Baskets in every corner, bedroom closets full, and a basement that you had to plow your way through.
The Great Toy Purge of 2012 (through 2016)
Two kids later I’ve gone through several huge toy purges. I’m talking about filling my mini van with toys in the dark of night, driving them to Goodwill and waiting for the kids to notice. They never did.
I literally hauled away a truckload of toys yet no one ever noticed. Each time I got rid of another layer of plastic “stuff.” The more we got rid of the more they played with what was left & the lighter I felt! Win, win.
Moving forward, I vowed not to fill those storage containers back up, and so far we have done well. My littles have never had the selection of toys to choose from my older two did and I have to say it hasn’t stunted their development a bit.
The Good Stuff
We want to focus on the meaning of Christmas and spending time with our family. Buying and making room for gobs of new stuff isn’t what its about. A few well chosen Christmas gifts to remember and use often are a score.
When we start thinking about Christmas we want to buy toys that will get used so much they never get thrown in a storage container, no matter how adorable. Toys that bring my kids together or provide multiple ways of play are the best!
Here are a few past and present favorites at our house!!!
(This post does contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation at no additional cost to you when you make a purchase after clicking on one of link.)
PlayMags Magnetic Blocks
I had seen these awesome magnetic tiles for year or so before finally biting the bullet and purchasing them last year. I shouldn’t have waited. We purchased these Playmags 100 piece set because they seemed to be the best deal with the best reviews. These are not an inexpensive present. Time and time again they are brought out. They are used in conjunction with our Legos, Keva planks, and plastic animals. We’ve even taken them to our co-op to use as examples of mixing primary colors.
The Best Paints for Little Artists
I used to teach art in the public schools and worked for a local art center for a long time. So I have had the chance to use a lot of art supplies! These paints are hands down my favorites to use with kids. They are cake temperas so your child will use them much like watercolor paints; dry paints with a wet brush. But they are opaque, the colors are super bright, and the paint doesn’t crack off the page like some cheap temperas. And maybe the best part; they last forever.
There are sets with more colors but the quality of this set cannot be beat. Quartet Alphacolor Concentrated Tempera Biggie Paint cake Tray Set is in a super convenient tray that can be sealed right up! Pair these with some brushes and quality paper and your artist is set to create!
These Keva Planks are deceptively simple. They are all the same color and the same size. There really are no bells and whistles. They come with some loose instructions/ideas in a small pamphlet, but these plain blocks inspire lots of play. Big kids, little kids; everyone likes these things. Roller coasters, skyscrapers, farm fences; these are full of possibilities! We purchased this Keva Structures 200 plank set and ended up buying another set to go along with it!
I know, I know, not every kid would love to open a gift and find books. But these boxed sets make them super special and this Diary of a Wimpy Kid Boxed Set Collection of ten books is one series my boys pick up and read over and over. You know what your child loves and there are so many great collections, books that your kids can keep into adulthood and share with their own kids.
This Arduino Uno Ulitmate Starter Kit with Instruction Manual is on our list for this year! I’m too excited about it not to share. It looks manageable for a kid to have some fun with and just serious enough for older kids to think its not just a toy. Ringing in at under $50 I’m not scared to let them experiment. This is some serious STEAM!
A Comfy Place to Hangout
Each of our four kids got one of the Big Joe Bean Bag’s in Limo Black last year and they are awesome. They are essentially just a giant rectangle shaped bean bag that can be propped up to sit in or laid flat to cuddle up in. I literally cannot stay awake in these things. The kids use them for playing X-box or playing games and even crash on them for sleepovers sometimes.
Old School Puzzles
We love puzzles here at our house. They are reserved for the colder months and we like to keep them on a table near the fireplace. It doesn’t get any more relaxing than this. We own a lot of puzzles and I’ve become somewhat of a puzzle snob. The cheap puzzles that barely stay together are just frustrating. My absolute favorite puzzles are Ravensburger puzzles. They are a little more expensive than some, but we tend to do them multiple times so it’s worth it.
For the ages of my kiddos a 300 piece puzzle is the perfect size; it lasts a few days, but they can see light at the end of the tunnel that is finishing it. 300 pieces can be difficult to find but Ravensburger has tons of options in this size and even some large format puzzles that have extra big pieces if you have a large area to work! This is one we just finished!
These were a favorite gift from a couple of years ago, but they are still getting playtime in this house! Snap Circuits are one of those toys that are super educational. Kids will learn a lot about electricity, running different types of circuits, and problem solving. But they are just plain fun. We never presented these as “educational.” My kids have always been free just to use them as a toy. However, if you were to search the world wide web there are plenty of great lessons out there using snap circuits.
We actually have two of these Snap Circuits Extreme SC-750 Electronics Discovery Kits. We added this Snap Circuit Lights Discovery Kit as a present later. There are simpler (and less inexpensive sets available for younger kids too!)
My older boys play chess and own a beautiful walnut inlaid chess board that’s magnetized and has drawers to store the pieces. Its a keepsake that I hope they will use into adulthood. My littles really wanted to play and my older boys didn’t really want to share their grown up board. In my hunt for a beginner chess set that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg I found this Chess Teacher Chess Set. The pieces are larger in order to allow room for hints about how each piece may be used to be printed on them. The chess pieces are plastic.
It isn’t necessarily an heirloom set, but it is totally worth the price to see my six and seven year old able to compete playing chess. I may even learn to play!
Games, Games, Games
As homeschoolers we play a lot of games. Lots of learning objectives are accomplished through games, but to my kids they are just plain fun. While we have lots of games and like different ones for different reasons I have yet to buy a Gamewright games that we didn’t love. The favorite game for the past year has been Rat-A-Tat-Cat. It’s quick to learn, we can all play together, doesn’t take too long, and my littles have a chance of winning against the big kids.
These are just a few of the best Christmas gifts to remember at our house!
What have been your most winning gifts in the past?