I love seeing a child’s face light up when they open a gift and exclaim, “It’s just what I wanted!” But maybe you need a little nudge to find that perfect gift for the kids. No one wants to be the family friend or relative that is known for giving “those gifts.” You know the ones where the kids say, “Oh! Um, thanks. It’s just what I wanted.” As a former educator, I wanted gifts that promoted imagination, learning, and pretend play, but in a sneaky way so they just think they are having fun. We’ve tested some of the best toys to find great gift options that almost any child is sure to love in our Just For Kids Holiday Gift Guide 2017.
Samples were received but all opinions are my own.
I’ve arranged the guide by different age groups to make it easier to find the perfect gift.
For Toddlers and Preschoolers
1. Lego Duplo Blocks: My First Carousel – Lego blocks have long been our go-to toy for creative play. This Carousel set is designed to teach basic cause and effect principles to some of the youngest Lego users. Made for ages 1 1/2 to 3-year-old, these Lego blocks are chunky enough for small hands to pick up but can also be used with any Lego set. The set includes 24 pieces and a working gear mechanism. While we enjoyed assembling the Carousel as directed, we also had fun using the pieces in other ways, including building with the blocks. The set includes three child figures and a bird figure and can be used for hours of creative play. Note: The Gear Mechanism underneath the base is made to be easy for little hands to turn so the base is not completely flat when sitting on the floor.
The Lego Duplo My First Carousel retails for $24.99
2. My Soft World Farm by Eduscape Toys– I knew these blocks would be perfect for us because we have a farm, but any child will enjoy these soft foam like blocks. Designed for ages 12 months and above, this 29 piece set includes farm animals (horse, cow, pig, duck, sheep), two farmers, a tractor, a scarecrow, building blocks that look like real wood, trees, bushes, and color blocks. Bonus: If you step on one of these blocks in the middle of the night, it won’t hurt your foot! Large enough for little hands to pick up, they are easy to wipe clean with a wet cloth. The blocks are packaged in a reusable plastic container making them easy to store when the kids are through playing for the day. A recipient of the Top Toy 2007 award, they are a great addition to use with the IVI 3d Farm Play Carpet.
The My Soft World Farm retails for $19.99.
3. IVI 3d Farm Play Carpet– This 3d rug, designed by an architect who wanted her children to engage in creative play, captures the imagination with 3d roads and fields. These rugs are soft and comfy but designed with a high-quality wool-like substitute to be hypo-allergenic. The rug is easy to clean. And I have experience! The toddler dumped a plate of spaghetti on the rug by accident and I was able to remove the sauce. The rug has bold, vibrant colors to capture the attention. I was impressed with how the designs on the rug are not printed on the surface. Instead, they are made with loop yarn and dyed using non-toxic dyes. This rug is a favorite of the toddler and perfect to use with the My Soft World Farm blocks.
The IVI 3d Farm Play Carpet retails for $129.
4. Color Fun Fish Bowl by The Learning Journey – This electronic fishbowl encourages children to learn about colors through two different games; a discovery game and a find it game. Designed for ages 2 and older, the fish are colorful, sturdy plastic and are easy to clean. The Fishbowl is also designed for durability. While I don’t recommend accidentally dropping it, it was no worse for wear. The pieces are large enough for little hands to pick up easily. The game requires two AA batteries, which are included meaning no last minute trips to the store for forgotten batteries. The Color Fun Fish Bowl has earned both the Best Picks from Dr. Toy’s and the Top Holiday Picks from The Toy Insider.
The Color Fun Fish Bowl retails for $24.99
5. Vtech Push and Pop Bulldozer- Designed for ages 12 months to 3 years old, this bulldozer teaches movement and motor skills. Made of sturdy plastic construction, this is a huge advance on the old school popper I had when I was a child. Kids can push the dozer and watch the balls pop out of the smokestack. Or children can sit and play games with the bulldozer. The four colorful buttons on the side teach colors, numbers, construction objects and play music. The Bulldozer requires two AAA batteries, which are included. Another advantage: The batteries in the Vtech products seem to last forever. I’m not sure where they find these batteries, but we have been using one of Critter’s Vtech toys for 18 months and the batteries are still going strong.
The Vtech Push and Pop Bulldozer retails for $19.99
6. Gift Lit Cuddle Collection– It’s no secret that reading is one of my favorite activities. I’ve tried to pass the love along to my children and to all the children I taught over the years. The Cuddle Collection caught my eye because it’s designed for two different age groups. There’s a babies collection, comprised of a stuffed animal and sturdy board books, and a preschool collection, for ages two to five, comprised of classic children’s books and a stuffed animal. We received Month 2 of the Preschool Collection; an adorable stuffed bear and the book Bear Snores On. The book is gift wrapped and the stuffed animal comes wrapped in tissue paper. This is a wonderful gift for Christmas, birthdays, or baby shower gifts. Gift Lit also has collections for children of all ages, young adults and adults.
The Cuddle Collection retails for $74.95 for a 3-month collection.
7. The Christmas Star From Afar– A fun way to tell the Christmas story; this set includes the book The Christmas Star From Afar and a fifteen piece wooden Nativity set. The Nativity set is sturdy and sized to be easy for little hands to hold. There are several ways to use the set, but I like using it for an Advent-style adventure. To do this, set up the Nativity scene so it is ready for use on December 1st. Beginning the first day of December, hide the Star and allow children to find it. Once they find the star, have them move the Wise Men to the location of the Star. The kids will have fun finding the Star, especially if you include a small treat or piece of candy with the Star. On the 25th of December, place the star on top of the stable of the Nativity scene. One of our family traditions is to read a book about the Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Star From Afar has become an instant classic in our home and is destined to become our Christmas Eve favorite. Optional scripture verses are included to use with the daily Find the Star activity.
The Christmas Star From Afar Book & Wooden Nativity Set retails for $34.95
For Kindergarten and Up
8. Oregon Scientific SmartGlobe Augmented Reality– Have a child who is interested in geography? The Oregon Scientific SmartGlobe is designed to grow with your child from ages five and up. Ready to learn about countries of the world? There are over 220 countries to explore. You’ll be able to discover everything from their history, their native language, and even the local currency. The six language option allows multilingual usage while discovering over 20,000 fun facts about the world. This globe has some amazing features. When your child is not playing one of the 42 games the globe provides, it can be opened to show the earth’s core and the solar system. The globe goes a step further than traditional globes for children with the addition of a free app that unlocks 500 interactive features. You can even use the app to take a picture of yourself at a famous landmark. I think this globe would be the perfect present before a trip to Space Camp too.
The SmartGlobe retails for $129.99.
9. AfterGen Backpacks, Lunchboxes, and Bracelets– I love the concept behind this product! Their missions statement is “to provide hope, happiness, and change through anything we can do.” Having seen the result of bullying, they developed the AfterGen Anti-Bully collection of backpacks, lunchboxes, and charm bracelets. The artwork on the backpacks and lunchboxes are created and inspired by students to offer positive messages. AfterGen has also created the Yes 2 ♥ (Yes to Love) Foundation that works with top anti-bully organizations around the world. The backpack contains an inspirational quote sewn into the interior and an interior card holder; the perfect place to leave a message for your child. Each backpack and lunchbox include a free Yes 2 ♥ charm bracelet with a message of friendship. A portion of all sales are used to help children in need.
The AfterGen Panda backpack retails for $34.95, the lunchbox for $14.99, and charms for $2.99 each
For Ages 8 and Up
10. Utter Nonsense: Family Edition Game– Looking for something different for your family game night? That’s Utter Nonsense. The game includes 50 accent cards and 450 phrase cards that are mixed and matched for great improv fun. Designed for 4 to 20 players, each person draws 7 phrase cards with sayings like “The Low Carb diet is impastable” or “I want to live in a world where Tupperware lids and bottoms match.” One person is designated to draw the accent card, which could be anything from “out of breath” to “news anchor.” Then everyone at the table takes turns saying their funniest phrase to the accent. You can appoint someone to determine ‘who said it best’ or just use it as a non-competitive game. Either way, as they creators promise, “Hilarity Ensues.”
The Utter Nonsense Family Edition Game retails for $19.99
11. ThinkFun Games– With a mission statement of “Ignite Your Mind,” Think Fun develops award-winning games proven to stimulate brain development. With games for everyone from toddlers to adults, these games make learning STEM activities fun for everyone. This is especially important to girls since only 6.7% of females earn any sort of STEM degree. This year ThinkFun has introduced several new offerings, including:
Code Rover Control– Designed for one player at a time, this is a unique way to teach coding. All of the games are screen free! There are 40 Challenges to complete as you guide the rover over colorless pathways. The problem? The Rover is only designed to travel on colored pathways and you have to find ways to move the rover. A solution manuel is included. This is a Purdue University Engineering Gift Guide pick.
Color Cube Sudoku– I am a fan of Sudoku, but this is a new twist. Using color cubes similar to the old Rubix cubes, the goal is to “flip & rearrange all 9 Color Cubes on the 3 x 3 tray until each color appears once in every row and column.” It’s not as easy as it seems! Once you’ve conquered this level, work your way up through the bonus challenges. Designed for one player, Color Cube Sudoku has received the Toy Insider Top Holiday Picks award, the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and is listed on the Purdue University Engineering Gift Guide.
Roller Coaster Challenge– My daughter had to design a working roller coaster in 6th grade and I’ve found this Roller Coaster Challenge (designed for ages 6 and up) much more fun. The fun starts with picking a challenge card. Once the challenge card pieces are assembled, players use the remaining pieces to build a coaster that matches the challenges on their card. Once it is completed they have a working coaster! This game has won the National Parenting Product Award, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinium Award, and is listed on the Purdue University Engineering Gift Guide.
The Code Rover Control retails for $14.99. The Color Cube Sudoku retails for $19.99 and the Roller Coaster Challenge retails for $29.99.
12. The Rocketbook Everlast and The Rocketbook Color– Talk about the wave of the future. The Everlast Notebook allows users to make lists, poems, thoughts or whatever in a notebook that can be wiped clean over and over. To use the Rocket Everlast you must have a pen from the Pilot Frixion line. Write on the page as normal and when you ready for the message to disappear, add a drop of water. The Rocket Color works on the same principle but uses dry erase markers. (They recommend Crayola for younger children as they are nontoxic.) But, the Rocketbook Everlast and The Rocketbook Color are more than just reusable notebooks. You can use the Rocketbook App to scan your pictures, lists or whatever and send them to any of these locations; Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneDrive, OneNote, Slack, Box, iCloud, iMessage, or Email. Now you never have to worry about “accidentally” throwing away your children’s artwork.
The Rocketbook Everlast retails for $34 and the Rocketbook Color retails for $22.
Do you know a child who would like to receive one of these gifts for Christmas? What’s on your child’s holiday wish list?
You Might Like These Posts: