Gift ideas for little ones

*2006 post*

**Warning: This is a lengthy post. I am a detailed person and I feel the need to write not just a list, but every single possible detail imaginable behind why that item made the list. So, read on only if you're a good speed-reader or if you have some time on your hands.**

Michele asked the following question:

With Christmas coming (yes it is coming!) and kids' birthdays too, I'm starting to wonder about gifts for the kids and things to recommend to relatives. I always say books, books, books, but they like other ideas too. What are some toys/books/art supplies/etc that you really really love and that your kids use a lot? I'm thinking preschool age - under 5. I look forward to hear what you recommend.

Good question! We have upcoming birthdays, too. And Christmas gifts to buy shortly afterwards. So gift ideas have been on my brain, too, lately. I'll do my best to answer. This is actually a great question for both Amy and I to answer, because our children play very differently. She will likely have different suggestions than I will.

I am above all practical. My favorite gifts are those I can USE, and use often. I tend to view gifts in light of that for my children, too. So, when giving recommendations to our parents, I first think: What do they need? This year I told my mom that my son could really use a new set of sheets. He has a solid-colored set right now, and I told her to get him some "boy sheets" (trucks, trains, Bob the Builder, construction...) You name it, he will think those new sheets are so much fun. And then it's something we don't have to purchase. Other ideas in this 'practical category' are clothing items: pajamas, shoes, coats, etc. Think ahead to spring/summer season, too. Last week my husband had a backyard campout with our two oldest children, and I realized that my son (2) doesn't have a sleeping bag. But by next summer, we'll want one for him.

Okay, onto the ideas you actually asked for. The toys/books/art supplies ideas. :) (But in my defense, you did say "etc" so I felt like I had the liberty to put the practical stuff out there! :))

My daughter (4) would be happy if we bought her a baby doll for every gift. Or little outfits for her baby doll. Or diapers, or shoes, or a stroller, or bottle, or... whatever else there is for babies. And there is lots. Our ONLY idea for her this year is to buy her a baby doll. And I plan to sew some clothes for that doll, too. *Note: we made the mistake last year of buying her a Dora doll. She didn't know who Dora was, but she'd seen a Dora doll in a sales flyer and wanted it. And then she talked about Dora incessantly (and pointed to her image wherever we went, for many months). Our plan was to buy her a baby doll, but we caved in to the Dora crush and bought her a Dora doll, and one outfit. I wish now we'd bought her a baby. A baby doll is so much more fun for a little girl than a little girl doll is. Much more nurturing to do with a baby. More holding, caring for. Dora remains largely un-played with at our house.

When my daughter was two, we bought her a Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse. This dollhouse provided her with hours of entertainment. Really. Hours. She's nearly grown out of it now, but we will be hanging onto it. She still plays with it occasionally, and my two-year old will, too. And my 18-month old likes to climb onto it or bang on it with a hammer. It's multi-functional, for all ages.

The other idea I have for my daughter is notecards and envelopes. She sees me sending out cards and wanted her own. One of the best gifts we ever bought her set us back by 99 cents. It was a box with 12 notecards, 12 envelopes, and 12 stickers- to seal the envelope. She loved it. I really think she might cry tears of joy if she got a stash of her very own cards and envelopes. Add to that some stamps so she could put them in the mailbox, too... and she would be delighted!

The other thing I think she'd like (but she doesn't have) are washable stamp pads and stamps. The stamps our children use belong to me, so I'm a bit protective of them. And my stamp pads are not washable, so they're only allowed to use them with my hovering supervision. But they think stamps are pretty cool.

Well. My son is perfectly happy with his little bin of matchbox cars. Really. I think we have about 40 that we've collected here and there, and he carts that bin full of cars around the house with him EVERYWHERE. Pulls out a few cars, drives on the couch. Hauls his bin to another room, drives them on the bed. Carries them up and down the stairs, stops to drive. This summer we used our sidewalk chalk to make roads for his cars to drive on and neighborhoods for them to drive through. Such fun, those cars are. We've also made all sorts of ramps and tunnels (paper towel or wrapping paper tubes; cut windows in them so you can watch the car go down. Very fun.)

The other toy we have that is a hit for our boys is a Playmobile train set. This was a hand-me-down from my little brother, so it's older. Big chunky plastic track pieces and cheery trains. I'm sure these are much, much more advanced now and probably have flashing lights and noises, but my boys' favorite part is laying out the track. The more track pieces to work with, the better.

Another favorite at our house is our Tinkertoy Construction Set. I found ours at a garage sale for $5.00 and couldn't believe we hadn't had one yet. Ours is a Special Edition Super Crane set (2001) so I think it has some extra pieces, but it is very fun. My husband really likes to build things with the kids, too.

What haven't I mentioned?

My children love puzzles. Your standard puzzle and the Lauri puzzles. We have the ABC ones (uppercase and lowercase), and love them. It's a great quiet time or table time activity, too.

What about music? We've talked before about our favorites in kids music. I really can't say enough about Judy Rogers. Truly. We recently purchased her Why Can't I See God? CD, which has Judy and a group of children singing songs based on the Westminster Catechism. My daughter walks through the house singing songs about glorifying God and obeying her mommy and daddy. Can't get much better than that. It delights me to hear her singing these songs.

How about some unconventional gifts like a zoo pass or children's museum membership?

Okay, I think I've covered what we like around here. Besides books. We love those. But I'm also pretty choosy about books so don't always like others to buy them for us.

Time to close. My husband just came up behind me and asked, "What chapter are you on?" I have been furiously typing (and thinking) for about the last hour. Okay, maybe a bit more.

But I would love to hear some of YOUR responses to Michele's original question. What are some of your favorite gifts to buy for the little ones? Happy commenting! We could all glean from your ideas, too!

1 comment:

  1. Sep. 15, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by jengresak
    I like to put together "boxes". I get a Rubbermaid box and decide on a theme. Last year my boys got an "office box". It contained two old keyboards, old cell phones, a rolodex, tons of offce supplies (highliters, paperclips, index cards, etc). I made business cards and letterhead for them too. Oh and I put two pretty ugly ties in there. It cost me less than $7 because granparents had most of these things lying around the house and were more than happy to get rid of them. They play "office" all the time.

    I have also done a music box with instruments and cds/tapes. I did an art box. For gifts, we often make a cookie box. I bake sugar cookies in many different shapes and we include different colors of icing, sprinkles, mini M&M's, and plastic knives. That is super cheap too.

    You already know about out new weakness for baby dolls -lol!


    Sep. 15, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by jengresak
    Oops! I forgot one - maybe the one that has been played with the most! It was a "{post office". I got a mailbox at Walmart for $6 (a real one) and gave them notebook paper, envelopes, and rubber stamps, They had a blast "writing" letters and putting them in the mailbox. They would put the flag up to notify us we had a letter waiting for us : ) It cost less than $10 for everything and we stored it all in the mailbox when they weren't playing post office.


    Sep. 15, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by Joni
    Thanks for the tip about the Judy Rogers CDs. They look great. I like practical gifts as well. Heaven knows we don't need one more broken, unused, or loud toy around here. We did ask for a museum pass to a local children's science museum from my mom. I like the wooden Melissa and Doug toys. They seem to interest my son for hours. We have the castle and firehouse. Dolls for my girls, just like your little girl. My oldest dd can dress and undress her dolls for hours! My son also loves unit blocks and they're expensive so we're thinking of adding to his small set.

    Great post to get me organized and thinkin' about Christmas! (My dd's bday is Dec 26th. So need to begin to think about that as well.


    Sep. 15, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by kjfairch
    My mother always wants to know what to get the kids for Christmas but we just don't need *more* toys? KWIM?
    So, this year, I am asking for art supplies.

    A folding easel
    Easel pads
    Art smocks (2)
    paints, brushes and other art supplies.

    One sort of "big" gift that will be used by both kids, won't take up a lot of room, and isn't a toy!


    Sep. 15, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by
    Thanks so much for keeping us in your prayers these days. I'm so blessed by this community of Moms!
    I love the "educational' kind of toys you find in catalogues like Timberdoodle. Also, Magic Cabin and Hearthsong sell great, simple toys that encourage creative play. They both sell sweet baby dolls, wooden toys, and "real life" toys like dishes and tea sets and brooms, etc. Books are well loved by all in our family. We love Wedgits, which are so nice and durable and good for all ages. (Seriously, I've been known to play with them after kids are in bed!) A bit spendy, but nice, because people can add on to whatever set you start with.
    Blessings, and thanks again for your prayers.


    Sep. 16, 2006 - thanks
    Posted by MicheleinNZ
    Awesome ideas everyone, thanks. We've been thinking about getting a dollhouse for our oldest. We borrowed one from the toy library and she absolutely loved it. The prices are so expensive! It's like $200 for a good one here and that doesn't count the little bits that go inside! So we might have to put it on the American relatives list since they're cheaper in the States.
    Thanks for all the great ideas! I really like the theme box idea. And I'm wondering if my daughters might like matchbox cars? We have a few cars/trucks lying around and they don't get much use really. the dolls are always a really big hit.


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