As I was wrapping gifts the other night I was thinking about this very old post of mine on sweet and simple Christmas gifts for kids and thought it was time for an UPDATE! First started in 2010, this specially curated simple Christmas gifts list is intended to encourage thoughtfulness and spark ideas for encouraging simple play and broadening the horizons of your children. Plus give you ideas to pass on the grandparents.
Over the years we have attempted to keep a rather simple approach to gift giving – our boys don’t need more stuff. And yet some stuff enhances their world. Which leads itself to a few meaningful questions we have asked ourselves as we approach gift giving to our children – and while this post will share lots of ideas, I hope the biggest take away is to be intentional with your own children. This won’t look like what we do for gifts for our kids.
Questions to ask Yourself
Here are the questions to ask yourself when trying to determine ideas for simple Christmas gifts for kids – the answers you come up with should leave you with a solid list of ideas for yourself and to pass on to doting grandparents.
- What skills, hobbies and interests does my child have?
- Which skills, hobbies and interests would I like to encourage my child towards? (Consider what you enjoyed at their age!)
- What tools does my child need to do the above well? (this ranges from crayons to paint brushes to pocket knives to power tools to kitchen utensils and so much more!)
- Does the toy that my child loves most have more parts, sets, etc. that would enhance her or his life?
- Is there some silly or funny gift that, based on their personality, would bring them endless delight?
- Does my child have good quality gear for all weather types so she or he can comfortably play outside all year long?
- Does my child have things to do outside?
- What attractions are within driving distance for a special day trip or year long membership?
- Are there any traditions we want to do yearly that could double as gifts?
- What consumable items does my child love that they’d consider a gift?
Sweet & Simple Gifts for Kids
Once you’ve sat and thought through the answers to the questions you’ll hopefully have come up with some pretty solid ideas for gifts for your kids. I am going to work through the questions and share my own answers and gift ideas we have come up with through the years – please note that this is years worth of gift ideas collected here – but I trust it will give you a springboard for ideas to work from!
Skill, Hobby and Interest Based Gifts for Kids
Over the years the consideration of this question about our children’s skills, hobbies and interests has led to gifts that range from Ventriloquism puppets, to cookbooks, to magic trick sets, to child appropriate weapons.
We started out with Melissa and Doug puppets, but a few years later a dear friend gifted them much nicer puppets for Ventriloquism, so they eventually passed on the Melissa and Doug ones. We were happy with this upgrade of “equipment” for a hobby they were interested in, and they continued developing their interest and skill.
My boys have always had a keen interest in food, and while a lot of recipes they use are either from my collection or printed online they have loved having their own cookbooks. Their very favorite has been The Forest Feast. Originally they owned the one for kids, but within 6 months asked to sell it and upgrade to the “real” one. It is so beautiful and easy for children to use and has tasty recipes!
Some of the “weapons” we have bought for our boys have included blow dart guns and pocket knives. These, of course, aren’t the right fit for every family, but they’ve been wonderful for our boys and they have thoroughly enjoyed using them.
When my husband and I reflected upon our own interests when we were children we came up with the idea to gift our children magic trick sets and pranks and wood carving knives.
We’ve also attempted to buy the tools that will not need replacing – like prismacolor pencil crayons or Kuhn Rikon kitchen tools.
An idea to consider when family members are trying to find a gift is to ask them to gift your child something that reflects their interests and hobbies from when they were your child’s age, along with a note explaining it. Relationship building plus the opportunity for a new skill or hobby to develop!
Toy Gift Ideas for Kids
Our boys have loved Lego since 2010, and they still spend hours upon hours playing with it each day. It has been the greatest investment for our family – but even then, I purchase used or clearance priced Lego. Aunts and Uncles know that those cheap ($4?) packs of mystery Lego carry a HUGE impact and they will buy one of those as a gift for them. I love that the family trusts me when I tell them that the one mystery Lego goes further than a random $25 toy would.
I totally get that Lego isn’t the bees knees for every family, but if it happens to be your thing, these Fabuland Lego pieces were a super awesome find one year (purchased on Ebay). These were introduced in 1979 and are so quirky and weird. They’re awesome additions for a Lego lover! Another great idea with Lego is to find “lots” of items on Ebay – trap doors, chains, animals, trees, etc. You can casually try asking your Lego-loving child “Have you ever thought ‘if only I had a whole bunch of such and such it would make my building so much better’ – what would that such and such be for you?” (This is where all of my ideas have come from for Lego lots. And most of those ideas get passed on to family members that like chasing things down on Ebay!)
Lego is totally not everyone’s thing, but a similar approach can be used for your child’s favorite toy that they come back to over and over again. More isn’t always a bad thing when it is an intentional thing. Sometimes more opens up the doors for children to create without constraint. Which is funny, because I also totally believe in limitations to encourage creativity.
I have always loved open ended toys that encouraged creative play. Some other toys that are like this that we have dabbled with through the years include:
The above brick and dissolvable mortar (for rebuilding!) set has provided hours of building play fun.
The marble maze provided a lot of great fun for a solid 4 years (approx age 5-9). It was fun to do with them and was perfect to pull out when grandparents visited and let them play with them.
When they were little, wooden blocks and train tracks were huge hits. This wooden castle set was my very favorite – it was so well made and cute!
As my boys have gotten older remote control cars have become a toy they’ve come to love. We haven’t gotten in to any of the pricier ones, but at some point if their interest holds that might be a good
Sometimes I have come across toys that truly served no purpose other than I knew they would light up my child’s face … and sometimes I bought them toys just for that purpose. It’s not that I want to mindlessly collect junk, but sometimes simple little things are a delight and bring happiness. Bouncy balls and glow sticks have been that when they were little. And in the past few years the most meaningful “junk toy” has been the Sound Machine Sound Effects – it has been a HUGE hit with my oldest. It is an annoying “noisy” toy, but is really rather hilarious to see how he uses it and has brought many laughs.
Outdoor Gear and Supply Gift Ideas for Kids
We have strived to give our kids a low-key childhood that involves lots of outdoor time … but that comes with some need to provide adequate gear for them to be able to be outdoors for hours on end.
For our climate this has involved rain gear, light winter gear, and long, hot summer gear. As our boys have grown we’ve turned to military surplus gear for their boots. They love it and the boots do the job excellently of keeping out rain and cold.
Other provisions we have found helpful to give them hours of play time outdoors include the aforementioned blowdart gun, headlamps, binoculars, shovels, hammocks, slacklines, bikes, pogo sticks, unicycle and rope. We’ve also provided each with a bandana/handkerchief and keep a large jar of trail mix, of which they each are allowed a scoop of the mix in their bandana and they take it out to play.
Over the past ten years we have purchased higher end hammocks and then Bear Butt brand hammocks. They are about half the price and we have been really happy with them for the past four years and would recommend them. We have also purchased a hammock chair that our oldest would take outside when he wanted to read outdoors, but we have since anchored in their bedroom. Creating cozy places to curl up with a book is a big priority in our home, too!
Another thing I want to mention is the slackline we have. The Slackline was Christmas 2012’s big gift. It is basically like a tightrope. It has provided hours of fun and entertainment for our whole family and oodles of company. We do not own it, but the Slackline Ninja is on my watch list as an option for a gift for them. I have heard from several who own it how much their kids love it, and it looks like a great obstacle course to do over and over again.
Another investment we have found worthwhile for outdoor play is nerf guns. These I collect used from yard sales and thrift stores, but the nerf darts I purchase in bulk from Amazon. You can get a massive pack of off brand ones for $5 and they work great! The nerf guns are stored in a trunk and brought out when they have friends or uncles over.
Membership Based Gift Ideas
Our city doesn’t actually offer any memberships that would be fun for kids – our closest zoo and children’s museum is an hour away. Both have been gifted to us in the past by family members. There are other fun places like an aquarium and fun museums a few hours from us that have been gifted to the boys. We love these types of gifts from family, but they don’t always love gifting that as it isn’t a “thing” they can wrap up. So I always include it as a gift option idea to family, but it isn’t usually chosen.
Traditions as Gift Ideas for Kids
We love books and encourage a wide feast of reading for our boys. This book gifting tradition has been a favorite since they were itty bitty! We have actually turned our family love of books into a mystery box of books gift subscription that you might enjoy checking out here.
Another tradition we have turned into a gift is pajamas. Everyone gets a new pair on Christmas Eve. And what started as cute pajamas has turned into sweatpants and basic tshirts. It’s sweet and weird seeing their tastes grow up!
A final tradition is games. We love playing games as a family and I have written a huge post on our family favorite games to play. Each year I try to find a new game to add to our collection.
Consumables as Gift Ideas for Kids
Consumable gifts are my favorite because they don’t contribute to the overall clutter. From cool stuff like astronaut icecream to boxes of hot tea, to bags of popcorn – my boys have always loved being gifted their very own stash of food.
They’ve also enjoyed being gifted their very own Earthpaste toothpaste. I know that’s super weird and not every kid would, but that is the whole point of the questions at the top of this post – figure out what your child would love and what would delight their heart.
I hope this post helped encourage you towards intentional gift giving for your children. As I said at the beginning, the ideas within this post have been compiled over years and years of gift giving to our children. Hopefully there was something that sparked an idea for bringing truth, goodness, and beauty into your child’s life through the form of a gift. It would be a huge help to me if you would share this post on your favorite social media platform!
Note: affiliate links were used throughout this post. This post is kept updated throughout the year and currently (Fall 2017) our family is saving towards supplies for a trip to West Africa and proceeds from affiliate earnings are going towards that. Thanks for your support!