HOW TO USE THIS GIFT GUIDE: Let’s kick off Gift Guide week with Cool Gifts for Kids! These were hand-picked by my kids as THE gifts of the year (and no Hatchimals in sight, they can get one in January after the hype dies down.) Since all kids and needs are different, I’ve organized them into sections such as technology, creative gifts, pretend play, STEM, and more. My kids don’t differentiate between ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ toys and neither does this list. While most fall in the elementary age range, there are toys that will young and old alike will love. As always, these are toys that we either already own and love or will be found under the tree from Santa this year. Kid tested, mom approved.
First and foremost, if you have a LEGO fan in the house, STOP EVERYTHING and grab these LEGO advent calendars while you can! You’ll want them to arrive before December 1st and they sell out quickly. The three current sets this year are as follows (go ahead, add them to your cart, I’ll wait here):
While you’re there, I always recommend purchasing the Open It and having it on hand Christmas morning (and all year long, really). It makes opening packages a cinch, no more ER visits thanks to a stubborn plastic package that feels like razor blades as it slices your hand. Plus the small screwdriver is the perfect size for those annoying battery compartments.
Now that you have those in your cart, let’s get to the list!
STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math) Toys That Make Learning Fun
Minecraft Building Set Get off the screen and into realtime building with this fun Minecraft set! We tested it out and my Minecraft obsessed son loves it. It does not come with any Minecraft figures so you’ll need to purchase those separately, however there’s a CraftTable that converts diamonds to a diamond pickax and it comes with all those pieces. Whatever that means. I’m just reporting back what Ben says, and he is loving it.
Magic Science Wizard Set This science set gets four thumbs up from my two kiddos, to the point where I had to hide it because they were conducting unsupervised experiments at 6AM. Harry Potter fans can pretend they’re in potions class and learn scientific concepts at the same time. And at the time of this post, the price is super low and can’t be beat!
KEVA Structures Plank Set My son has these at this school and raves about them so I was excited to find them online. KEVA pine planks are precision cut blocks that stack and stack with surprising stability. Narrow towers can reach the ceiling. Cantilevers can balance beyond belief. No glue or connectors are used, just gravity and imagination.
Kids First Amusement Park Engineer Set This is a great first set for aspiring builders. Beautifully written storybook manuals guide kids on an educational and fun engineering adventure, with 97 colorful and chunky building pieces that are perfect for little hands. This kit includes a large plastic storage carrying case (hooray, storage!) and simple assembly instructions for 20 different amusement park models.
Awesome LEGO Creations with the Bricks You Already Have Listen, my son loves his LEGO sets but honestly I can’t handle any more of them! This book gives great ideas for making creations using the bricks you already own.
SnapCircuits Jr. Man oh man, my son LOVES these! SnapCircuits can create all kinds of fun projects from a room alarm to making a plastic egg glow. This is the next thing for LEGO lovers who want to build cool projects.
My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook Have an aspiring inventor? They’ll love this sketchbook with plenty of ideas for drawing inventions galore.
Smithsonian Inventor’s Studio Kit SparkLab Smithsonian kits are perfect for the child who has ideas for cool inventions but doesn’t know where to start. They include 120+ fun materials and a 3D idea starter to help kids practice the invention process and come up with a cool product they make themselves.
Power Pen and Learning Cards These self-testing learning cards are such a blast kids won’t know they’re learning! Don’t forget the Power Pen to go with it. As a former teacher and now a mom, I can say that games like this are a fun way to support learning at home without tears.
Magnatiles I know, I know. I’ve included Magnatiles in the kids gift guide for the past 4 years. But to this day, this is the ONE TOY my son has used almost daily. They’re great for small kids because they work surprisingly well, and older kids can make more complex structures and mix them with other toy sets too. My best advice is to get the 100 piece set– yes it’s pricier, but you can make SO much more than the smaller sets. This gift has paid for itself many times over thanks to the hours of use it gets each week and after 4 years it’s still in amazing condition.
Jellycats Kids love Jellycats. Adults love Jellycats. Even if you are swimming in stuffed animals, you can always find room for these adorable additions to the Jellycat line: a reindeer, swan, hedgehog, and ostrich. If you’ve never held a Jellycat, you need to know they are super soft and kids adore them!
Mermaid Tail Blanket These blankets not only keep kids toasty warm but do so in style! They’re all the rage right now and come in dozens of different patterns and colors.
Active Toys to Get Kids Moving
Nerf Rebelle Agent Bow Blaster My daughter keeps asking for a bow and arrow set (hello, future Katniss?!) and this one looks awesome. Arrows are soft tipped, whistle as they fly, and there’s even a secret code and decoder component.
Razor RipRider 360 Caster Trike This trike is on casters so it’s able to spin and drift and go super fast! With a hi-impact front wheel and a flat-free tire, it’s perfect for active kids who feel the need for speed.
Portable and Foldable Trampoline with Padded Frame and Handle If you have active kiddos, you’re always looking for ways to get out that energy even in the middle of winter and this trampoline fits the bill. It’s also great for kids who are working on gross motor skills. And sometimes… sometimes, kids just need to jump.
OgoDisk Set This hand trampoline for balls and water balloons is a huge hit. Gets kids running and laughing as they use the disks to launch and bounce balls. Try it with water balloons in the pool.
Hoop Shoot Looking for kids to stay active this winter? Set up the hoop shoot in your garage, playroom or basement for indoor play even on the coldest days.
My Audio Pet (Wireless Bluetooth Speakers) These wireless bluetooth speakers fill the room with powerful, rich, and clear sound right from your phone or tablet! Kids will love playing tunes in their own room from a bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet, plus it comes equipped with a hands-free microphone as well. Five star rated on Amazon and they are super cute to boot.
Mighty Bright Book Light Stocking stuffer alert: the bookworms in your life will appreciate their very own light to read past the time they should probably be in bed. 😉
Apple iPad with Protective Case If you invest in a iPad for the kids, be sure to get a kid-proof case to protect your investment. This shock proof iPad case with stand will keep it safe. We use ours mainly for homework assignments (there are so many educational sites these days) and streaming movies, but if you’re worried about too much screentime these technology tickets have been a total game-changer in our home.
Remote Control Self-Balancing Robot My daughter went through a robot stage and loves this self-balancing robot! He zooms around the room and can dance and even bring you items on a tray.
Toys that Encourage Pretend Play
Crazy Forts Tired of kids ransacking the couches for cushions to build their forts? :: raises hand :: Crazy Forts solves that problem by creating an easy way to come up with the frame. As the reviews suggest, it works perfectly as long as you read the instructions. Also, you do need your own blankets to cover the frame. This is such a brilliant way to build and rebuild forts for pretend play. Consider getting two sets if using with several kids or you wish to make large structures.
Camper Van Pop-Up Tent This retro popup tent is perfect for pretend play both indoors and out. Also, let’s be honest– you’ll be the coolest kids on the beach if you bring this along.
Minecraft Animation Studio I love toys that encourage interactive use of technology as opposed to simply staring at a screen. The Minecraft Animation Studio does just that by allowing kids to make one-of-a-kind Minecraft films. It combines real-life objects with a mobile app so that kids can direct their own beginnings and endings using the props provided. Watch as creativity abounds while they create their own plots and storylines. You’ll need a smartphone or tablet but this set really brings the game to life.
Gifts that Spark Creativity
Rock and Roll It Flexible Drum Set Get this: the drum is flexible so when you’re done playing, you can roll it back up into its box for storage. It includes 2 drum sticks and pedals for the bass drum & hi hat, giving the feel of playing a real drum. Plus, kids can plug headphones right in and practice without everyone getting a headache. 😉
Artist Studio Easy Spin Pottery Wheel The creatives in your life will love their very own easy spin pottery wheel with soft clay! This set comes with everything: the pottery wheel, clay, and tools. Recommended for ages 8+, plug it in and watch the creativity come out.
Wikki Sticks Stick these on car windows during long car rides or keep in a baggie in your purse to keep kids occupied while shopping or other times you’re bound to hear ‘Mom, I’m bored!’
Perler Beads There are thousands of ideas for using Perler Beads, and while whipping out the iron to make them is a drag the smiles on my kids faces as their creations come to life is worth it. A few moments of ironing is a small price to pay to see the hilarious and creative items they make! We love the sorted bead trays which make finding colors a breeze.
Family Game Night
There’s a lot of love and happy hours of togetherness on this list. Be sure to let us know which toys are your favorites, whether they were on the list or not this year!