Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on December 4, 2013. To find a more comprehensive list of gift ideas and interesting online stores to shop in, see my post Gift Ideas for Home Educators.
Kids love getting toys for Christmas, but after seven years of Christmases and birthdays, I have watched the toys pile up, so I’m not looking forward to adding new toys. This year I’m going to try to convince my boys to donate some of their older toys to charity. (That hasn’t gone so well in the past, so wish me luck.)
All play is good. I’m a huge advocate of giving children plenty of time for free, unstructured play because this is when the learning really happens. The best kind of play is when children have to use their imaginations, so I tend to favor toys that don’t have a lot of bells and whistles.
My seven and four-year-old boys love toy animals and dinosaurs. We have two boxes of those, and they also love blocks, Legos, and pretend food. My four-year-old is a little chef.
Not all of our friends love the toy animals, but Legos seem to be a big hit with all the seven-year-old boys, and our friends, both girls and boys, love to dress up in old costumes for their make-believe, though my boys have never cared for that. You never know what a child is going to get into.
Now that my house is brimming with toy animals, trucks, cars and you-name-it-we-have-it, I would prefer for my boys to receive presents that give them activities to do or add to the projects they are already doing. Last year, my son was interested in rockets, so that’s what he asked for. We gave him a set of small U.S. toy rockets, and it spurred weeks of learning about the U.S. space missions.
With that said, I’ve put together a list of gift ideas that offer alternatives to your throw-in-the-box-after-a-few-days toys.
- Magazine Subscriptions – Big Backyard (ages 4-7), Ranger Rick (ages 7-14), National Geographic Little Kids and National Geographic Kids are just a few of the awesome kids’ magazines out there.
- Art Supplies – I’m not talking about Crayola. Quality art supplies are expensive, and they make a great gift. For example, you can find different kinds of paint, brushes, and quality paper at craft and art specialty stores. We especially love our watercolor pencils.
- Kid’s Space – Children need a good amount of space to play and create. If you’re a grandparent looking for a unique gift, offer to buy your grandchildren a kid’s size table or maybe some new shelves to hold all their artwork.
- Posters and Maps – My sons love posters. We have everything from snake and dinosaur posters to monster truck posters. Not all of them are on the walls, but the boys will pull them out and study them sometimes. Check out foldingguides.com for some beautiful, nature posters.
- Games – Anything goes here. My son’s current favorites are Sum Swamp (great game for math practice) and Busy Town Eye Found It! Trouble Board Game is a family favorite.
- Equipment – Microscopes, science kits, terrariums, building supplies, magic kits…there are all kinds of things you can buy that will get the children thinking and creating.
Here are some of my favorite websites to peruse on the web:
- www.bioquip.com – Some grad students at UGA told me they buy their equipment from this site. I checked it out, and there are all kinds of games, puzzles, posters and other things for kids on the site too.
- www.imaginechildhood.com – Beautiful site with items that provide creative and educational activities for kids.
- www.discoverthis.com – Educational Science Kits and Toys
- www.bellalunatoys.com – Waldorf Toys – You can spend lots of time perusing this site.
- www.unclegoose.com – Some of the coolest blocks I’ve ever seen.
What are some of your kids’ favorite gifts to receive?