So here’s the deal–it seems like everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about scaling back this Christmas. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read about the importance of “presence vs presents.” And I get that. I’ve been making a concerted effort to purge toys that the kids haven’t played with and our playroom is the cleanest and most streamlined that it’s ever been. I love it, and perhaps contrary to what you may think, the kids PLAY more in it, instead of whining that they want to watch television or asking me what they do with their time.
THAT SAID…I firmly believe children, especially small children, should have at least a couple gifts to open on Christmas morning. A wrapped present is such a mystery, such a thrilling surprise, and the unwrapping of it is a really exciting experience. It’s so magical, too, to go to bed at night and wake up the next morning to find that “Santa” has come and left presents. So this year, my husband and I scaled back on the gift-giving. We are still giving our kids presents, just fewer of them, and I tried to pick more long lasting toys, rather than the latest Disney doll or action figure, which they’ll want to replace when the next “big thing” comes out.
I liked the list of criteria in this BBC News article, “Are children given too many toys?,” for selecting gifts:
- Social value – a dolls’ house allows children to play together
- Versatility – Lego bricks can be made into anything
- Durability – such as a wooden train track that the child will use for years
Here are some of the winning gift ideas–we won’t be gifting all of these this year; some we already own, others are on our wish list.
4. Magna-Tiles are fun for all ages, easy to store, and very versatile. They are on the pricey side, so if you ever find them secondhand, snatch them up! An alternative that requires more supervision is Magnetics or Geomag, which consists of magnetic balls and rods to connect them (Note: Choking hazard for under age 3).
5. Dress up clothes are awesome. You can easily buy them at deep discounts after Halloween or year-round in thrift and consignment stores. Superhero capes, masks, hats, scarves, fun shoes, etc. It makes for tons of fun, imaginative play.
6. Classic building toys like Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, K’Nex, and Legos. Timeless and sturdy. Or try a “new classic” like ZOOB. Affordable ball and socket type building toy.
7. Age-appropriate board games. My kids love Hi-Ho Cherry-O and Candyland. A fun picture dominoes set is always a hit too. We have one similar to this one.
Other gift ideas that don’t go under the tree, but are really fantastic:
- A magazine subscription–We get Ranger Rick Jr. and the kids not only love getting their own mail, they love sitting down together and reading through it.
- A “date” with a parent–go to a movie, go play mini-golf, even go to a restaurant, just the two of you
- A monthly box subscription, like to Magic School Bus Young Scientists Club, or Kiwi Crate, or Surprise Ride
Note that the common denominator in these last three bullets is that your kids are spending quality time with you, and that is the real gift!