‘Tis the season of giving! Taking a break from running-stuff to bring you kids’ gift ideas. After going through all of our things as we did some work on our home in the last few months, we cleaned out a lot of toys and donated them to various local charities and Goodwill. It provided an opportunity to teach my children (4 and almost 2) some life lessons, but now, it’s time to make like the post-’98 Bulls…and re-build. Check out what I’ve learned about kids’ toys from watching my own kids and doing so many hours of [late-night] research.
This holiday season, I’m rising to the challenge of being intentional with the gifts I choose- each one should have purpose, be of high quality, and not be made of toxic crap. The best toys for children are open-ended. They can be used in multiple ways, foster creativity, develop problem solving and/or motor skills, and are gender-neutral. Additionally, they require very little input/ interference from parents (score!). Nearly everything we’ve kept since the purge is open-ended and is used regularly. Here are some of the items on our gift list this year that posses the qualities I am looking for in a child’s play-things*:
The floor is lava? Pretend hike? Ninja Warrior obstacle course? Animal swimming pool (upside-down)? Playzone-Fit Stepping Stones can do it all. While I am usually anti-plastics, I don’t hate these. These stepping stones are made of polypropylene (which, along with ABS, is considered one of the “safer” plastics- if there is such a thing), have been tested against US and EU standards and are free of lead, heavy metals, BPA and phthalates. It’s one of the gifts I’m most excited for them to have this winter.
What kid doesn’t love building forts?! It’s one of Georgie’s favorite past times – she’s building one as I sit here typing, actually. She sometimes has trouble keeping the blankets and silks up, though. A set of Waldorf wooden play clips will help her solve that problem (I bought clips separately on the Sarah’s Silks website- we’ve already got some pieces of the kit shown in that link).
Plentiful Elephant Grass from the Bolgatanga region of Ghana is used to make these incredibly useful and durable Fair Trade African Bolga baskets. We were in need of something friendly for child-sized hands that could carry child-sized toys. This fits the bill. It also eliminates the need for at least one Christmas bag/ box to wrap as it can hold something else (like a pirate hat and treasure map) in it while sitting under the tree. My only regret is not buying 2 of them!
Magnetic tiles are our jam. Georgie creates all kinds of structures with our Picasso tiles (made from the less-toxic, highly impact-resistant ABS), such as garages for matchbox cars or a barn for the animals. This add-on marble run will provide her and Johnny with even more opportunities for construction-induced fun!
Yo-ho, mateys away! A roll-up felt treasure map for the pirate inside all of us. Need I say more? Find it on Etsy. Then pair it with a hat, a telescope, and some pirate pjs, and you’ve got yourself an infinite amount of adventures in Neverland!
We have a tea set and a lot of play food in our kitchen. Both kids love pretending to cook dinner and try to serve it on tiny little saucers as the food overflows from their arms. This dish set from Hape will make their roles as chefs much easier. Mangia!
We have the puzzle-piece train set from Ikea that grows with us as we add on different parts from time to time. This bridge will re-ignite their imaginations as they pretend to travel from our basement to, probably, Disney World. Or outer-space (we won’t tell them trains can’t get there….yet).
Clockwise from top-left:
Dress-up and role play are having a huge moment around here. It’s not uncommon for me to find a fox and a hound or some Ninja Turtles running around the basement. It’s also no secret that we LOVE Hanna Andersson pjs in our house. I grabbed these on clearance a few months ago and have a few accessories to stuff in stockings that will compliment each set. Hanna’s got all of your favorite Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars characters, too! Highly recommend.
Our play kitchen gets a lot of action. Sure am glad I stopped to pick THAT out of someone’s trash! We’re in need of an update on the meals the kids can cook up, though, so this Hape bread basket and pizza set from Ikea will keep them busy for a while.
Also from Ikea is this doll bed for “Baby Sadie.” She’s used to being left in doctor’s kits, cardboard boxes and Tupperware containers. Talk about an upgrade…
With a handle on top and the ability to open and close, this dollhouse from Olli Ella (on sale at Anthropologie) can be easily moved around to suit the needs of any child. I’m sure it will double as a hotel for peg dolls, a hospital for injured Ninja Turtles or…you guessed it…a barn for the animals. It’s as minimal as I wish we were and holds a world of possibilities.
Last, but not least, puzzles and games!
Clock-wise from top-left:
Johnny is a big fan of shape-sorting and puzzles. This shape-puzzle from Plan Toys via Pottery Barn Kids will be right up his alley. Finding something your kids spend a lot of time on and adding a twist can boost brain development and keep them coming back for more.
Hop like a bunny. Stomp like an elephant. Could I have made these animal cards myself? Sure. I’m no stranger to the printer- laminator- paper-cutter trio. But these action cards I found on Etsy just looked so nice and saved me so much time, that I couldn’t resist. I like any game that builds upon prior knowledge, gets kids moving, and allows them to be silly all at once. Bring on the giggles.
Where are all my Bluey fans at??!!? I’m not sure we’ll see a Magic Asparagus, Daddy Walrus, or Veranda Santa in Bingo’s Bingo, but it’s sure to generate some interest and help teach my kids about following directions and taking turns.
Begin Again Toys is on a mission to help families move to plastic-free play and free themselves from screens. Their Safari Bowling Set can be used in multiple ways and will be an excellent addition to our new playroom.
We’ve also got a few human-powered musical instruments and a bunch of books coming our way-more additions to existing collections. Tell me- what kinds of gifts are you excited to bring your kids this year? Drop a message in the comments and share your best ideas with us!!!
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