This post is meant to be an all-in-once resource for Christmas with kids. It has a LOT packed in, hence the table of contents. Everything from modeling gratitude & generosity to Advent ideas to figuring out how MUCH (or little) to actually get your kids & what are the best toys that last for years to come.
It feels ironic to write a really long post about simplifying Christmas. But, I wanted everything in one place to be easy to refer back to. And no one ever accused me of really neatly, succinctly packaging up thoughts about complicated things. #toomanywords #verbalprocessor #sorrynotsorry
So, here we go!
Jesus + Christmas + Materialism Oh My!
My husband and I have really gone in circles about how to balance celebrating Jesus’ birth, give generously, and have fun with our kids this time of year too.
We have asked uncomfortable questions and tried various ideas for limiting crazy consumption while still giving generously.
We have come up with almost no clear answers, and I don’t really think there’s one right ‘how to’ for a lot of these issues. (Isn’t that the case with most mundane things in life? This Bible passage has helped me think through that lately.)
BUT here’s where we have landed on a few holiday-related family things.
A Few Thoughts on Gratitude
We have tried to incorporate a language of gratitude in our family over the past few years. I didn’t really think about this much at first. (Because I was just trying to keep my kids alive and sleep more than 3 hours in a row.)
But, a couple years ago, we realized that despite our best intentions, our kids’ natural tendency was: “Gimme gimme gimme” all the time. Turns out, you don’t have to teach your kids to act entitled, it’s just how people are wired. We would have to actively combat the entitlement mentality in our home.
Truthfully, I have no step-by-step system for how to do this Our oldest is about to turn 7, so we are just learning as we go, like all parents. As is with most parenting principles, we are seeking God’s day to day wisdom for these things. (And ask other parents we admire, “Hey, how did you handle this.”)
Ultimately we hope our kids realize the tendencies of their flesh to covet and envy and sin in all kinds of ways, and to realize for themselves the beautiful Truth that Jesus came to save them from all of it, & give them new, abundant, spirit-filled life in Him!
One antidote to my own entitlement mentality that creeps in is practicing intentional gratitude. When I start to notice myself feeling or thinking things like, “IF I had _____, then I’d be happier,” or “Ugh, I really need ______. I deserve it…” I’ll grab a scratch piece of paper, or just say out loud to whoever is around, “I’m so grateful for __________.” Sometimes, when journaling, I’ll just make a list until I can’t think of anything else to add.
Practicing clear, explicit gratitude is a surefire way to get back in a place of abundant, joyful-heart living.
All that to say, those same practices can work with our kids.
We’ve tried to intentionally incorporate a mindset of gratitude in our kids year round, and we just continue that at the holidays.
“Mom, my shoes have holes.” —> “Wow, I’m so glad we can afford to get you new shoes. Praise God that he provides everything we need.”
“I love sitting next to so and so in school.” —> “How fun to meet new friends. Aren’t you grateful to enjoy the people in your class?”
“Let’s go pick out a gift for so-and-so. I’m so grateful she is in our life. What do you like about her?”
Or sometimes, it’s simply giving thanks to the Giver of all Good Gifts before dinner, then continuing the conversation about what/ whom we’re grateful for over the chaos that is family dinner with small children.
Less is more: Keeping Gifts Simple & Fun with Kids
We lean towards less-is-more for small children. I’ll never forget when our girls were 1 1/2 and 3 one Christmas. I was pregnant with our 3rd and we had a lot of negative money. (Ahem – student loan debt.)
I was still of the mindset that lots of gifts meant a happy Christmas morning, but we didn’t have the money, and even though I intellectually knew that our toddlers wouldn’t know the difference, deep down, I was disappointed.
Well, someone gave us a gift card and we ended up buying them more than I originally expected. I was so excited to give them what felt (to me) like a lot of fun toys.
Guess what they played with? The chapstick & change purses from their stockings. They literally lost interest in opening their presents and just wanted to put the chapstick in and out of their change purses.
They continued to receive tons of presents from grandparents over the course of the week, but just kept on playing with the chapstick, change purse, and their old favorite baby dolls.
That year REALLY cemented the less-is-more concept for us. And it freed up some funds to give more generously to others too.
It’s also what I think back to when I’m tempted to go nuts on the presents now that we DON’T have a mountain of debt to stop us.
Including Kids in Giving
There are lots of ways to include kids in giving, especially at the holidays! Anything that gives them a taste of the fact that it is truly more blessed to give than receive. A few ideas:
- “Adopt a kid” and take your kids shopping with you.
- Have them make super tacky, adorable grandparent gifts
- Make cards & cookies, and deliver them to neighbors
- Tell them you’ll pay triple for chores leading up to Christmas IF they save the money to buy their siblings presents. Then, go somewhere & let them pick out something they think their sibling will love.
- Play Secret Santa for a family you know that’s in need and include your kids.
- Look through a catalog from Kiva or World Vision and pick an animal or food to gift. Then, find some other books & resources, or talk to a missionary to learn about a specific place & community & people.
Ultimately most of this type of stuff is caught not taught. Which is both inspiring and terrifying. Knowing my kids will learn more from what I DO than what I SAY means I need to be led by the Spirit in giving cheerfully and generously. And trusting the Spirit to help my children ‘catch’ that it is more blessed to give than receive.
Categories of Gifts for Kids
Each year, I try to stick to a couple categories for our kids. Some people use guidelines like, “something to wear, something to read, something you want, something you need.”
Or big, medium, small.
We tend to do categories based on whatever our kids and our family are into that year.
So, the past couple years of toddlers & preschool age kids, we’ve gifted each kid a book they’d like, a game/ activity, a clothing item or two that was needed, and usually a group toy of sorts. (More on a group gift in the next section.)
We spend most of our budget for the kids on a group gift of sorts, and then give them each a couple small things we know they’ll love individually.
Here are some category ideas, I’ll link our specific favorites later in the post.
- Music related things – new albums or instruments, speakers or accessories
- Tech related things – coding games or subscription to Bitsbox, computer accessories, speakers, headphones, software, whatever.
- Subscription related – magazines, books, kiwi crates, music, etc. There’s a subscription for everything now.
- Sports related – new ball, racket, club, gear, lessons, nets for your yard, basketball hoop, scooters, bike, etc.
- Board games/ puzzles – give everyone a new game and set aside one night per week to play games together!
- Books – gift several books from a series they love, or a new series to start together, or the next 2 books in the trilogy they just started. These collection-type books are my kids’ favorite for ages 3-6 when they’re VERY into picture books
- Sensory/ learning station – you could set up an entire sensory play area; you’d need a large bin of sorts with a few different materials like rice, dried beans, pasta, etc. and some fun pouring/ sorting/ scooping type toys. Here’s a good resource on getting started with sensory play. You could totally gift this in a fun way and it’d be the gift that keeps on giving all year.
- Dolls – nice dolls & cool strollers all around. Plus a basket of thrifted bags & purses.
- Building toys – This is one of the few categories of toys where I am NOT a minimalist. Less is more with most toys. Except building toys. More is more.
Our kids are all close in age so the group gift plus a couple categories works well for now. Obviously that might not work as well if your kids are all spread out farther apart.
Stocking Stuffer Ideas
I LOVE stockings. It’s one of my favorite traditions!! Again, we try to be thoughtful about not giving so much in a stocking that it’s overwhelming and they lose interest.
These are some items that have been a big hit in our kids’ stockings ages 2-7. (Less is more. Pick a couple.)
- Chapstick – like these old school chapstick flavors! Grab a pack and divvy them up between your kids.
- Old school fake cell phones that look real – (think blackberries, flip phones, etc.) – we’re doing these in stockings this year & giving them to cousins!
- Pens or pencils or other art supplies – think gel pens, scented markers, those cool interchangeable pencils, dot paints, window sticks, pencils with ridiculous furry tops, etc.
- Small notebooks
- Undies and/or socks
- Stainless steel water bottles – favorite option #1 | favorite option #2
- Mini nerf guns
- Hotwheels cars
- A favorite action figure or accessory for a current toy they love. (I.e. last, year we did cool wooden train bridges in each stocking.)
- An ornament!
Giving a Group Gift to the Kids
Like I said, we’ve enjoyed spending most of our budget on a group gift! This works for us right now because our kids are close in age and our budget is limited, so a group gifts makes it feel like the money is going farther, in a way. It also simplifies the shopping!
One year the group gift was a mini trampoline & “5 foot crash pad.” (Which was a huge hit and continues to be. Especially if you have the space and let your kids jump off the furniture like we do! It takes the whole jumping on cushions thing to the next level. Our 60lb child can land on the crash pad, jumping from 5 feet in the air! #safetyfirst)
For one kid’s birthday, we did this outdoor swing – another hit! The gift that keeps on giving.
Other Group Christmas Gift Ideas for All the Kids are:
- Power wheels- enough for all your kids to be driving or riding
- Trampoline – indoor 7 ft | outdoor 14 ft (this is the one we’re grabbing this year as our group gift!)
- In-home gym type equipment: crash pad, balance beam, foam mats, bar swing or gymnastics rings, hammock style sensory swing
- Back yard play set
- Epic sandbox
- Bikes for all
- Piano & lessons (if your kids want this… haha don’t give it to them for christmas if you’re going to have to force them to learn. #lamemom
- Pool table, ping pong, fooseball- something in that category – you can often find these secondhand for cheap or free if you’re willing to haul. And you can totally gift awesome second hand things for Christmas. Your kids won’t care that its’ not brand new. It’s new to them and buying second hand might be the way you can afford to even own it.
- A pool! (The most expensive present on my list, but hey, that’d be awesome!)
- A trip!
Tradition gifts – pjs, ornaments, picture album
My mom gave us an ornament every year growing up, and then when we moved out, we got to take them all with us! We’ve also been doing that with our kids. Target has cheap, fun ones each year!
Obviously, holiday pjs all around is a fun trend. We tend to gift just regular jammies that can be worn for the following year. The crowd fave was the year we gave ones that came with matching robes!
Alternative to jammies: you could do new slippers or hoodies each year.
I know a mom who has a private instagram account that’s only for her + family to see. She uses a unique instagram hashtag for selfies of her and each of her 5 kids, then makes them each a chatbook each year. Little late for this year to set that up, but maybe next year… How fun is that!? (Heck, maybe I’ll do that?!)
The last minute version would be a little square photo book from that child’s year with 20 pictures & captions.
I’ve also made these little photo books for our toddlers with pictures of various family members, friends, and activities. Toddlers LOVE these!! They’re $1.00 at the Dollar Store, or a couple dollars at Walgreens.
Large Motor Toy Gift Ideas
I’ve mentioned some of these already, but here are some large motor gift ideas.
- Mini trampoline
- Crash pad
- Little Tykes riders (we let our kids use these indoors on the hard floors) – we have this one but it was a pain to put together; we also have this one which is fun because it opens (1-2 year olds love putting stuff in the seat, riding around, taking stuff out, riding again, putting it back in, etc…)
- Scooters + cool helmets – best value 2 wheel scooter | best value 3 wheel scooter
- Balance board of some sort – these are fun because they can be turned over and used as roads/ ramps/ etc
- Fort kit – this one is REALLY cool. A minimalist fort kit option would be these wooden clips and some bed sheets. That’s what our kids use and love!
- Cool tree swing #1- round; this is the one we have & I’ve seen kids ages 15 months up to 11 have fun on this thing.
- Cool tree swing #2 – rectangle
Open ended toys
If you want to do research on the benefits of open ended toys, google it and you will get a million results in .2 seconds. Here’s a summary:
Open ended toys can be played with in lots of ways. Open ended toys usually last through various ages of children and leave room for the kids to use their imagination.
If you set out a few open ended toys on a shelf or the floor in a main area of your home, and put every other toy out of sight, your kids will gravitate towards open ended toys and play for a LOT longer than if there is a whole room full of random toys.
The other thing you will notice if you search “open-ended toys” is lots and lots of fancy, expensive hand crafted, educationally branded toys.
You DO NOT NEED TOYS LIKE THAT TO HAVE OPEN ENDED TOYS.
Buy the off brand, look around your house, and re-group toys you already have.
For example, we have a lot of dress up clothes. For the past several years, our kids & friends have played tons of dress-up. Lately, I noticed they weren’t playing with dress-up. They were digging through the dress-up bin, tossing everything on the floor in search of bags, wallets, backpacks, change purses, etc. They’re into playing “airplane” right now. Or playing “trips” where they drag sleeping bags and blankets and pillows to a spot, along with all kinds of bags/ purses/ etc and go on trips.
So, I put a lot of the dress up in a bin and put it away for now. Then, I pulled out every bag, purse, old back pack, lunch box, etc. that I could find and plopped it all in a large basket in our main play area. I put a basket of blankets and these wooden clips next to it. Voila! They played airplane (and various versions of that travel game) morning after morning.
Other examples of open ended toys are:
Most Building Toys Are Open Ended
- LARGE WOODEN BLOCKS – the bigger the better! They’re pricey if you’re buying brand new. I almost never see them available second-hand either. Just add to your collection over time. Maybe start with a set of Lawn Jenga ones, or learn to hand-make your own. The cuts have to be precise, though, and they obvioulsy have to be well sanded. You can bevel the edges to smooth them out and coat them with clear poly for long-lasting finish too. 🙂 Otherwise here’s a starter set of unit blocks and here is a site you can order one-off individual blocks from.
- DUPLOS / LEGOS – I’ve seen kids as old as 8 playing even with Duplos in a group. If you can gather a big collection & a couple base plates, duplos are fun for a long time. A few of our favorite starter sets are: this duplo train, a motorcycle + guy, house, playground, & basic pieces (toddler playing with just squares pictured below). As you add to your collection over time, and as your kids get older, these will become more and more fun!
- MAGNETIC TILES – we’ve owned Playmags & Magnatile brands, & both are great! I’ll save you the research… there’s not that much difference between the brands, so I say get the Playmags because they’re half the price! But the MORE, the MERRIER!! Grab as many sets as you can afford and add to your collection over time. These are well loved at our house and we add to them year after year. We like this basic set, these larger pieces & platforms, and these fun add-ons
- WOODEN TRAINS – an all-time fave over here. The kids go in phases. I put them away for a while when they seem to get bored and pull them back out at a playdate a few months later. Then, they love them again. All the brands are compatible. So, keep an eye out for second hand ones. Easy-to-assemble bridges that won’t fall apart while the kids play are key 🙂 Favorite Bridge #1 | Favorite Bridge #2 | Favorite Bridge #3 | Starter Set | Trains
Other Open Ended Toys
- DOLLS/ FIGURINES/ PEOPLE – Even the goofy branded action figures are pretty open-ended. Have you ever seen a kid going to town in a fantasy world with one action figure in her hands!? It’s so fun to watch!
- STROLLER/ SHOPPING CART/ WAGON – some sort of push- toy that can carry stuff. (If you have multiple kids, a couple of these and a few dolls could be a “group category gift” one year.) Fave stroller that would last a long time. Or, this self paced wagon is amazing for a new walker up through a 3 year old even!
- PRETEND PHONES OR OTHER GROWN UP THINGS – our kids play with old remote controls, old keyboards, and we’ll add these awesome fake old school flip phones for stocking stuffers this year. Or put together a keyring with real keys!
- DIGITAL CAMERAS – real or pretend cameras have provided a lot of fun for our kids. (Can you believe there are REAL digital cameras for kids under $25 with 5 stars!?)
- CARS & ROADS – Matchbox cars have been a long-time fave of our 3rd child. He carries 15 of them around in a little pink purse. Haha! He lines them up, sorts them by colors, parks side by side, sleeps with the purse full of them, etc. We have these “way to play” flexible, weather proof roads on his wishlist this year. They’re expensive, but durable & can be put ANYWHERE!! (The shipping is high on Amazon, but still cheaper than buying them directly from the company in the UK. Unless you live in the UK.)
- DRESS UP & ACCESSORIES – Bags, wallets, change purses, mini backpacks, tiny bags on wheels, hats, jewelry, scarves, shoes… I find most of this type of stuff second hand. If you wanted to gift it, you could create a station and cover the whole area with wrapping paper. A few wall hooks, a mirror and 2-3 large baskets would do the trick. Kids generally won’t take the time to hang stuff up, so baskets are best, in our experience 🙂
Many of the above toys are toddler-appropriate too! In general, as our kids have gotten older, I’ve SO appreciated the things they were gifted as toddlers that have LASTED beyond the toddler years. So some of the things below are repeats from above, and a couple are more toddler-specific.
- DUPLOS – see recommended sets above.
- CHUNKY PUZZLES – this is the perfect 4 pack!
- These Fisher Price Little People Cars & People – there are a few different character versions, but our tots have loved these because it’s easy to put the people in and out of the cars and drive them around. We keep them in a little basket all together.
- Anything with buttons – bonus points if it doesn’t actually make more noise than the button click. Old remote controls or phones or keyboards (check goodwill), a little pretend camera with a satisfying “click.”
- This pop up toy is NOT open ended but has entertained MANY a toddler at our house. I’ve watched kids ages 15-30 months play with this thing over and over and over.
- Magnetic Tiles – still fun for little ones! Just pull out a stack of the square ones and put the rest away for now. Your tot will have so much fun with these!
- Doll + stroller
- Ride on toy – we let our kids ride 2 of these all over the main level. They pass a lot of the winter crashing these into each other and walls. Haha and then in the spring, outside they go!
For what it’s worth, I think we’re going to get our almost-2 year old boy one of the following: roller backpack and/or stroller, and one of these.
Arts & Crafts Gifts for Kids of All Ages!
I tend towards sets of high-quality art supplies rather than one-off kits. However, for young children who are JUST LEARNING how to create & craft more complicated things, the kits are kind of fun. They’re also easy to store.
Some favorite kits of my 5-7 year old girls have been: beads, & friendship bracelets with a wheel
But we’ve spent way more time with open ended art supplies. I linked our favorites below, but of course you could just take a trip to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby! I’m honestly not sure which would be cheaper.
- Liquid water color (these are WAY more fun than regular water color palates.)
- Various size brushes
- Washable tempera in bulk – that’s the exact set I bought 2 years ago.
- Containers for washable tempera (or just save old egg cartons, jars, etc.)
- Good colored pencils – I always just stock up when it’s back to school & grab a BUNCH of packs.
- Googley eyes – under $10 for 1500 and self adhesive! fun!
- Pom poms
- Glue – You can buy this in bulk and divvy into squirt bottles. Or grab the school size ones when it’s back to school time.
- Wonder stix
- Magic stix
- Kwix stix – these are so cool!
- Dot stickers
- Fun tape & Rainbow Masking Tape
- Good scissors – I like these for kiddos JUST learning to cut
- Natural wooden beads to paint
- Necklace string with clasps (for after you paint your beads)
- Other basic string for making other bead projects! – find a video tutorial to learn to tie this.
- Good basic markers (we go through SO many markers) – these are cheapest at back-to-school time too! (Here’s a big broad tipped pack & skinny tipped pack)
- Good pencils & the best erasers – I’m a Ticonderoga pencil snob; & a white eraser snob!
- Sharpies – we let our big kids use them and I’m vigilant about getting them out of reach of little ones. (These cheap colorful permanent markers are probably worth a try for little kids! Rather than getting brand name.)
- Tempera cakes paint tray – good for easy clean up
- Giant roll of paper – I love this one because it’s the width of my table! Easy 🙂
- Water color paper – the 12×18 size has lasted me almost 2 years and I still have some left; I often cut it down unless we’re making a big project.
- Multipurpose tagboard – I cut this down from 12×18 too.
- Patterned Paper
- Little wooden people to paint
- Oil pastels
My favorite inspiration for open-ended art set ups comes from Lizzie Assa, The Workspace for Children. You can glance through her Instagram to get the gist of her style, or read a couple of her blog posts if you want more details about how to get started with open ended art.
The key is to start small & simple, be okay with mess, set clear boundaries and add to your collection over time.
When we JUST started doing art at home, I had the following: this roll of paper, this basic paper, these liquid water color paints & brushes, oil pastels, markers, black sharpies, colored pencils, scissors, elmer’s glue, and construction paper. I think I spent $100 and that stuff lasted us 2 years. We kept adding to our collection over time.
A Fun Way to Gift Art Supplies:
Collect a bunch of various size boxes that you can next one in the next. Then, wrap each supply up, starting with the smallest and keep filling boxes.
Or just get a huge box and throw in as many fun art supplies as you can afford. The materials below would be a great starter kit:
Liquid water color | cray pas oil pastels | pom poms | brush assortment | dot stickers | assorted fun paper | buttons | washi tape pack | basic art paper | kwix stix mess free paint
Memberships & Subscriptions
These are all the rage, but there are so many fun ones for kids! So far, even at a young age, my kids have really enjoyed receiving these.
My 4-6 year old kids loved the Kiwi co boxes, Highlights magazines, and National Geographic for kids. I’ve heard fun things about Bitsbox too, but we’ve never tried it.
Our kids under the age of 5 totally understood what it meant when Grandma gifted them a memberships to the indoor kids gym and zoo one year. We went ALL THE TIME, including with Grandma. The first several times we went, I’d say something like, “Wow we get to go again because Grandma gave us a membership. That means we can go for free whenever we want. Otherwise, this wouldn’t be in our budget today. Let’s take a picture and send it to Grandma to say thank you again!” Eventually, they understood what it meant and even asked for a renewal for they next year when it expired. They wanted that more than toys because they didn’t want to miss out on being able to go a lot.
Book Treasuries & Series
There are gazillions of good books for kids. This is a good starting list for the best children’s books. These 3 books also have good book lists and are worth owning for their lists alone. (I like them in this order.)
- Read Aloud Handbook (8th edition is newest)
- Give Your Child the World
- Read Aloud Family
Any books on any of those booklists would be a great gift.
An even more fun book gift is an entire treasury or series.
These treasuries/ collections have been favorites of our kids under the age of 7.
Frog & Toad, Elephant & Piggie, Red Beginner Book, Blue Beginner Book, Curious George, Madeline, James Herriot.
You can gift them with a character “stuffy” too. What’s more fun than reading 8 Curious George stories in a row? Reading them while snuggling with Curious George himself 😉
book | George
When our girls were first learning to read, they’d each sit on one side of me and we’d read the Elephant & Piggie stories together. One would be Elephant & the other, Piggie. I’d help sound out hard words. It was hilarious and they loved this!
This Collection of Many Classics (if you can afford to get all the books in here separately, it’s a better picture-book experience), but this is still a really amazing collection of some of the best picture books of all time! Here’s another, similar collection.
Collections for the youngest readers:
First 100 Box Set – our kids have loved the realistic pictures, pointing and babbling over and over
Sandra Bonyton Box Sets: Yellow, Green, Blue – we LOVE reading these with our kids.
Book Series Gifts for Young Grade School Aged Kids (7-10 ish)
If you know a grade-school aged child who is already into a series, you could snag them the next few in that series.
Another fun way to get a child hooked on a series or 2 would be to buy them the first book in several different series, with a note that says you will buy them the next 5 books in whichever series they like the most.
We are just entering the phase of enjoying longer chapter books (read alone or aloud as a family). Our 5-7 year old girls have loved the following books & series:
- The historical American girl books (fun to gift all the books that go with one character) – try thrift books for the classic boxed sets. I LOVE that website! Free shipping over $10 and great prices.
- E.B. White Collection – 3 of the greatest children’s stories of all time, in our opinion 🙂
- Roald Dahl Collection – Matilda, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and the BFG have been our faves.
- Harry Potter – seemed to really capture attention around age 6-7 for my oldest. The illustrated ones are fun for the younger ones’ attention spans.
- Magic Tree House
- Boxcar Children
- These DC super hero girl graphic novels for beginning readers are a HUGE hit at this house! The author is Shea Fontana.
- Dogman – horribly ridiculous with potty humor galore, but oh man, do my kids LOVE to read these.
- Narnia series – so far, we’ve read and enjoyed the Magician’s Nephew, and The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe together.
- Tumtum and Nutmeg – cute, lesser known trilogy about these 2 adventure-prone mice.
- The original Winnie-the-Pooh collection
I mostly linked Amazon above because it’s easy, but seriously check to see if Thrift Books has the ones you’re looking for in stock… they have great prices, free shipping over $10, fun rewards that build up, and amazing customer service. Here’s a link for 15% off your first order from Thrift Books.
What other beginning chapter book type collections or series have your kids loved?!
Board Games for Kids
I love playing good games with the kids. And I HATE playing boring games. Haha 🙂
So here are some we have liked & not liked over the past few years.
Games We Have Liked:
- No Stress Chess- amazingly easy way to learn chess!
- Catan Junior
- Sleeping Queens
- Connect 4
- Ticket to Ride Jr. – slow with kids under 5 who ‘get it’ but aren’t fast enough to play at an enjoyable pace. haha
- Uno – cheap at Target
- This pack of classic card games
- Charades – my kids LOVE this right now; we just made up our own cards, but you can buy it cheaply too.
Games I Have NOT Liked (but my kids liked most of these…)
- Trouble – my 4 and 5 yr old could place this together without me; and it’s cheap!
- Monopoly Jr.
- Scrabble Jr.
- Happy Salmon
- Candy Land
- Chutes and Ladders – literal, torture
- Hi Ho Cherry O
- Don’t Break the Ice – my kids love this but I can’t stand it; Ha! I require them to play it out of my presence unless I’m feeling very benevolent.
Some Highly Reviewed Games that We Don’t Own but ARE on Our Wishlist:
- Battleship – loved this as a kid
- Phase 10 – this one too!
- Exploding Kittens – super popular
- Forbidden Island – advertised as 10 and up; most reviews said very fun for 6+
- Suspend Jr – this will probably be the game gift for our 3.5 year old who is obsessed with any sort of spatial type activity.
- Gonuts for Donuts – supposed to be fun & hilarious with kids
- Calliope Tsuro – “The Game of The Path – A Family Strategy Board Game” – gets good reviews
- Sushi Go – another fast-paced family friendly card game that gets RAVE REVIEWS.
- Ravensberger Labyrinth – supposedly easy to learn & fun for all ages
Honestly, I feel like the best baby gift is a massage or takeout gift card for the parent(s)!! Haha! BUT – baby gifts that are needed or well-loved are also fun to give.
When I’m giving something to first-time parents/ baby, I usually give one or more of these items that we loved but wouldn’t have necessarily known we’d love:
Velcro swaddlers, magnetic jammies (size up), this type of ball all our kids loved holding & shaking, some lesser known board books I didn’t mind reading over and over, or a push toy of sorts. (This self-paced one is super fun!)
You could also gather a picture of the baby with many loved family members and friends and make a custom board book– this becomes SUPER fun around age 10-18 months.
Favorite custom gifts to give
My top 4 favorite custom gifts are:
- Page a day photo calendar
- 15 oz photo mugs
- Mini photo books
- Regular wall calendar
I’ve tried a lot of custom grandparent gifts over the years and those were the ones they raved the most about. You can read all the details of my favorite custom gifts in this post. 🙂
Advent with Kids
We tend to keep things simple for Advent. The simplest option would be to go print these free verses, cut them out and read one per day. Focus your heart, pray together, and tell the story of redemption one verse at a time – beginning with creation leading up to Jesus’ birth.
We have ornaments that go along with the 24 stories in the Jesus Storybook Bible – we read one per day leading up to Christmas Day & the kids take turns for whose day it is to put up the ornament. (It’s based on the idea of a Jesse Tree, which I describe in this post.)
You can buy handmade ornaments to go with the Bible, make them yourself, or print out the free ones!
I did an ornament exchange with friends, which I explain how to do here.
There is no stress allowed over Advent with Kids. No mommy guilt allowed either. I loved this article “10 Things Our Kids Don’t Need This Christmas.” She writes:
[Our Kids Don’t need] an Elaborate Advent. If you haven’t thought twice about Advent activities with your kids, you’re in good company. It’s overwhelming getting dinner on the table, much less planning 24 kid-friendly moments that are worthy of preparing little hearts for the coming of Jesus. Talk about pressure. My Advent Rule: Try something. Anything. Read one Scripture. Light one candle. Pray one prayer. Direct one heart to Him.
I like that: try something… Direct one heart to him. Do what works best for your family this year, and if you have it in your heart to do something more planned or elaborate next year, plan ahead and get it ready in October 😉
This post has a lot. Maybe one of the longest ones I’ve ever written. But like I said at the beginning, I wanted it to be something to reference for years to come. I’ll probably edit it over time. The family & kid gifts I recommend in here are timeless, not trendy. They’ll be fun any occasion for many different ages.
Remember when it comes down to purchasing – less is more. Pick a couple categories & gift from those & be done!