When it comes to buying for kids I’m a bit … picky. That’s saying snobbish nicely right?
I want to give a gift/toy that is actually going to be played with, yes, but also is quality, will stimulate imaginative play and critical thinking skills. So while I will buy the “hot toy of the year” sometimes, I truly try to avoid anything commercialized and plastic.
All the gifts on this list have been personal favourites of this house and would be appropriate for most children 5 and up.
(Note: I really hate classifying toys as “boy” or “girl” because toys should just be toys. Boys should play with dolls, girls should play with action figures … or whatever. But since my experience is buying for a girl, this guide might be more “girl centred”).
1. Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty ($19.99 Cdn): Simply the best putty out there. Not only do you get a TON of putty, but it’s actually a nice quality (read doesn’t simply fall apart and stick in your carpet in ten seconds). For this generation of slime and putty obsessed children you can’t beat Aaron’s Thinking Putty with its incredible collection of heat/colour changing, magnetic, and shimmering, shining putties galore. You can even create your own collection of putties with this kit for $27 Cdn. They are an interesting combination of creativity, weirdness, and calmness … just let that putty slowly “ooze” on your palm and you’ll know what I mean.
2. Harry Potter Lego ($64 Cdn): Lego in general will always be on my Christmas gift guides for kids and my personal pick this year is Hagrid’s Hut. This fun set is at the top of my nine year old’s wishlist this year.
3. Snap Circuits Jr ($37 Cdn): For ages 7 to 100 (although I think we got our first set when my little was 6). These guided, hands on electrical (safe) experiments allow kids to create photo sensors, flashing lights, sirens, spinning tops and more. All while learning about circuits! I like sets that you can build on and Snap Circuits have many add-on kits for future gifting that keep the toy exciting.
4. Calico Critters: I simply love the miniature, wholesome, adorable world of Calico Critters that appeals to kids of most ages (3 and up). I started my daughter’s Calico Critter collection when she was 7 and she has been obsessed since (she is now 9). I love that this is a world that you can slowly add pieces to and every time you do it breathes fresh life into the toy. I suggest starting with the Cozy Cottage Starter Kit for ($49 Cdn), which combines the best of most worlds – a bit of furniture, a house, and a Calico friend. You can add in the deluxe bathroom set and wallpapers later (trust me, decorating your Calico village becomes addicting).
5. The “ology” books (About $25 a book): These “ology” books by Dugald A Steer are catnip for kids … even a reluctant reader is going to find something within these interactive, grown up pop-up/lift-the-flap style anthologies. The topics range from Pirateoloy, Wizardology, Monsterology (mythical beasts) and our personal favourite Dragonology. Each book is written in “journal style” – a collection of “scientific observations” from a fictional scientist or explorers, along with a plethora of samples, pull out articles, game pieces, dragon scales, and paraphernalia of numerous types. Warning: not just for kids, adults will lose many a minute lost in these pages … speaking from personal experience.
6. cuddle + kind Knit Dolls ($68-$90 Cdn): I know that’s a steep price for a stuffy, but hear me out. These gorgeous, adorable, hand knit stuffed animals are heirloom quality AND do good in return. We got my daughter Willow the Deer when the company launched in 2016 … guys, that deer gets some serious daily love. It is the “KEY” nightly stuffy and it looks brand, spanking new three years later. But not only that, this company is focused on making a difference. The dolls provide employment for women in Peru and the sale of each doll provides meals for children in need. It is a gift that you can truly feel good about giving.
7. Melissa and Doug Star Diner Restaurant Play Set ($39.99 Cdn): One of our most used and played with toys is this Diner Set … I believe it is going on two years now. Appealing to numerous ages this is a fun set for the whole family to play. My daughter and I play it often with her American Girl dolls, but she loves playing with it on her own and with her friends and cousins. The box folds down to a “restaurant side” and a “Diner side” and comes with numerous accessories to make your diner dreams come alive … all conveniently stored within the box! (This is such a big selling feature for me!)
8. Qwirkle Game ($34.99 Cdn): I love getting a new board game for family night and this one has been one of our favourites. Truly appealing to young players and old, Qwirkle is deceptively easy game to learn but deceptively addicting too! This wonderful award winning game combines strategy, scheming, and matching … it will surely be a favourite of your household.
9. Atlas Crate by KiwiCo: (Price Varies, about $25 Cdn/mth)This STEAM based subscription box combines hands-on activities and crafting with geography and global conscience. Each monthly Atlas Crate is centred on a different country of the world and includes journal pages, information (in a kid friendly style), and high quality activities & crafts, surrounding that country, culture and it’s customs. It is the perfect combination of learning and fun that helps expands your child’s global awareness. [Note: KiwiCo has numerous crates available for children of numerous ages, skills and interests. Check out their social media around Black Friday this holiday season to grab the best deals!]