As a mom of two little boys, many people approach me asking what they should get the kids in their lives as a gift, especially with the holidays approaching. And as a mom who despises clutter, I am VERY particular about what I purchase or encourage my family to purchase (even though most don’t listen) for my little guys. So I have created a list of learning based and just plain fun toys for the kids on your gift list no matter the time of year.
Top Toys for Girls and Boys
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Melissa & Doug Vehicles
It doesn’t matter if they are trucks or cars, my kids LOVE any and all Melissa and Doug vehicles. They are mostly wooden so they can take a beating when they crash into walls over and over, and I love getting them on sale at places like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. My three year old also really enjoys taking apart and putting together the more sophisticated vehicles that are almost puzzles themselves!
One of our favorite ways to spend a rainy morning is to bust out the play dough. It is great for building so many small motor skills and provides a great outlet for creativity. Just make sure that you avoid all carpeted rooms since it is pretty tricky getting playdough out of fabric. Last Christmas my boys received their first “play dough” set and loved it so I am so excited to see what other fun sets are available this season.
Just to clarify, I am not encouraging you to buy a drum set for your noise loving niece. Really, I’m not (because your siblings would probably come after me). Instead, give the gift that will stay with them forever: a love of music. There is a wide variety of instruments at different price points to choose from. My personal favorite is this piano, which my boys use daily.
eeBoo Word Games
Between the ages of one and four, a child’s vocabulary is BOOMING, so encourage that by providing them with various ways to experiment with words. I love these board games by eeBoo because they focus on sight words and identifying rhymes, a great reading skill, and are made out of hard cardboard so they last through many uses.
Perfect for budding architects aged three and older, Zoobs are a great way to create unique shapes and structures by interlocking the ball shaped pieces together. Warning…playing with these is totally and utterly addictive for this mama, so be sure to get a big enough set so you can both play! Oh, and I just scored a 35 piece set for only $6 at Home Goods..woo hoo!
Autobahn Tape Kit and Race Car
My boys love showing their creativity by building their own roads and raceways using the Autobahn Tape Kit and Race Car. We have built roads up the walls, on the couch, etc. using this reusable tape. I highly recommend this for any type of surface for fast-paced fun. The only downside is that this is such a popular toy that it is often on back order, so act fast! And don’t hesitate buying this toy for a girl…this extremely girlie mom absolutely LOVES creative unique tracks and zooming with the rest of the boys in my house.
Budding architects will be engaged for hours with this connect set. There are lots of different colors and options to create low and long towers or ones that will scrape the sky. The sky is clearly the limit and kids of every age and interest can connect to them.
Melissa and Doug Puzzles
The great thing about M&D puzzles is that they are extremely varied and there is a puzzle that is appropriate for every age and every ability. Remember that for the littlest learners the puzzles should have large wooden knobs to help them guide the shapes into place, and then the more advanced learners can have 3-D wooden cube puzzles, as well as magnetic puzzles that help with fine motor skills. Again, check out your favorite discount store for these great puzzles at greatly reduced prices!
It doesn’t matter the age of gender…kids love to mimic the grown ups in their lives. And the best way to do that? Through “pretend cooking” of course. This play food set is one of my favorites because kids can cut up the pieces and put them back together, so each piece of play food is a mini puzzle. Since they are made of wood, they will undoubtedly last a l o n g time and hold up to the rough play of four year old boys (trust me on this one).
I truly think there is something magical that happens when a boy sees a car. Basically, he tries to find a way to zoom it from “point A” to “point B,” the faster the better. Look no further than car ramps to fulfill their car racing desire. I love this one from Fischer Price in particular because of its height (which allows for more twists and turns) and the fact that it can be used from both sides so that both of my boys can play with it at once. You can find these ANYWHERE toys are sold, especially at garage sales.
These beading kits make a great gift for kids three and older because they can learn about patterns and use their creativity to create necklaces, bracelets, and more. My son loves to string beads onto pipe cleaners and make ornaments to decorate the tree for us and our family, so it is a great way to get them involved in some DIY gifts for others as well.
Arts and Crafts Supplies
Think arts and crafts are boring? NO WAY. My boys absolutely love spending time creating pieces of art and I love the fact that I just provide them with supplies and let them run the show. A great way to introduce your little one to art is by using washable “dot dot” markers, and then moving on to craft sticks, clay, finger paint…the opportunities are endless. And the perfect canvas? A huge roll of butcher paper so that kids can spread out their masterpieces on the floor. Check out Michael’s and the Dollar Store for great, affordable supplies or more high end stores like The Land of Nod for some truly creative supplies for your budding Picasso.
The perfect way to promote hand eye coordination without electronics, Lacing Cards are a hit with boys and girls alike. This is a perfect toy for long car rides or simple quiet time (we moms know that sometimes silence is golden, right?!)
Kids love building, and Legos are a great way to encourage budding architects. My boys really seem to like the Lego kits that have one or two “Lego people” and “Lego cars,” but really any colorful building block will do. We are keeping our eyes peeled for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on our favorite building blocks!
Thinkfun Roll and Play Board Game
This interactive board game is a hit at our house because our whole family can get involved in it and it provides endless learning for my boys. After you roll the dice (to be honest, my boys throw it as hard as they can), you take card based on the corresponding color and perform the activity written and illustrated on the card. All types of learning mediums are included, and it truly is our favorite way to spend a Friday night. Watch for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on this award winning toy!
My boys and I have rigorously tested all of these toys and I am happy to say that they withstand rough play, are easy on the wallet, and are pretty cute and colorful that I don’t mind them taking over my once immaculate Crate and Barrel table.
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