Oh, welcome Christmas! If you are on the hunt for an inspiration list with gift ideas for kids that is different from the mainstream world, this list is for you! I have put together this list to share with you by request. It seems like so many other Mommas are not only on the hunt for “different” gifts to request and buy for others, BUT we are a group of women looking for a list of toys that have a little more meaning and longevity.
I created this list out of necessity for our own family. In my parenting journey, I have seemed to gravitated to wanting more open ended, meaningful toys for our home. I recognize toys are important for children to have, especially since we believe in play based learning. Over the last (almost) two years, I have fallen in love with wooden, open ended, learning style, and game style toys for my son. Part of my admiration for these toys is that they are simple, more eco friendly, but I also love that my son as toys that last more than a couple months. They evolve WITH him as he grows.
Our Conscious Toy Journey
In our personal journey, we have been trying to make new habits that lead to sustainability and that are more conscious. So for us, that means finding toys that are open ended and have multiple purposes. Also, we are conscious about our plastic consumption. Plastic toys eventually end up in a landfill, unwanted and they are usually not recyclable.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the occasional plastic or single use toy that filters in, I just seem to gravitate more toward loving open ended or wooden style toys.
When I say open ended, for me it means a toy that has more than one purpose during its lifetime. Open ended toys spur the imagination and we can experience it in more than one way. I specifically give examples below of some of our favorite open ended toys and how we use them. Sometimes these are also called Montessori style toys, when you are searching for other ideas.
Meaningful Toy List for Kids
This list provides a few options to be inspired by. I have included learning and game style toys, as I am a huge advocate for play based learning. Did you know, “Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions!” ? Play based learning will always hold a very important place in our home.
I have also included open ended toys and ideas for how they can be used in your home, alongside some wood eco friendly toys. I have shared a couple non-traditional gift ideas under the experiences heading. Finally, because I love reading so much, I have included several books that I feel are well written for children.
If you are still on the gift hunt, check out my post from last year sharing Christmas Gift Ideas for Busy Moms.
Don’t forget to add experiences to your inspiration list, too. I truly believe gifting experiences is a thoughtful idea for children. Here are some ideas for experience gifting:
- Movie tickets/a coupon for a movie date with the child’s favorite snack
- Annual or seasonal passes to a zoo, local botanical garden, or museum
- Tickets to an upcoming performance like Disney on Ice, theater shows, or concerts
- Horseback riding lessons with a book about horses
- Tours of local places like a farm, honey farm, or air museum
- Homemade coupons for lunch dates with Grandma or a surf lesson with an uncle
I have found several ideas and deals on Groupon or Travel Zoo when looking for an experience style gift. Experience style gifts are a great alternative to physical toys and gifts. Plus, the gift and memories last a lifetime.
Open Ended Play
Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks Set – Blocks are the perfect toy for imaginative play. Blocks can be stacked, sorted, counted, and hands-on play.
Melissa & Doug Noah’s Ark Wooden Shape Sorter – This has been one of our favorites for over a year now. We have recently started playing “matching game” with the animals, since there are two of each animal in this set. The blocks can also be stacked or used for animal recognition. As our son grows, we will use the Ark and animals to teach the story of Noah’s Ark.
Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set – I love the idea of magnetic tiles and see so many families using them, but I love the idea of magnetic wooden blocks/tiles even more. These are a little more pricier than the plastic version, but worth the price when you consider how long these will last one family.
Kitchen Play – This year we purchased a play kitchen for Christmas. Play kitchens allow for plenty of imaginative, open ended play. This kitchen set also includes an island for toddler activities and play with friends. On our gift inspiration list for our son we have included some options for accessories for his kitchen. I love this wooden coffee maker, soft fruit and vegetable set, and this cleaning set. These items will grow with us year after year.
Games are a fun way to learn and explore for children. If you are looking for more game ideas or ideas for an older child, check out The Game Curriculum website. You can choose from a list of games that matches your child’s age/grade.
gofindit – Outdoor Nature Scavenger Hunt Card Game for Families – We love spending time outside and I love that this nature scavenger hunt encourages sensory exploration and is compact. A huge plus is it can be played as a family or with friends. There is another option also for this game here.
Noah’s Balancing Ark Stacking Game – There are so many great options when it comes to balancing games, but we added the Noah’s Ark version to our list this year. Balancing games encourage the development of fine motor, dexterity, & problem-solving skills. There is also a farm or pirate option to choose from. It is like a game of Jenga for smaller people.
How Tall Am I Game – This game might be a little too old for my 2 year old at the moment, but pretty soon he will start to enjoy games like this. How Tall Am I Game encourages measuring and numbers. It is also fun to start to sit as a family and have “game night” as a part of a routine to establish for our little one.
Spot It JR. Animals – This is a great game for the family to play for matching and visual recognition. For the younger ones, it might be less of a game and more of a point and repeat. There are other versions to choose from as well. Spot It Camping Pack, Spot It Original, or Spot It Splash.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Standing Art Easel – I look forward to introducing an art easel in to our home, especially for outdoor painting and art this summer. This art easel comes with clips, chalkboard + white board, and paper roll holder. Easels allow for all kinds of creativity.
Finger Paint – Eco Kids Non-Toxic Natural Paint – Non-toxic paints are a must for any creative artist. I am still looking for more paint options as we start to explore painting and finger painting, but so far these look great and I have added them to our list.
A to Z Puzzle and Playset – I love these puzzles and play sets. These puzzles are made out of wooden shapes that connect together in order of the alphabet. There are a couple options to choose from. We of course love the idea of the farm set, but there is also a space and animals. Children have the opportunity to put the puzzle together or use the animals as imaginative play.
Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life – In case you have missed it, we love the local small farm that is a few cities over. I put this book, Farm Anatomy on our Christmas list this year so we could dive more in-depth in to the anatomy of the farm and various components. If farms aren’t your thing, don’t worry there are others to choose from. You can get all three of the anatomy books: Farm anatomy, Food Anatomy, and Nature Anatomy as a bundle, too. Maybe nature is your thing, just get the nature one. These books are a fun and vibrant way to learn about the real world.
Baby Believer Books: Baby Believer has several books for little ones to start learning at a young age. Several of these books have made our list this year, but oh how I wish we would have had them sooner. There are several options to choose from, each having their own “primer” theme. First Bible Basics – a counting primer, Eden to Bethlehem – an animals primer, Let There be Light – an opposites primer, and Psalms of Praise – a movement primer.
Your Birthday Book: A Keepsake Journal – I got this book for my son for his 1st Birthday and I think it would make a beautiful gift for a child. I love that it has several writing prompts to document a child’s life as they grow. There are special pockets for keepsakes (cards, artwork, etc.), also.
Many, The Diversity of Life on Earth – This book has beautiful illustrations and presents a story for children about all living things around them.
Asking for Gifts
I truly believe people want to buy children gifts that they want, love, and/or will play with. They also want to give things to children that they don’t have. So a wishlist or inspiration list is a perfect way of offering people a roadmap to finding gifts they can give. When people ask what your child wants or needs, ask if it would be okay to share their inspiration list with them. Keep the list going year-round for birthdays and holiday, editing as needed. This way people always have a place to go when they need ideas for your child.
I suggest to you creating a wish list or inspiration list (here is ours) for your child on either Amazon or Giftster. Most people have Amazon and if they don’t, Giftster is another great options to add online buying ideas for other people.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this post. I hope you found inspiration for your own list or inspiration for buying a gift for someone else.