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Buying toys for kids can be tough. They grow out of toys, break things, and lose interest so quickly. I have always struggled to find items that build character and inspire children instead of adding to the heap of junk parents loathe cleaning. With a very limited gift-giving income, I have nailed down 10 meaningful gifts to give to the kids in your life.
1. A Piggy Bank
Piggy banks build responsibility, good financial habits, and foster an early understanding of currency. Banks go a long way in helping parents lay a foundation of wisdom in their children to prepare them for difficult choices in their future.
Drawback: More than one bank can be overwhelming to young children. It’s best to ask a parent if they have one before giving a bank as a gift.
2. Art Supplies
Art supplies fuel creativity at any age for a range of sizes and costs. Parents can get rid of clutter quickly as the products wear out, and you can give this gift over and over again! Win-Win-Win! Travel kits are especially fun if you know the child is going on an exciting trip soon.
Drawback: Art can get messy. Things like Play-Doh are a blast for kids, but parents will be so relieved if you pack newspapers or a disposable plastic tablecloth to clean up when the kids are done.
Our kids love books! While the cost range is huge, depending on the style and company, books open opportunities to children. They can dive deep into their interests and enjoy interactive content with flaps, slides, and playful language. Older children enjoy learning from origami or cooking books, allowing them to practice new skills and techniques. My three year old loves books she can “read” by pushing the right button on the pre-recorded device. Leap frog books are a great investment if your budget allows for it, as they boost interactivity and independence even more.
Drawback: If a child is not interested in the topic, they will not like the gift. While all gifts are better when they are thoughtful, books can be more difficult to pick if you don’t know the child’s current interests. Also, toddlers are horrible with paper pages.
4. Tickets to a Museum (http://www.eriechildrensmuseum.org/)
Local museums are full of exploratory content for kids. Most child-friendly museums offer a wide variety of experiences and entertainment for every interest. As nonprofits, many museums want to provide reasonable prices so the public can learn about the various topics easily. Our local children’s museum has a huge range of topics, so my kids (three years and 16 months) are both entertained for hours!
Drawback: Travel can be a challenge for parents. I recommend offering to take the kids as part of the gift or planning it with the parents ahead of time.
5. Tickets to a Zoo (https://www.eriezoo.org/events/zooboo-2018)
Animals are fascinating to kids (and most adults too)! Zoos are also nonprofits who will likely charge a cheaper ticket price to provide more accessibility to their learning experiences. Tickets to the zoo, or to a community event at the zoo, bring out the joyful and curious spirit in a child (unless they are in a particularly grumpy season). Adding a disposable or hand-me-down camera can add to the memories they make and make your gift very special. We love our local zoo’s Halloween event: Zoo Boo.
Drawback: Travel (see #4 drawback) and uncertain weather. In Erie, PA, the zoo is normally closed from November to April.
With Social Media and easily accessible shows, children are fascinated by photographs and videos. Cameras help children understand visual images better, and allow them to capture curious and creative things. As their world is so visually saturated, it can help some kids regain a little control over their world by producing their own images. Parents will love having their memory freed up from their kids taking the same pictures over and over again on their phone.
Drawback: Some cameras, and their accessories, are ridiculously expensive. If you have the budget for it, it would be an amazing gift, but hand-me-down digital cameras are still fascinating to children. A disposable camera might make more sense depending on the child’s ability to use the viewfinder.
7. Lunchboxes and Storage
Kids love exploring boxes. A kid friendly cooler teaches food prep and safety at a basic level, and they can learn to pack their own food instead of a parent trying to add that in to their routine. Easily accessible storage items foster cleaning habits if the parents reinforce them. While pricing can get out of hand, there are alternatives to expensive storage, such as creating your own totes out of old diaper boxes by covering them in fabric, rope, or even decorated paper bags. If the child likes crafts, this option could be extra special to them.
Drawback: Knowing their personality is huge. Some kids will hate cleaning regardless of which character is on the box. Wisdom and creativity is key!
8. Scripture for Young Children
Most children do not learn to read until age six or seven, but understanding scripture is more complicated than reading the words. Around twelve years old, some children will begin to be able to interpret and understand scripture. The way they learn this truth beforehand is through adults teaching it to them. If you know the parents are Christians, then a scripture building toy/book/decoration will start putting truth in front of them from a young age. One of the cheapest options for this is to make a decoration for their room with scripture(s) on a canvas, cardboard, or a piece of paper cut to fit a frame. You can even write it on a piece of furniture you bought at a yard sale. You get bonus points for putting their name in it, as kids love to learn about themselves. Here are my examples. Feel free to use them for your own gifts!
Drawback: If the parents are not Christians, they may get really offended by this. Also, not every scripture book or toy is going to portray truth. It is important to be picky with your gift, or it may turn into a stumbling point in the child’s future.
9. Children’s Cleaning Supplies
What parent wouldn’t love their child to be a cleaning master by 10? I love these toys because my kids are obsessed with helping mommy clean, but their tools are limited by little hands and arms. We are adding these to their Christmas list!
Drawback: They can quickly turn into clutter if they are not kept near the “grown-up” cleaning supplies. Talk with the parents to see if they would benefit from and organizer or small hooks to put in near their broom.
10. Grow-With-Me Toys
These toys are meaningful simply because kids learn from them over a longer period of time. Repetition is key in learning as a an adult or as a child. Toys with longevity are important for teaching valuable lessons and helping kids grow. This slide is a great example because it can used outdoors and cleaned up to bring it indoors. In the Erie climate, outdoor toys are destroyed over the winter. This slide, however, will last a while because it is fun to play with and it avoids the beating snow and freezing temperatures. It also folds up for storage, so it can be put away when the kids decide to slide instead of eating dinner. Again.
Drawback: If space is an issue, then these toys can easily be cumbersome. Choose foldable or collapsible choices instead.
If you would like to look at more specific age ranges and interests, please take a look at Jessica’s website (https://temperandtantrum.com/). This Article for 18 month old children includes some of my kid’s favorite toys. They are long-lasting and teach valuable skills. What more could you want in a toy?
Oh, and please send those socks my way. Kids always need (lose or ruin) socks!