Today, I’m excited to share some great gift ideas for kids – some that you can put together for a few dollars and a couple that are more of an investment. There are more toys on the market than ever before, but I find that the best toys are those that encourage creativity and allow for children to learn through play. Luckily, these toys tend to keep kids engaged for years on end, and they also work really well as family gifts since they will appeal to children of both genders across a wide age range! Be sure to check out last year’s post for awesome gift ideas for kids aged 0-7! I still recommend those toys, and I kept them out of this year’s list.
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Custom-Made DIY Gifts
- I’m the only one of my parents’ ten children who sews much, and I think that a lot of my dedication to that craft comes from my grandparents gifting me with a handmade sewing box one year. I’m sure I would have sewn some regardless, but the fact that they took my interest seriously and designed a gift around that interest made a big impact! Take a storage bin like this one or this one and fill it with items the child you have in mind will enjoy – art supplies for a child who loves to draw, play dough for a toddler, fabric, needles, and thread for a child who is interested in sewing.
- Do you have a toddler who loves to make up stories? Pair a felt board hoop with a bin holding my fashion bears or dress up dolls. Give an older child a nice notebook and pen – or an inexpensive notebook with paper and stickers they can use to decorate it and make it their own like we did with our travel journals last summer.
I have reviewed several different types of subscription crates over the past few years. Subscription crates are the gift that keeps on giving all year round! They are perfect for parents who don’t have the time or energy to put together activities for their kids, but who still want their kids to have this experience. Here are crates that I recommend:
- Koala Crates are for preschoolers aged 3-4. This crate could double as a home preschool curriculum.
- Kiwi Crate delivers hands-on learning for kids aged 4-8 every month! We have tried two crates from this line, and my kids have loved both.
- Do you have a kid who loves to make things? Doodle Crate is a great choice! My eight-year-old loved the crate she was sent, and was able to follow the instructions easily, in spite of the recommended age running 9-16+. I was impressed with the emphasis on building maker skills and getting kids thinking about design.
- Tinker Crates are the best STEM focused crates I have seen, and I think they would engage any child from upper elementary through middle school (the recommended age range is 9-14 years old).
- Green Kid Crafts are wonderful Creativity and STEM focused kits for younger kids (recommended age range is 3-10 years old).
- My kids have only recently gotten into K’NEX. We bought some secondhand from a neighbor, and then we were lucky enough to receive this set to review. I like that the set we were sent encouraged kids to use the same pieces in many different ways. I also like that the pieces connect differently from regular blocks, so kids have to think in a new way. K’NEX sets also make it easy for kids to create things that move in unusual ways. The set we were sent did not have step-by-step instructions, which might frustrate some kids. I like the K’NEX Education sets best!
- Magna-Tiles, Wedgits, Foam Blocks, wooden blocks, and LEGO sets – see last year’s post for more info on these! Wedgits are two-year-old Anna’s current favorite toy (note that the smallest piece in this set is a choking hazard), but all of my older kids enjoy playing with it also. Five-year-old Lily and six-year-old Johnny play with our Magna-Tiles every single day. Be sure to check out the LEGO Education sets, if you haven’t already – that is how we have gotten some of favorite sets.
Pretend Play Toys
- Play silks are wonderful for creating homemade costumes and setting up play scapes! You can also use not as soft but much less expensive polyester scarves.
- Our family loves this KidKraft Vintage Kitchen. It often goes on sale, so if it is currently full price I recommend waiting and watching the price for a sale! It pairs nicely with Green Toys dishes.
- Dolls. I adore the Corolle brand of baby dolls and toddler dolls. I recommend dolls that are no more than 15 inches tall for kids who are under eight years old – taller dolls are just too large to play with easily. Bitty babies and Wellie Wisher Dolls are a nice size. Boys can play with dolls, too – don’t you want your sons to grow up to be fun, supportive dads?
My kids only started to enjoy games this year, but I find that it makes for fun family time, as well as being a fun way for a parent to special one-on-one time with a child. We like fast-paced games, like:
- SET Junior (just like the adult version, but the pieces are thicker and therefore less likely to be damaged)
- Spot It! Junior (the pictures are cuter than the adult version; there are also fewer images per card – 6 instead of 8. If I were buying it now, I think I would go for Spot It! Splash, which still has eight images, but has waterproof cards.)
- Rush Hour Jr. continues to be incredibly popular, particularly with five-year-old Lily and six-year-old Johnny. Two-year-old Anna enjoys stealing the cars to play with.
I love giving books as gifts. Kids usually like them, and they don’t add much space or clutter to a home. Here are some my kids are loving:
- Drawing books: Step-by-step Drawing People for my six-year-old and eight-year-old and I Can Draw Animals for my five-year-old.
- Sticker books. Usborne has something for everyone in this category, and their books are really well done!
- Toddlers. The That’s Not My… collection from Usborne, and any book by Sandra Boynton.
- Learning to Read. Anything from the Elephant and Piggie collection is bound to strike a chord with children aged 4-6. They are fun for adults to read, too!
- Chapter books. Anything by Beverly Cleary. She wrote wonderful books for boys as well as girls. If you are a mother of a young son, I highly recommend re-reading her Henry Huggins books – I know that I understand them much better now!
What are your top gift recommendations for children aged 2-8 years old?
MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.
12 thoughts on “Great Gift Ideas for Kids: Encourage Learning and Creativity!”
Your kids might like the drawing books by Ralph Masiello. I have a post on him when he visited our school if you want to check out his drawing method. It’s exactly the same in his books too https://www.pragmaticmom.com/2013/12/ralph-masiello-school-visit/
Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check him out!
Some of my most popular presents have been craft kits I’ve given.
I remember a post you wrote about DIY craft kits featuring a paper mache doll house – I have been unsuccessfully on the lookout for those ever since!
I love your gift lists and will be using some of your ideas as I start my Christmas shopping!! I’ve been offline for so long and I’ve really missed your blog. Hope you and the family are doing well.
I have missed you! Are you back in Africa?
Oh and I just realised you asked for our gift recommendations in this age range: balance bikes are another fabulous idea, much loved in my house between age 2 and 5 or so.
Excellent recommendation, Elisa, thank you!
Great suggestions! Tinker Crates sound interesting. I wish I could get one to try it out, since I am not a big fan of subscription approach…
It would be nice if they would sell the crates on their own, without requiring a subscription. Green Kid Crafts does that.
I always appreciate your thoughtful and varied gift recommendations!
Thank you, Elisa! I hope you find some good ideas here!
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