Christmas gifts our ten kids loved, the 2020 list

Okay, you asked for it! Every year I’ve been posting lists of the most popular presents we gave our ten kids. I regret to inform you that our kids are getting older and we just don’t get all that many toys anymore, and also, last year we leaned heavily on the shock and awe of enormous stuffed animals purchased in a panic at Walmart. I don’t know what I’m apologizing for. You wanted a list, so here is a list! 

  1. BTS Dolls This one is Rap Monster. 
    I am mostly okay with my girls being so into BTS. They are quite wholesome. I wish the music was, you know, good, but you can’t have everything. Anyway, a growing set of these little dudes are sitting primly on a shelf upstairs and I guess they do the trick. 

2. The Comfy
Much-desired, in service all winter long. I may ask for one of these myself. 

3. Mythology notecard set (from Bullmoose)
20 bright and striking notecards in a box 

4. Sakura Pigma Micron colored pen set
Nice smooth pens and deep color. My artsy kids all like these pens for writing and inking.

5. Skulk game
Full disclosure, I have no idea if this game is any good. We got it because it looks cool. The description says age 10 and up. It says “social bluffing combined with light strategy.” And it looks cool!

6. Kill Dr. Lucky game
Only a few rules, but the experience changes with every game and is always a lot of fun. Some strategy involved. 

7. Mini waffle maker 
A surprisingly popular gift. Always makin’ mini waffles. Some kids really like having their own personal appliances. Comes in several colors and patterns.


8. Snap circuits Illumination 3D
Snap Circuits are coooooool. Give a set to the right kid and she will be fascinated for hours and hours and hours, building and building and building. We’ve had a few different sets now. This one has walls, not just a base (hence the 3D)

9. Comfy Clothes Barbies
Kind of neat. Familiar princess characters wearing normal clothes, no spike heels or strapless cocktail dresses. (Not that there’s anything wrong with dressing up dolls in impractical clothes! But it’s fun to think of the characters living their everyday lives.) We got a bunch of these for a kid who already has a million Barbies but always wants more. 

10. Lite Brite

11. Mother and babies mermaid bath toy
We’ve had some of these sets of frogs and ducks and such, but look how cute this is! Three chubby little mermaid sisters and their happy mama. They float separately or together.

12. Rubber unicorn hand puppet and rubber dinosaur hand puppets
These are silly puppets in a very satisfying kind of rubber to have on your hand. It’s kind of flabby, but in a good way. All the kids got one of these in their stockings last year. Schylling is a pretty reliable brand in general.
13. Canvas messenger bag
She’s had this for about six months and it’s held up great. Comfortable and decent quality for adults, a great canvas for pins and patches for those who like pins and patches.
14. Steampunk/pirate boots.
Girl child wanted steampunk/pirate boots. Do you know how hard it is to find steampunk/pirate boots in young women’s sizes that aren’t either costumes, you know, hooker boots? These have held up surprisingly well for the price, and she says they are comfortable. They come in a few different colors.

15. BTS gift set with Stickers, Bracelets, Drawstring Bag, Mask, Lomo Cards, Lanyard, Phone Ring, Button Pin, Keychain. It is “Map of the Soul Persona,” and you know what that means. (I do not know what that means.)
*sniff* Our very first BTS gift. This set includes a mask which she wears regularly. 

16. Rainbow galaxy paint hoodie
This is a polyester hoodie, not waterproof but fairly thick. Lots of different designs. 

17. Metal stamping jewelry supplies.
Okay, full confession, she did not like this present. It just wasn’t the right thing for her. But I still think it was a good present for someone! I got the components separately:
Letter and number stamps for imprinting metal, wood, leather, etc.

30 blank steel pendants


18. Camp Half Blood Hoodie
I guess this is a Percy Jackson thing. I never did read those books. This hoodie comes in a few different colors. 

19. Resin pouring set. Here’s another set that I thought would be sure-fire, but the kid didn’t like it! Maybe your kid will. 

Resin, hardener, cups, stirrers, and instructions

18 colors of resin dye


20. And now for something completely different! It is a Scooby Doo Viking Ship that shoots little tacos. This is a stupid toy, but it hit the spot for a certain someone who loves Scooby Doo with all her heart. It is a land toy, not a bath toy (it rolls with a wavy motion). You can put it in the bath, but it tips over. 

21. While you’re at it, a Scooby Doo costume, why not? This has nice plushy fur and it makes certain people very happy. This is a costume, not pajamas or something, but it seems pretty comfortable for all-day wearing.

22. Lace-up ankle Boots You can fold the cuffs up or down. Good quality for the price, reasonably warm and waterproof. 

23. Lucy Locket Woodland Animals Kids Tin Tea Set & Carry Case
Just adorable. Tin tea sets do not break! They do rust if you don’t dry them off after a tea party. But they don’t break! This one comes in a little lunchbox-style carrying case. 

24. Heart Shaped Rose Gold Plated Locket
Okay, I did a LOT of research on this before I bought it. I wanted a locket that kid with separation anxiety could use to bring Mama and Daddy photos to school with her, and I did NOT want it to break, because augh. There were much more expensive lockets to be had, but someone recommended this one for sturdiness, and they were right. It’s gotten tons of use and it’s still in one piece. It’s a little tacky, but a little kid wants tacky sometimes. It’s also pretty big, which makes it easier to find a photo that fits. (We used a Polaroid photo trimmed down.)


25. Melissa & Doug Magician’s Pop-Up Hat with Tricks 
Nice little magic set for little kids (ages 4-6). The hat collapses and pops up, and they can learn to do some simple magic tricks. 


26. Cupcake Spinner Board Game for Kids
Oh, I love eeBoo games. They are charming and sturdy and actually fun to play. I honestly don’t mind playing these games with preschool kids, and I hate games. The play is simple and quick and it’s just pleasant. The spinner works smoothly and even the storage box is unusually sturdy. Spin the spinner and collect the various components you need to make specific cupcake recipes. 

27. Sandalwood carved hair sticks
Smooth wooden hair sticks for buns, chignons, etc. 

28. Klutz Kids Cooking Activity Book
Klutz books are generally good, but this one was a huge hit. The directions are nice and clear, and the recipes are things people actually want to eat. Comes with a cute rainbow whisk. My just-turned-eight-year-old started using it right away with only a little help, and it’s really helped her get comfortable with basic cooking and baking. 
I actually bought these to keep little guys busy at Mass. They get hands a little smudgy, but they are good fun. Would make a decent stocking stuffer. They are about the size of post-it notes and come in little boxes. A big supply so kids don’t stress out about using them up. 


30. Lightweight, waterproof sleeping bag

Honestly, we have so many sleeping bags. They all seem fine. This one is fine. It’s fluffy and good. We don’t actually camp, so I have no idea if it’s good for rugged people. It says it’s good for down to 32F. Lots of colors.



31. Mickey Mouse RC car
The older I get, the more I appreciate Mickey Mouse. That guy is always smiling, and I appreciate that. Here he is, tooling around in his little red convertible. Okay, his head fell off, but that did not slow him down. Easy for little guys to control. 

32. Lava Lamp
Just a lava lamp. I have no idea if there are good lava lamps and bad lava lamps, but this one does what it’s supposed to do. Here’s a replacement bulb.

Reliable, decent sound. They plug in and can be used with Bluetooth. The stars light up and pulse with the rhythm of the music. Foldable. They have held up well for a year so far.

33a.We also bought cat ear headphones, at the request of two other kids.
I can’t exactly recommend these, as they break and need to be replaced repeatedly; but the kids love them ardently, so we keep replacing them repeatedly. One good thing about them is that, when your kid is plugged in, you can tell immediately, because they will be wearing light-up cat ears that change color, so you won’t have to scream their name ten times before realizing they’re plugged in. (According to my order history, we haven’t had to replace these since mid-September, and here it is November, so maybe we finally found a decent brand.)

34. Columbia Streamliner men’s bike
This is a comfortable, well-made bike for tooling around town, not climbing mountains or speeding down the highway. 7 speeds, a nice retro look without being too precious. 

This one amplifies your voice, plays siren sounds, and also can be used as a speaker for music, etc. A real megaphone, not a toy. Why did we buy this for our child? Because we trusted her not to abuse it. And for some reason, it worked. The worst thing she did with it was take it to Walmart and tell people to put their masks on, and that is not too bad. 

36. Handmade Irish wool cloak
My land, this is a nice piece of work. It’s very soft and drapes wonderfully. I don’t know how warm it is, but it’s awfully pretty, and looks well with dressy or casual clothes. Hood is a good size. Handmade. Ships very quickly from Ireland. Many more beautiful goods at the site. 

37. Linoleum prints from St. Luke’s Attic by artist Matt Clark
Okay, I bought some prints for myself, as a little present for finishing a difficult job. They are so good. The ones I got are printed on lovely thick textured paper. Browse around, support an artist, make the world better! 

And finally: 

38. The Little Dress Up Shop

These are by far the nicest costumes we have ever bought. They are so well-made and comfortable, they can be worn as clothing. Everything we’ve bought has been machine washable, and it doesn’t come out all strangled and mangled. The ones with sparkly parts stay sparkly, and do not shed glitter everywhere, and the ones with tulle don’t tear. Remarkable. They are fancy and extravagant enough to please kids, but the style remains sweet and child-like. Here’s one of my favorites: the Mulan dress

Free shipping, and  excellent, humane customer service. 

I’m just tossing in a few books we ordered this year — all for little kids, except the last, and mostly things that all kids should have in their libraries.
A Bargain for Frances Nobody understands childhood better than Russell and Lillian Hoban.This is the one where Francis is painfully duped, learns to dupe, and then decides she wants something better for everybody. Just delightful.

The Clown of God by Tome dePaola Exists mainly to make adults cry. One of dePaola’s absolute masterpieces.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge This was my favorite book as a kid, and it’s a lot of fun to read aloud as an adult. Okay, sometimes I tear up when I get to the part where maybe nobody wants him anymore. Wonderful pictures, wonderfully written, very satisfying ending.

The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins One of the longer Dr. Seuss books, so you’re in for the long haul if you read this one, but it’s less preachy than some, and kids are fascinated by the increasingly ornate hats. This one doesn’t rhyme.


The Saving Name of God the Son. A little change of pace. This is a board book using fine art to illustrate some basic truths and words about the Trinity. I don’t know if the kids like it, but I do! It’s very bright and attractive, nicely done. 

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag Another all-time favorite. Large families will appreciate how each cat took one mouthful of grass and the whole hillside was bare, and young philosophers will enjoy thinking about how all the cats ate each other up until there was nothing left. Another completely satisfying book, so much fun to read aloud. 

The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica by Tomie dePaola One of dePaola’s many saint books. Lots of information packed in there, and wonderful illustrations as always. 

It Happened in Pinsk by Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski. A weird book about a guy who isn’t satisfied with his life and wakes up one day to discover his head is gone. He has to go find it, and he does, and then he feels better about his life. I love Yorinks and Egielski. Most of their books are about guys who feel dissatisfied with their lives and end up with some kind of improvement, but some of them are much weirder.

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber A weird little fairy tale, somewhat creepy (I was scared of the Todal when I was little) but fascinating and funny, with great characters. Extremely mannered language, verging on obnoxious, but kids like it.

Fables by Arnold Lobel Lobel really knows human nature (and knows how to work it out in animal stories). These are separate little stories, each with an alleged moral, some very funny, a few melancholy, and all very familiar. The illustrations are unforgettable. 

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody This one is not for kids, but for teenagers on up. Will Cuppy was a painfully scrupulous researcher and also a giant weirdo. His books are so funny. This one has short chapters on famous people, and would be great for anyone who likes history. Or you could just leave it in the bathroom for people to pick up and sorta kinda learn something. Hilarious line drawings to illustrate.


And that’s it! We have to start shopping ourselves. Here are my lists from previous years:

The 2019 list (25 presents)

The 2018 list (50 presents)
The 2017 list (50 presents)
The 2016 list (50 presents)
The 2015 list (25 presents under $50)
The 2014 list (50 presents)


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7 thoughts on “Christmas gifts our ten kids loved, the 2020 list”

  1. I found them a bit long-winded and plot-heavy. Every single day of first grade he came home from school, put on his wooden sword, and wore it until bedtime. Thank you for the list! It is refreshing to see a mom/wife from the world of Catholic media who buys presents for her kids as I do. I can only take so much inundation of $30 saint peg dolls and Sacred Heart Pillowcases.ornaments

  2. Every single day of first grade he came home from school, put on his wooden sword, and wore it until bedtime. Easy clean up too. It doesn’t take long to heat up which is a plus over bigger waffle makers. I love the Prydain Chronicles myself. They are funny, have vivid and quirky characters, and move at a good clip.

  3. Thank you for the list! It is refreshing to see a mom/wife from the world of Catholic media who buys presents for her kids like I do. I can only take so much inundation of $30 saint peg dolls and Sacred Heart Pillow cases.
    If you could help with a book rec that would be the cool whip on the pie. My 9 year old son has asked for books in the genres of sci-fi or “medieval fantasy”. I have zero ideas.

    1. My nine year old is super into the Prydain Chrinicles right now. I think that would qualify as medieval fantasy. Based on Welsh legends

    2. Also the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. My son enjoyed it at about that age and then his sister read it and became obsessed for a few years!

      (When my son was a little younger he loved the Redwall books by Brian Jacques, although I found them a bit long-winded and plot-heavy. Every single day of first grade he came home from school, put on his wooden sword, and wore it until bedtime. He was being heroic like the noble mice, badgers, hares, and other critters of Redwall.)

      I love the Prydain Chronicles myself. They are funny, have vivid and quirky characters, and move at a good clip. And if he hasn’t read The Hobbit, it’s a must! Try reading it aloud if he can’t get into it by himself.

  4. I can second the waffle maker! In fact I just bought 2 more for adult kids who are out on their own. Small waffles are cute and tasty, and my young sons can make the waffles themselves before school. Easy clean up too. It doesn’t take long to heat up which is a plus over bigger waffle makers. The grand I bought is Dash (at Target).
    The killing Dr lucky board game looks great – my son was complaining recently about how many board games are gross – bodily functions or messy. Not everything needs to be about farts.

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