For the last eight years, I’ve been sharing a list of gifts my family actually purchased and enjoyed. We have ten kids and we buy a lot of presents, so I have a lot of recommendations. This year: MONSTER LIST. I’m consolidating all the old lists into one, organized by category, and adding a bunch of new products. I made a feeble attempt to organize the categories by agel, but the formatting always defeats me in the end.
Note: I am an Amazon Associate again, yay! So I get a commission when you buy things through my links. (Not everything on this list is from Amazon, but most of it is.)
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
This year, I’m listing most products as Amazon ad links, which look like this:
Oh yes, ADVENT CANDLES. Just in case you forgot. Advent Begins Sun., Nov. 27.
This is important! If you have an ad blocker on, you may not be able to see the list! If nothing is showing up for you, please turn off your ad blocker.
Also please note: The display ads often show a higher price than the actual price when you click through. I have no idea why, but it’s worth clicking through just to see.
Here is a sort of table of contents of categories. I am going to attempt to figure out how to insert code so you can jump to the different sections, but I’m pretty dumb, so it may not work.
Little guys’ toys (besides dolls)
Games and puzzles
Building and tactile toys
Art and journaling supplies
Jewelry, pins, accessories (+makeup, sunglasses)
Music and musical instruments
Crafts, kits, knitting, sewing
Dolls and stuffies
Outdoor and active toys
Weaponry and knives
Hats and hair accessories
Bags and wallets
I didn’t do a great job noting what age these products are for, but I have found that the manufacturers have almost always done great research and can be depended on.
One final note: There are no books in this list, except for a few cook books. I’ll do a separate list of books that would make good presents!
Here we go! Happy shopping!
LITTLE GUYS’ TOYS (besides dolls)
B. Toys baby car keys Babies are not supposed to suck on your real car keys because of the toxins or something, but car key toys are usually made out of plastic, which is no fun for babies. So these are made out of safe metal (with flat edges, so they can’t cut their gums), they are heavy and they rattle, and the keychain has different buttons that make various car noises — but it’s muffled, so not terribly intrusive. (We like a lot of the toys from the B. company. They hold up well and are designed with actual kids in mind.)
Beloved bedtime elephant that projects stars and plays little tunes. We bought this for a kid several years ago when she was a toddler, and then it finally broke and we replaced it when she was a liiiiiiiiittle too old for it, because she still loves it. It also plays a heartbeat sound and we all think that’s kind of weird.
Silicone teething cookie duo Corrie got one of these when she was teething hard, so it became known as the Corrie-o. The little ridges are perfect for sore gums. It’s bigger than a real Oreo, so not a choking hazard. Super cute, still a favorite after a year of gnawing.
Baby smartphone B. Toys This toy distracts the baby from your actual smartphone for maybe ten minutes. Worth every second. I like B. Toys because they make sounds, but they are intentionally soft; and they have an off switch. This one has held up well, and doesn’t gobble batteries too badly. Also records your voice, so the older kids are always pranking each other.
Classic Baby Beads by Manhattan Toy
The large wooden balls are linked with elastic, so you can wear it like a bracelet, or you can roll and twist them to make all kinds of lovely clusters of color. Each ball is painted a slightly different shade, it’s pleasantly heavy, and it makes a soft clacking sound. Fine, I bought it for myself, and sometimes I let the baby play with it.
Melissa and Doug animal magnets in a wooden box. Bright and pleasant. Magnets have stayed on the wood, animals have not peeled off, despite occasionally getting wet.
Tomy fountain rocket bath toy A simple but very cool toy. Fill it up by holding it under the water, then hold it aloft, and it empties itself in a shining dome of water. Fascinating for the little guys. We’ve found that TOMY toys hold up very, very well to hard use, and don’t get moldy, either.
Mother mermaid and triplet babies. We’ve had some of these bath toy 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.
Tomy bath dolphins All my kids played with this bath toy set. So clever. A rainbow of rings that float individually or linked, and each one has a matching dolphin. Tap the dolphin on the head as it floats and it makes a little musical fluting sound! You can also blow into the dolphin’s tail like a whistle. Line them up and it plays a whole octave. Rugged toys, mold resistant.
Mickey Mouse RC Cars for toddlers. 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.
Little Tykes shopping cart. Many different styles of toy shopping cart, but we chose this one because it had a seat for a companion, which was important for shopping games. This model did get years and years of service, and the older kids would take it apart and put it back together again constantly.
Also see “outdoor and active toys”
GAMES and PUZZLES
Build a Robot Spinner Game. Spin the spinner to collect pieces and be the first to build a complete custom robot that fits together like a puzzle. We have several of these eeBoo games and they’re wonderful. The illustrations are funny and appealing to kids, the spinners work well every time, the pieces are durable, and the games are generally short and not tedious. The best games for young children I’ve ever found. Good for pre-literate kids, but not too boring for young kids who can read.
Fairytale Spinner Game. Suitable for pre-readers. You spin the spinner to collect different elements of a story (a scene, a hero, a magical helper, a rival, a magical object, transportation, and a treasure), and the first one who collects them all gets to tell a story using them all. It’s adorable. The pieces are very stout and durable cardboard, and they are just lovely. Of all the games they want me to play, I’m least unwilling to play this one. 2-4 players
Lunch Basket Spinner Game. Yes, another eeBoo spinner game! This one is a picnic, and you spread a tablecloth and begin collecting various foods to complete your meal. I can’t explain to you why these games are fun and pleasant and not tedious and all the same. I just like them, and really don’t mind playing them. They tap into something really good, and we all like them.
Wow, looks like we also have The Cupcake Game. This one actually teaches kids a bit about baking, because you have to collect the various necessary components to make cupcakes, just as in a real recipe.
Also notable about eeBoo games: The storage boxes are sturdy and don’t collapse after you use them a few times. They’re really designed for actual kids to use.
Okay, moving on!
It’s just Chutes and Ladders, but with princesses. I was really surprised at how much more my kid (who got it for her tenth birthday) enjoys this than she does regular chutes and ladders. She always marvels at how pretty it is.
There are cheaper boards, but this one is very big and sturdy, and the marbles stay in place. Popular with kids of all ages. And for goodness’ sake, buy the replacement marbles now. You will need them.
Snake Oil is hilarious family improv game, also good for parties. You get a bunch of word cards and become salesmen who must use those words to invent a product and make a sales pitch that the customer will fall for. Great for a mix of ages, lots of laughing. Blogged about it here.
I Got This! game. Exciting, frustrating, some teamwork required, but lots of competition. Very entertaining to watch. Kids have to decide if they should push themselves a little further to do more and more challenging, silly tasks.
Good old Bananagrams. I’ve bought this game many, many times and I never mind playing a round or two of this free-form word-building game. Pleasant and portable, easily adaptable to people of various skill levels and to solitaire play.
Exploding Kittens card game. Easy to learn, a little weird and crude, lots of laughing. You have to draw cards that say things like “see the future” (so you can look at the top three cards) or “potato cat” (they explained it to me, but I forget) until you choose an exploding kitten card, which has to be defused. Trip up your opponents and prepare yourself for the exploding kitten card. Good party game.
Chess set with large pieces, roll-out vinyl board, storage tote, and instruction book. We were SO pleased with this tournament chess set. It is HUGE, the board is very tough, and the pieces are big and heavy. Great product for the price, and portable.
Isle of Lewis Chess set (From Etsy)
Polystone reproduction of 12th-century walrus ivory chess pieces unearthed on a Scottish Island. The opposing pieces are a deep oxblood color. Wonderfully detailed and lovingly packed. These are just the pieces; there is no board included.
King of Tokyo is a great family game. Super competitive, very lively and frenetic, sometimes over really quickly. Young players (age 6 or so) can be included with some help.
Werewolf game Good for ages reasonably-alert-10 to adult. The premise is that, when night falls in the village, a werewolf comes out and kills someone; and everyone else has to figure out who the werewolf is and what to do about it. Everyone closes his eyes, and the leader instructs one person at a time to wake up, take a look at the card that reveals his role (werewolf, bodyguard, witch, villager, etc.), and then go back to sleep. There are several rounds of play, in which the players anonymously decide to kill, save, protect, or silence each other. Then everyone has to vote on whom to lynch. Players are eliminated one at a time, and it becomes more and more evident who is killing everyone, who is being framed, and who is lying through their teeth (and, in my case, who forgot the rules and accidentally blabbed too much information).
Pandemic board game. Lots of strategy and cooperative play, or you all die. My teenagers played it with the younger kids (age 7 and up). Suspenseful and lots of pressure. Full disclosure, we haven’t played it since before the, you know, actual pandemic, so I don’t know how it would hit now!
Ransom Notes word magnet game. Simple concept: Someone reads a prompt from a card, and everyone (including the reader) has to pick words from their collection of word magnets to express what is on the card. Then everyone reads their entry aloud, and the judge picks the best one. Ranges from amusing to outlandishly hilarious. Can be a little naughty. I reviewed this game here.
Mysterium board game. Help a dead murder victim remember details about his grisly demise, using clues from arty and deliberately confusing “vision cards.” Lavish and complex cooperative game. Comes with an app to play spooky music to add to the atmosphere. (Full review here.)
Betrayal At House on the Hill, a cooperative strategy game, unpredictable and spooky. Kind of like Scooby Doo with better graphics. You gradually build the map of the house as you explore it, but can you really trust everyone? (NO.) Doesn’t drag on too, too long. Good party game.
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!
Kill Doctor Lucky game. Only a few rules, but the experience changes with every game and is always a lot of fun. Some strategy involved.
BUILDING and TACTILE TOYS
Build-a-bouquet flower construction set. Maybe it’s just late November talking, but I had a desperate need to see my little ones sitting in a beam of sunshine on the living room rug and building some flowers. These are sturdy and easy to use, and the older kids enjoyed putting different combinations together, too.
The right kid will find these simple Melissa and Doug wooden pattern blocks endlessly fascinating. There are many versions. This Melissa and Doug set comes with a sturdy wooden box and several patterns to try to reproduce, or you can build your own designs. Smooth and pleasant to touch.
These wooden castle building blocks were a huge hit with the kindergartener with a mania for building. This is a pretty good-sized kit (75 blocks) for the price, and includes a nice variety of shapes for lots of possibilities. You could easily paint or decorate these if you wanted to. The older kids like them, too.
I’d seen these Connectagons in catalogs for years and years and years, and finally ordered a set. They are slick and cheerful, easy to use, almost impossible to break, and the set is huge. I can see why they are so popular. They come in many different styles (butterfly, glow-in-the-dark, etc.).
A lot of weird tactile molding materials came and went in the last decade, but kinetic sand is king. This stuff is awesome. You can squeeze it and shape it, or you can let it dribble out of your hands like . . . wet sand lace foam, or something. You can buy kits with molding toys, but cups and butter knives work fine. Comes in many colors and varieties. Does not smell weird or leave stains.
K’NEX are great! This set is motorized and has 529 pieces. My six-year-old went straight to work building things, but they would be fun for a much older kid or even an adult. This set comes with a motor and you can make all kinds of vehicles and machines. Popular for a reason.
Snap Circuits! 60+ parts. I can’t believe how long it took us to finally start buying Snap Circuits. They are just as interesting and exciting as everyone promised. Hours of fascination putting together all kinds of elecronic projects that really work, without welding. For ages 8 and up. We’ve also gotten Snap Circuits Illuminations, which has walls as well as a base.
Adorable li’l mini Lego-compatible sushi cart kit, lots of nice detail. Note, this is a mini kit.
Lego compatible hat. Bring your Legos with you! Put your Legos on your head! What a time to be alive!
Klutz Kids Cooking 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. If you’re looking for a first cookbook, I recommend this one.
Here’s a little baking set we put together:
A set of three silicone heart-shaped cake pans to make a fancy layer cake. These are unusually deep pans. Plus:
Cat paw oven mitts. We got these just because they were cute, but they’re actually really good oven mitts, much better than the ones I got for myself for everyday use.
Plus, the best part:
Personalized chef’s hat and apron. This is just adorable, and quite nice quality for the price. (Only the hat is personalized, not the apron.) The hat stands up nicely and is sturdy.
My girls adored this spiral bound Fairie’s Cookbook. The recipes aren’t too complicated or exotic to try, but they are out of the ordinary. I know you can find millions of ideas on Pinterest, but there’s something about having a book to leaf through. Best for kids with some basic kitchen competence.
Just a decent little hand mixer for an aspiring chef. All the attachments fit nicely into the storage case, which provides room for . . .
a ‘Potions Master’ sticker designed to go on a mixer. (This is a Harry Potter-themed one, but there are others.) Lots of kids go from making potions in the kitchen to actual cooking and baking, so here’s a cute sticker to illustrate the transition.
Mini waffle maker. A surprisingly popular gift. Always makin’ mini waffles, and this continues to get use several years later. Some kids really like having their own personal appliances. Comes in several colors and patterns.
An Unexpected Cookbook. For more accomplished cooks and bakers, this is the best collection of Hobbitish recipes I’ve seen, meticulously researched (it’s based on recipes from rural Victorian England), and written in a cozy, engaging, humorous style by someone who clearly loves The Hobbit and loves eating. I could live off the stuffed, braided mushroom, onion, and cheese bread for the rest of my life. It also includes variations for people on special diets, and makes suggestions about how to use leftovers. Nicely done all around.
Embossing rolling pin A small-sized rolling pin, makes pretty repeating designs in cookie or pie dough, as shown. Click through for other designs.
Lighted pocket microscope. Great, great little tool for the money. We’ve bought several of these over the years. Kids can learn to use them easily (my six-year-old took to it right away) and take a close, lit-up peek at anything they like, and they’re not so expensive that it’s a catastrophe if they get left outside or stepped on. That said, they’re pretty rugged. They come with a few slides, but they mostly get used for looking at stuff on the go.
Celestron portable telescope A decent starter telescope, designed to be portable, so you can carry it easily on your back to a dark field or a mountaintop. Has an adapter so you can take photos with your smartphone.
Celestron beginner astronomy binoculars. These binoculars are designed specifically for night viewing. 7X magnification, easy to use. Paired with:
National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky. User-friendly, packed with information. A small sized book, so it’s portable (but the print is therefore small and a little hard to read if you’re old!).
Field binoculars, compact and good for hunting or hiking.
LITE BRITE IS FUN. WE LIKE IT. YES THEY LOSE ALL THE PEGS RIGHT AWAY. BUT IT IS FUN WHILE IT LASTS.
Mini Simon Says game. Two game modes. Works well for parties, or you can play solo. Just like you remember: Very bright and very loud, so caveat emptor.
Mini Arcade game. This is not a good toy. It’s a bad toy. But oh, do they love it. It has dozens, maybe hundreds of terrible, pointless little games with squalid little graphics and meandering, senseless tunes. THEY LOVE IT. And it’s reasonably cheap, so when they leave it at a rest stop on a field trip and are heartbroken, you can buy another one.
Fujifilm instant camera with case, film, and album. Take little instant photos just for fun. A rugged little device.
Pink ergonomic gaming chair. Very comfortable for gaming (and art). Comes in other colors.
A megaphone! 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 in the middle of the pandemic, and I was okay with that.
Decent set of wireless earbuds. They come in several colors.
Bluetooth cat ear headphones. Decent sound and they light up in different colors and pulse along with the rhythm of the music, which is just cool. We’ve bought several of these for various kids over the years.
BTS Soul Map Light Stick Okay, a light stick is just a flash light. It’s just a really expensive flash light. But I guess you can synchronizes it along with whatever it is that people are experiencing at a BTS concert? I have never been clear about what is so desirable about these items, but BTS has not yet become problematic, so I’m still for it, I guess, and we have bought several varieties of lightstick.
Decent little boombox with CD player and radio that you can as as a bluetooth speaker for your wireless device. Why do kids want to buy CDs again? I have no idea. But this one has held up fine. It does drain batteries fairly quickly.
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.
Book-shaped lamp. Closes up and looks like a book; opens up and lights up. Just a pleasant little lamp. Not super sturdy for little kids, but better made than we were expecting.
PORTABLE SOLAR PANELS and a PORTABLE POWER PACK.
Not toys but incredibly useful. (The power pack is currently 40% off)
Damien works from home, and uses these every day to power his office, which is a refurbished bob house.
ART AND JOURNALING SUPPLIES
Garden fairies scratch and sketch activity book Sturdy, spiral-bound (so you can open it up flat to work). Scratch away the black to reveal rainbow swirls and glittery colors underneath. Sweet little poems, pictures to copy if you like, and blank pages for sketching, besides the scratch-off pages. Many themes available, from outer space to mermaids to Jurassic creatures.
Six nice big bottles of tempera paint! (16 oz each) Smell that kindergarten smell.
Lyra Ferby giant triangular colored pencils. Our beloved kindergarten teacher introduced us to these lovely colored pencils. I balked at the price at first, but they are quite good. Vivid colors, nice and smooth, and easy to grip, even for lefties, and the tips don’t snap off.
LCD doodle tablet For the kid who can’t stop doodling, and the mom who is going insane with reams of scribbled paper all over the place. Write with the stylus on the black screen, press the button to erase. That’s it. Surprisingly durable for the price. We have a couple of these in different colors. It’s great for car rides, waiting rooms, etc.
Nose Pencil Sharpener
Who nose when you’ll need it, ho ho ho
10 colors of Sculpey clay Sculpey is always a favorite. Every so often, all through the year, I find another little batch of tiny little octopuses, lollipops, and bowls of miniscule fruit and whatnot baking in the oven.
Pair it with:
11 piece sculpting tool set with 21 tools to make all kinds of details and textures in your clay. Real tools, not toys.
Sealing wax stamp kit! Each kit is for one letter and comes in an attractive little set shaped like a book. Seal letters and envelopes with your initial. Works as expected, quite fancy.
10-pack Sakura Micron black pens, the most-requested pens from all my various artist kids. Pair with an 8-pack of vibrant colored pens:
For the DIY guy: Make: Props and Costume Armor: Create Realistic Science Fiction & Fantasy Weapons, Armor, and Accessories book and maybe pair it with a gift card to Michael’s, which you can also buy on Amazon because it’s a weird world.
Mythology notecards Commissioned for the 75th anniversary of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, set of 20 cards from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, blank inside, colored envelopes, comes in a nice box with a magnetic closure
Dover dragon Stained Glass mini Coloring book (and many other mini Dover coloring books). I adore these. Color with marker or crayon and pull them out of the book, and you have nice little stained glass panels to put on your windows. Many to chose from.
Feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady, plus the companion coloring book, A Feast of Saints, by Matthew Alderman. Alderman’s style is so fresh and inviting, reminiscent of Trina Schart Hyman, who drew heavily on heraldry and illuminated manuscripts, nodded at the pre-raphaelites, and then opened the window to let some air in. Great stuff. Kids (and others) soak in knowledge as they color.
Official Die Hard coloring book. Sighh. She loved it.
Wedding Traditions from Around the World coloring book There is a Dover coloring book for every conceivable interest, and they’re all done in that same blandly reassuring style, with tons of carefully-researched detail. Dover is awesome.
Shark float pen (Etsy)
Just a silly thing, but perfect for someone. Etsy is full of these novelty pens, with everything floating in them, from chickens to donuts to flamingos to possums.
Scheaffer calligraphy set So you say you’d love to let your kids have that magical, sensual experience of writing in pen and ink, but you’re not dumb enough to turn them loose with a bottle of ink? Here is a lovely calligraphy set, with 3 pens, 3 nibs, and a bunch of pre-filled ink cartridges in various colors. Also includes an introductory calligraphy booklet.
Here’s a little metal stamp set I put together:
Heavy duty number and letter metal stamps for metal, wood, or leather. To go with 30 blank steel pendants:
plus a little anvil and a little jewelry-making hammer.
I myself thought this was a cool present and I still do! Alas, the child who received this little bundle as a gift thought it was LAME-O. But maybe your kid would like it! I think it would be fun to tap out personalized little pendants on my little anvil up in my room, but what do I know.
And here’s another set that I thought would be sure-fire, but the kid didn’t like it! Maybe your kid will. A resin pouring set:
Resin, hardener, cups, stirrers, and instructions….
18 colors of resin dye . . .
and 30 pendant resin molds. Someone could have fun preserving flowers, coins, insects, or whatever in resin and making sun catchers, earrings, or necklace pendants!
24,000 multicolored glass seed beads. Just what you wanted! We had a kid who was really into making little beaded lizards for a while, and this kept her busy. Sturdy storage box, but note there is only one lid for all the compartments, so beware! If you open one, you open all.
Buddha Board Art Set You use the brush to paint elegant shapes with water, and it slowly evaporates. Soothing and pleasant, comes with a little easel and water pot. This also comes in a mini version for cheaper.
The Peter Pauper journals are varied an exquisite and very reasonably priced. Nice quality paper, gorgeous covers.
And just because I don’t know where else to put this:
Nixon decal: “I’m meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies”
Possibly specific to the needs of my family. For the right person, it could be the best $4.28 you ever spent.
JEWELRY, PINS, ACCESSORIES
Large and stunning. My daughter wears this with her woolen Irish cloak, or sometimes in her hair, and it’s just gorgeous.
Golden wheat earrings
Damien got these for me and I absolutely love them, and always get compliments on them. They are extremely bright and not heavy, despite their large size. I corresponded with the maker, because I was having an issue with them slipping off, so I do recommend what she suggested if you buy them: Just clip the backs to be shorter with a strong pair of scissors, and maybe use some rubber earring backs.
Silver spinner fidget ring. An excellent ring for a fidgeter. The gold part spins noiselessly around the silver part. Really solid and sturdy.
Pearl and carnelian earrings
Also a gift from Damien. These are even nicer in person. They go well with dressy or casual outfits. I adore the combination of carnelian, silver, and freshwater pearl, and I wear these several times a week.
Be excellent to someone and buy this Bill and Ted Wyld Stallyns pin.
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. She has used it for years 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.)
More BTS! These are nice little silver studs, shiny but understated.
Weeping Angel earrings. Don’t blink or the price will go up!
Flower-shaped makeup set. For a kid interested in exploring make-up, this is a fun set. You twist the top layer and the petals glide open and reveal the pallets and brushes and things inside, and there’s a little mirror in the top. Comes in a few different colors. Does not include liquid eyeliner, which is pretty popular, so you may want to buy that separately.
“Deal With It” pixilated glasses. Some of you still haven’t dealt with it, and it shows.
Heart diffraction glasses. A big hit. Put these magical glasses on and wherever you look, light sources turn into heart shapes, so the world is swimming in multicolored hearts. The more lights, the more hearts, hooray! The glasses themselves are quite sturdy, and are large enough for an adult to wear. They look like sunglasses in the picture, but in real life the glass is clear like reading glasses. (They also make diffraction glasses with other images, stars and whatnot.)
MUSIC and MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
Boomwhackers! Bright plastic tubes in graduated sizes that you whack to make different booming tones. You can arrange them in different orders and hit them with sticks, hit them with each other, or use them to hit other things. Music and hitting things! Sounds like a happy childhood. Very sturdy. These have been stepped on and mangled without any ill effects.
Ukulele bundle. The whole ukulele thing was one hipster fad I fully endorsed. It turns out a ukulele really is easy to learn to play, and it’s small enough to bring with you. Very pleasant to hear the gentle music wafting through bedroom walls. According to the seller, this “concert” size is the size “recommended for most adults & children age 9 & up.” Comes with case, strap, picks, tuner, and an instructional video.
The Daily Ukulele: 365 Songs for Better Living book Lots of variety, great for learning. Opens flat (also comes in digital format).
Beginner’s acoustic guitar set. We got two of these, one in black and one in blue. Also comes in red, pink, and other colors. I don’t know anything about guitars, but two of our kids taught themselves how to pick out some songs using this exact set-up, so it definitely comes with everything you need to get started, for a very reasonable price.
For someone who already plays guitar:
Beatles chord songbook, in regular and spiral bound. If you’re not learning how to play Beatles songs, then what are you even doing with a guitar? Also:
Bob Dylan: Easy Guitar book Basic arrangements of Dylan’s most popular songs.
Beatles tin of guitar picks
As advertised. Hooray for songs with only four chords! Hooray for things that come in tins!
Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown by Anais Mitchell For the obsessive Hadestown fan, this book has excerpts from the studio and other albums versions, and full lyrics from Broadway version, plus commentary. Can’t get enough of that tragical stuff!
A distortion thingy! If I say anything else about it, it will become abundantly clear I have no idea what any of this is. My daughter likes it.
OTAMATONE This . . . is a little hard to explain. The stem is a touch-sensitive electronic music-maker, so if you press or slide your finger along it, you can make different tones. Then, with your other hand, you squeeze the flexible sides of the mouth to open or close it, to change the volume, to make the sound staccato or give it vibrato, etc. It. Is. Hilarious. It looks like the little guy is singing. It’s the cheesiest imaginable synthesizer sound. It’s a little bit fragile, so not appropriate for young or careless kids. There’s a video if you click through.
A kalimba, also known as a “thumb piano,” is a sweet little portable instrument for picking out quiet tunes or accompanying singers. Click through for a little video to hear how it sounds.
Casio keyboard A very serviceable electric keyboard for people learning to play. Comes with a stand and headset, so you can practice without driving your sister crazy, assuming that’s your goal.
Bluetooth karaoke LED microphone Not gonna lie, this is a terrible product. It works very well, is very loud and bright, and is hard to break. TERRIBLE. It’s a real, heavy microphone, not a toy, with a speaker built into it, and puts on a little light show when the music plays. Links up to your smartphone. It’s just terribly obnoxious. The kids love it. LOVE IT. You can also use it just as a wireless speaker. It has lasted for years, I’m sorry to say.
CRAFTS, KITS, KNITTING, AND SEWING
Set of two Melissa and Doug wooden hearts and butterflies bead sets Can I just pause a moment and express my delight at the nice little wooden boxes that so many Melissa and Doug sets come in? They really hold up. You can’t depend on anyone, but you can depend on Melissa and Doug wooden boxes. *sniff* Anyway, these are pleasant wooden beads painted carefully with a good gloss for that kid who loves to string beads, and the set of two is great value for the money.
Klutz Twirled Paper Kit One of the better Klutz products. I’ve always tried to get my kids interested in quilling (winding flat strips of paper into spirals and then shaping them into various designs), but they just gave me the side-eye. The nicely-illustrated instruction book that comes with the quilling paper made it simple and inviting, and my nine-year-old turned out some nice projects. Told you quilling is fun! I told you!
Klutz Clay Charms kit Such a hit! You can follow the directions (which were clearly tested by actual people, whew) to make the various charms pictured, or you can make up your own stuff. My daughter loves making and baking little figurines, earrings, and pendants for herself and for gifts.
Creativity for Kids Flower Crown Kit I thought this was just another crummy stick-fake-flowers-together-and-watch-them-fall-apart,-then-wander-around-sadly-with-bits-of-glue-in-your-hair kits, but it’s not! My kids used this kit on a day when we were unexpectedly stuck at home and had a little guest, and they all had fun, did fine without much help, and turned out some really lovely crowns that still haven’t fallen apart.
The Creativity for Kids line is another new find for us recently, and we’re pretty impressed. Even the paracord wristband kit turned out to be fun for my sons, who usually consider themselves above craft kits.
Enough perler beads (17,000) to subsume your entire household. These melty beads continue to be popular in the 1/2 and 3/4 classrooms at our school. (What you do is carefully arrange plastic beads on a pegboard, put some wax paper over it, and run it over with an iron, and they melt together and form a little flat plastic toy.) Honestly, it’s not so bad. The kids take their Perler beading really, really seriously, and the beads have miraculously not escaped from the jar. The appeal escapes me, but I never got understood why all my friends were doing Shrinky Dinks when I was that age, either.
We also got this pattern book and this set of pegboards that you can join together to make bigger projects.
Glitter body art kit. Fun little set. My 13-year-old got a lot of use out of it. A generous supply of glitter stuff. The tattoos last for a few days, but are easy to clean off when you’re ready.
Alex Headband Craft Kit I actually resisted buying this kit, because it seemed dumb (ALEX toys are hit or miss) but one kid desired it greatly. It turned out to be quite good. The headbands haven’t broken after a year of use, which is almost a miracle; and she had a surprising amount of fun making different combinations.
Cat and dog beginner felting kit. Not the exact kit we had, but similar. Felting is a good project for a kid who is both domestic and a little stabby. It takes some patience but not a lot of skill, and you can put this project down and pick it up again days later without any harm. Make a bunch of cute little puffy cats and dogs, and get the hang of the technique so you can make more complex projects.
Melissa and Doug fleece tie blanket kit. Generous size (3.5×5 feet). My then-six-year-old made this almost entirely on her own with no trouble, and found it very satisfying. No sewing or tools required.
Honey bee beaded embroidery kit (Etsy)
Isn’t this gorgeous? It includes the canvas, patterns, beads, and needle; you must supply the thread, but it doesn’t have to be specialty thread. It is Ukranian but the instructions are in English. Make a dreamlike little work of art.
Yarn storage and organizer tote. Lots of handy pockets and compartments with a little hole on top to feed the yarn through as you knit, so it doesn’t get tangled.
Rosewood yarn bowl. A lovely handmade item, decorative and useful. Keep your yarn from getting tangled while you knit. You can feed more than one strand out at a time.
Other handy knitting notions:
tapestry needles for finishing
stork embroidery scissors.
SINGER | MX60 Sewing Machine with 57 stitches
Good little workhorse for basic projects. Easy to use, gets the job done.
Brother XM2701 lightweight sewing machine with 27 stitches. Another good choice for a beginner sewing machine. I am not competent to tell you which is better. We have both and they both sew, and I can use both of them and I am an idiot, so that’s all I know.
If you want to spend somewhat more, we also have this sewing machine, a Brother CS6000i with 60 stitches:
which also does a great job and is easy to use.
For hand sewing:
A cute little owl-print sewing basket with a bunch of supplies. Has a little removable tray to store the needles, measuring tape, lots of thread and threaded bobbins. We also bought separately a package of multicolored felt, a tomato pin cushion, and a package of 100 sweet flowered buttons, and the kid managed to stuff them all inside the sewing box and latch it. Cute, cute, cute.
The Tudor Tailor book by by For skilled seamstresses. Full of detailed, authentic patterns for all kinds of garments from Tudor society.
DOLLS AND STUFFIES
BAR! BIE! DREAM! HOUSE! We have eight daughters and finally bit the bullet and bought this pink plastic monstrosity, and the two youngest girls have played with it more days than they haven’t. It has a moving, wheelchair-accessible elevator, a disco room with lights and sounds, a toilet with flushing noises, and bunch of other little details the kids love. It took two adults about an hour to put together, not counting sticking all the little stickers on. If you’re a Montessori person, you won’t like this; if you’re a “oh my gosh, there are teeny little plastic cupcakes inside the teeny plastic oven” person, you will love it.
Princess Leia doll with Endor adventure accessories. Solid Barbie-sized doll with a pleasant face and lots of accessories. The Ewok lost its hood and turned up in a basket with my fresh ginger and scared the hell out of me, but I can’t fault the doll for that.
Luna Lovegood doll. Barbie-sized. There are a bunch of other Harry Potter dolls as well, Nicely detailed, and they didn’t fall into the uncanny valley trying to make the faces resemble to actors too much.
I may have been more excited about this than the kids: Comfy Clothes Barbies (Anna and Elsa). 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.
Uncle Iroh! He is 5″ tall (not Barbie-sized)
Calico Critters Maple Twin Cats Whenever my kids put Calico Critters on the list, I grumble and complain about how stupid and pointless and expensive they are; and then I start shopping, and then I go, “AWWWWWWW.” They really are adorable. These are very small toys, so not great for kids who lose stuff; but they are sturdy and sweet, and come in dozens of different species.
Stuffed anteater. Do you have a child who really got into anteaters? We did. So we know our plush anteaters. This one is a fine specimen. Very plushy and huggable. (Our is named “Schlopp-Schleep,” thank you very much.)
Nice little stuffed pink axolotl. 21 inches long. Has a friendly little face, as an axolotl should.
Shoulder Grogu. This is pretty cute. Sits on your shoulder with the aid of a little magnet on a fabric disk that fits inside your shirt.
These BTS dolls keep turning up on wish lists (and all over the house), and they apparently fulfill some sort of need, whatever that may be, so now you know as much as I do.
Is it the right time to get your child a gigantic stuffed tiger to lounge around on? MAYBE!
BIG PLUSH MIKU. A real gift of the magi gift. You know I really suffer a lot when I order stuff like this, but I love my kids, and they’re very good kids, so.
Groovy Girls are soft, colorful dolls with cute hair and nice little outfits (the clothes don’t come off). Neither trashy nor simpering.
Small wooden doll family from Melissa and Doug. Oh my gosh, these dolls don’t fall apart. Their arms and legs and heads don’t fall off, their hair doesn’t fall out, their clothes don’t unravel, and they don’t have creepy faces that make you want to hurl them across the room. Great size for doll houses, and they come in a nice little wooden box. They also have Black families, royal families, etc.
Wow, more Melissa and Doug! I guess I’m a fan. We had a kid who loved the idea of paper dolls, but found the little tabs endlessly frustrating. These magnetic wooden dress-up dolls made a nice compromise: you can mix and match the outfits, and they just stick on with magnets.
Pleasant faces on these soft, poseable ballerina dolls, who are proportioned like little girls, and not like, you know, strippers. We got three of these last Christmas, and no limbs have fallen off, and the dresses have held up for a solid year without ripping, unravelling, or even going limp.
A sturdy, washable, kissable favorite little 12″ baby doll.
Funko Pop Eleven from Stranger Things. Aw, wookit the widdle blood coming out of her nose. I guess I don’t really understand Funko Pops.
OUTDOOR and ACTIVE TOYS
Little Tikes toddler slide Probably the most-used piece of furniture in our entire house. This lived in our living room for at least five months, and saved my sanity while Miss Insano clambered up and threw herself down hundreds and hundreds of times. Folds for storage.
We got our toddler roller coaster super cheap when a store was going out of business, and used it steadily for the next fifteen years. It’s still in decent shape, and we still pull it out when little nieces and nephews come over. It has survived many winters of being forgotten in the yard under several feet of snow, and never stops being fun fun fun for little guys. Just the right amount of thrill without being really dangerous.
Good old Rody the bouncy horse. Pricey but very, very durable, and cute as heck. Easier to get on and off of than hopper balls. Some of the older kids even watch TV while sitting on them, which may or may not be an endorsement. Anyway, the one we have (in lime green) has stayed inflated for years, no kidding.
Radio Flyer Cyclone Ride-On
A SPECTACULAR toy. I had a similar contraption when I was little and it was pure heaven, skimming over the grass, wheeling myself to and fro, spinning and whizzing and rumbling along. We got this Radio Flyer model for our youngest and she loves it, and uses it indoors, too. It’s a large toy but super maneuverable, so it’s not out of the question for small spaces.
Roller Derby four-square skates. Durable and comfortable.
Adjustable inline skates. Sturdy, smooth, comfortable.
Gots to have a helmet! This one has plenty of space for stickers, which is important. Comes in a few different colors.
YAAAASSSSS! YES YES YES! These are just as awesome as I remember from my childhood. Little trampolines for your feet, and very reasonably priced. Everyone loves moon shoes.
Wall-mounted speed bag set. Pretty good set. I don’t know how this would stand up to someone serious about boxing, but for a kid who just needs to hit stuff from time to time, it’s been doing the job.
STILTS. Greatest inspiration I’ve had all year. We now have two sets (they come rated for different weights), and they are adjustable. (We put patterned duct tape on them so they can tell them apart.) First kid went from zero skill to wobbling across the floor in a few minutes, and now she can jump, run backwards, spin, and do all kinds of terrifying stunts. Good exercise, good for improving balance, and great for building confidence. Excelsior!
YOU SHOULD HAVE A TRAMPOLINE. NOTHING IS BETTER THAN A TRAMPOLINE. We actually have a slightly different brand, but this one looks similar. Wonderful, wonderful purchase. Every single last person likes being on it. It lifts your mood. It wears you out. It’s funny and makes your hair stand on end. And you can lie down on it and look at the stars without bugs getting in your hair. You can put a sprinkler under it. You can entertain the baby. You can keep party guests occupied. In all the years we’ve had it, no one has broken a bone or a tooth or gotten mangled at all. Get the biggest one you can afford.
WEAPONRY and KNIVES
Cosmic shock phaser light spinner! It has pulsing, multicolored lights and makes space laser noises. Everybody loves this gun, not just the three-year-old. Sometimes we sit around at night and talk about why it’s not more annoying than it is. It’s a space laser mystery!
Schylling toys in general are well-made and seem to tap into that sweet spot of awesome-but-not-infuriating, not sure now.
Airzooka Air Blaster More low-tech fun. Aim, pull, and release. Shoots a harmless blast of air, enough to make your hair blow back, and makes a satisfying “choonk” noise, too.
These are simple, lightweight, and durable, and the arrows come in all kinds of bright, exciting colors and patterns. They have padded ends, not points, so you’d have to try really hard to hurt yourself with this set; but the bows work really well and you can get some good distance. Check out the sales, as they run a little high.
Exceedingly cool light saber. I mean yes it’s a toy, but it changes colors, has different sound settings, you can change the volume and whether it strobes or flashes or glows, and it makes that lightsaber noise when you swing it around. I am not 100% sure because I don’t have it in front of me, but I think it interacts with being whacked. If you click through, you can see a video to watch it in action.
Medieval(ish) sword and scabbard. Surprisingly sturdy little sword for the price. It would be best for display, costumes, and waving around, and not so much for really heavy chopping or stabbing action; but it’s real (not sharp) steel and real leather, and looks very cool.
Samurai sword with a stand, just the coolest thing in the world. Again, not designed for heavy combat, but you can definitely whack stuff with this sword, and it looks awesome on its stand.
A good little swiss army knife. Cool translucent cover, comes in several colors besides blue.
Decent, heavy pocket knife for the price, with attractive wooden handle.
Smith and Wesson 8-inch folding knife. For when they’ve outgrown the little red Swiss Army Knife and are maybe a young woman going to college and you never know who might need stabulatin’. (I jest. These are handy for opening packages and cutting fruit and whatnot, though, and are satisfyingly heavy knives that fold up with a good snap.)
22″ Machete, good for clearing brush, gathering kindling, or just choppa-choppa-choppa. Hey, they have ten fingers, plenty to spare.
October Mountain right hand recurve bow
A light, slim, powerful bow; shoots well. Damien has this for hunting and target practice.
Greek goddess costume. Flowy and dramatic, ombre cream to purple. Comes with a stretchy gold leaf headband. Reasonably washable.
Ballet shoes with ribbons. Silky and pretty. They have little leather pads on the sole, and you can wind the ribbons around your ankles and tie bows, just like a real ballerina. See also Tinkerbell ballet DVD.
Wonder Woman costume. Runs a little small. I like the star pants. Makes a kid feel super without sliding into “sexy tot” territory.
Flap flap flap! Butterfly wings are always in style. The material is strong, but thin enough that you don’t have to take it off to strap a kid into a car seat, which, whew.
These are by far the most luxurious rubber Godzilla hands we’ve ever owned.
Not really a costume, but a mermaid tail blanket. Crocheted mermaid tail for lounging about, being a mermaid in. Cozy and super soft. Comes in several colors, and it has a little mermaid charm on a chain as a bonus gift. For that one kid, it’s perfect.
And a general recommendation for costumes:
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. Last I checked, they had free shipping on all U.S. orders, and excellent, humane customer service.
Rainbow Dash Hoodie with ears and mane. Just plain cute, reasonably thick material, and the zipper held up well. We also have the Pinkie Pie hoodie.
We have several of these. You really cannot imagine how many different kinds of patterns there are on CowCow dresses. My ten-year-old daughter worked to earn her very own ice cream and candy dress, but maybe you’d prefer beetles, constellations, or cute ghosties. More varieties, some of them truly bizarre, than you can shake a stick at. These dresses are on the short side for adults of average height, but work fine for shorter folks. They come with or without sleeves, and are made of a stretchy rayon material, almost like a swim suit.
You can’t really see from the little picture, but this is a reversible dress. One variety has white feathers on a black background on one side, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the other. Very clever. Runs a bit small. A few different choices.
Just an elegant little dress with realistic birds of various kinds. Thick, soft stretchy knit material, falls gracefully, plenty of fabric in the skirt so it flares prettily when you spin. We bought an adult size small for our nine-year-old and it fit her nicely.
“Trapped in time, surrounded by evil, low on gas” Army of Darkness t-shirt
We looked at a lot of mermaid-print leggings, but realized that our kids are more the dragon type. Snarrrrl. These come in a few different colors.
Hot Pink Doc Martens! For the prom! For everyday wear! For making yourself awesome from the ground up. A million colors, all shiny and rugged and BACK IN STYLE. Aw yiss.
Irish Donegal Tweed 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 on Etsy.
LIVE, LAUGH, LURK t-shirt. It’s what Mothman does.
Dinosaur chompster hoodie. As you can see, this is one of those hoodies where you bend your elbows in front of you and, if you move them right, they become the chomping, slavering jaws of a hungry dinosaur! Amazing! Chomp chomp chomp! Thick nylon material, runs rather large.
Surfing Bigfoot Hawaiian shirt, for that special weirdo.
I’ll let this magnificent Krakitten garment speak for itself. Comes in a few different colors.
Tree of Gondor shirt! Also comes in other colors, in long-sleeved, etc.
You know what these knee-high goth boots are? They’re CHEAPER THAN DEMONIAS. And my kid has worn them several times without breaking an ankle, so you tell me.
And these are my boots, which I’ve had for a few years, and they’ve held up quite well. INC International Concept knee high leather boots with a little heel, a wide calf plus a little elastic gusset to make them even more comfy on your calves, and a zipper that comes halfway up so they’re easy to put on. They look stylish with dressy clothes and jeans, and they’re exceedingly comfortable. I put a cushy innersole in to make them even comfier, but the boot itself is nicely made. I have pretty wide feet and corns on one foot, and I wear these all day. The soles are a little slick (they’re not designed for trekking through the snow) but you can add grips if you’re going to be on a lot of slippery ground.
Yaktrax run traction cleats. Kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from the boots above: These help you grip the ice so you can continue running through the winter like a lunatic.
Little Donkey Andy Men’s Thermal Running Jacket. This is the thermal jacket Damien wears for running through the winter. He says it’s lightweight, warm, easy to layer, and doesn’t get too smelly.
These hunting boots are waterproof like whoa. These boots all but get up and walk around by themselves. Damien says they are comfortable, too.
Oops, another Hawaiian shirt! Tropical tiger shirt (with toucans!). Come on, it’s just a magnificent shirt. There are many other patterns available, but why would you look further than this? It’s a rather silky material.
Fluffy fox slippers. Not super thick, but cozy and fluffy. The bottoms have little rubber grippy dots.
Lace-up knee high Chun Li/Dance boots. They come in a few different colors, but if they’re white, they’re CHUN LI BOOTS!
Speaking of lounging, THE COMFY is the loungiest. Much-desired, in service all winter long. I may ask for one of these myself.
Lightweight sleeping bag. Not clothing, but I had to put it somewhere. 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.
HATS AND HAIR ACCESSORIES
Just a pretty rose crown/headband for your little flower. Large, luxurious blossoms. Comes in many different colors.
Princess Leia bun knit hat. Warm and snug. And who might you be?
The Jimin K-Pop ring hat. Another “I don’t know; I just live here and buy what I’m told” present
Handmade video game Hats By Charlotte on Etsy. Great communication and nice craftsmanship.
Star Vs. The Forces of Evil horn headband. It’s either very comfortable, or just so fabulous you don’t care if it’s uncomfortable, not sure which. Not to be worn at Stations of the Cross, but good for every other last possible waking moment, including *sigh* school picture day.
Leaf hair pins. Surprisingly elegant and detailed for the price. Flexible and bright.
Set of six polished wooden hair sticks in different shapes. Smooth and elegant, good for buns, chignons, etc.
These are *sigh* spikes with screw backs so your kid can have spikes on their clothes. It’s just clothes.
BAGS and wallets
These sequin-covered goods aren’t everywhere in the stores anymore, but some kids still can’t get enough of that sequin flipping action. This backpack has RAINBOW sequins, with silver on the flip side. A somewhat small backpack, and not super duper sturdy, but about what you’d expect for the price. If you’re looking for a larger, sturdier backpack, here are single-color flip sequin backpacks, which we also have.
Scooby Doo tote bag. Kid says it’s “very durable and holds a lot and gets lots of compliments from middle aged ladies at the library.”
ZELDA HYLIAN SHIELD CHAIN WALLET! Just the thing for the kid who likes Zelda, likes feeling just slightly dangerous with chains and stuff, and also tends to lose wallets.
It’s still not clear to me why the kid wanted this pineapple purse so desperately, but she sure loves it. A smallish purse on a long chain, with an inside section you can remove from the outer, cut-out layer.
Sturdy brown canvas and leather satchel at a great price. Roomy and attractive, and the strap is comfortable. It’s even bigger than it looks in the picture.
Black canvas messenger bag. Comfortable and decent quality, a great blank canvas for pins and patches.
Set of three nature photo flip books. Flip through the pages with your thumb and watch a hummingbird hover, a caterpillar turn into a butterfly, and a tadpole turn into a frog. Little kids (and bit kids, and adults) are fascinated by these low tech amusements.
Lovely little blue and green Polish pottery bubble vase with blueberries. I have this vase. I got it with one of the Amazon gift cards my dad used to send me for my birthday every year. This is a sweet little vase, beautifully proportioned, just the right size for roses or lilacs, or a big bouquet of dandelions and violets. You can’t go wrong with Polish pottery. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t like it.
Not the thickest fleece blanket in the world, but definitely the most Dungeons and Dragons die-shaped fleece blanket you will find, very popular with our resident DM. Great for snuggling up in while you’re on a campaign.
“May Godzilla Destroy This Home Last” printed cloth. A little something to hang on your wall and make it your own space.
Panda surprise mug. Helloooo! (There are also cats, monkeys, ducks, Santas, etc.)
A slightly odd present, but I knew my five-year-old would love it. These are just transparent colored paddles to play with, mix together, and look through. Despite they way they are arranged in the photo, they are not attached together. I strung six of them on a chain and put the rest away so I could replace them as needed. Kids love peering through them and seeing Purpleworld or Everythingisgreenville. It’s just cool! Good for car trips. There are also slightly raised different patterns on each.
“Sorry, we’re dead” shop sign.For that one kid to hang on her bedroom door.
If you’re lucky enough to have a kid who has a bearded dragon, this dragon wings harness might make a nice little gift. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, you could do worse than a bearded dragon, by the way. They require a large tank and heating elements and fresh food like crickets, but once you buy the supplies, these guys are pretty cheap and easy to maintain. They are surprisingly charming, and have a lot of personality. Our bearded dragon is much smarter than our cat.
Silly squishy stretchy rubber dino head 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, or else a squishy stretchy flabby unicorn head puppet, in their stockings last year.
Foot massage roller. This is almost too grim to put on a Christmas list, and it’s honestly just something I bought for myself, but I still love it very much. It’s a foot massage roller and it feels so good, it brings actual tears to my eyes. If anyone on your list has sore feet, this really would make a thoughtful stocking stuffer or small gift.
I included this not because I hope your child will ask for a Thor Ragnarok lifesize stand-up cutout for Christmas, but because maybe you’ll see this on the list and get inspired to get a cutout of literally anything else. There are many other choices.
Note “Wonderful Homelife” book in the background of this liquid sand art thingy, so you know it’s good! Just a pretty thing to play with. Tilt the frame to change the landscape. It’s soothing and pleasant. Choice of several colors.
This three-part house-shaped bird feeder looks somewhat different from the bird feeder we ended up getting, but this one looks nice, and you can fill it with three different kinds of food to attract various birds. We really got into bird watching over the pandemic and it’s been a joy. Lovely to have familiar visitors right outside a child’s bedroom window.
With eight daughters, we’ve tried a number of jewelry boxes. A number. This Lenox one is by far the sturdiest, but with the quilted silver outside, it still looks delicate and dainty. The ballerina still pops up, the music still plays, the hinges still function, and the box is still a box. Pretty, silver-satin quilted design. Plays “Für Elise.”
Metal Archangel Michael keepsake or rosary box. Good and heavy, nicely detailed, really handsome.
This bubble motion toy was a gift for the six-year-old, but everyone loves it, from the baby on up. Those orderly little drops, marching up and down the steps, hurrying or strolling, as you choose. Endlessly fascinating, miraculously never mixing. (There are any number of liquid motion toys to choose from. Great for babies, older kids who need calming down, or adults who need calming down. I once spotted a few of these toys in the waiting room at the washing machine repair shop, and I’ll be darned if I didn’t not mind waiting.)
BABIES movie. How I adore this movie. It shows, without comment, everyday scenes from the lives of four babies, from just before they’re born until they’re learning how to stand. The families live in San Francisco, Tokyo, the Mongolian steppe, and Namibia, and their lives vary widely, but some things are always the same. Sweetness and a little melancholy, but mostly sweetness. I always feel restored after watching this short, gentle, agenda-free movie, and the kids love it.
Tinkerbell learn ballet DVD. By far the nicest instructional ballet video I’ve ever seen. The music is pleasant, there are no bizarre mascots or intrusive animation, the teacher seems to actually like kids, and you will learn some true, basic ballet. We put a broomstick between two chair backs to make the required barre.
Magic sequin pillowcase. I have seen these in therapist’s offices, and I can understand why. It’s very soothing to just smoooooooth the sequins up, and then smooooooth them down again. Of course you can also draw little pictures or spell things, but mostly we just smoooooth the sequins up and down. Comes in several colors. NOTE: This is JUST THE PILLOWCASE. You will need to buy the pillow insert separately.
Little kid rocking chair. Very sweet. This isn’t the exact same model we had, but it looks similar and gets decent reviews. Nothing sweeter than a little kid with his own special chair.
TIN TEA SETS. Why did we not think of this several daughters ago? You do need to dry them off so they don’t rust, but it’s so much better than endlessly gluing broken shards together. Here’s a Schylling one with Forest Friends, cups, saucers, plates, a teapot, and a little tray.
Here’s another tin tea set we had, also with woodland animals, kind of a folk art style, and this one comes in a neat little lunch box:
Plastic is another great option for tea sets. This pink flower-shaped Melissa and Doug set with butterflies painted on the side hits that sweet spot of bright and appealing without shading into Lisa Frank fever dream. These are full-size tea cups and they are not flimsy.
I . . . don’t remember buying this Wooly Willy. But it’s in my order history, and I certainly remember playing with these in my life! They are fun! Your Christmas will be better if you have a Wooly Willy, probably.
AND THAT’S IT! That’s the whole list. That’s how it ends: not with a bang, but with a Wooly Willy. Happy shopping!