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Our Favorite Kids Toys And Gifts For Each Age (As Told To Us By Them) + What We Are Giving Them This Year

As a parent with an 8 and 10-year-old (WHERE DID THE TIME GO??!!!), I was STUMPED on what to give them until a few weeks ago. Listen, all they really want is endless YouTube time (no chance), crop tops (not yet, ma’am), video game ANYTHING, and any sort of tech that they definitely don’t need….yet. I feel increasingly old school, wanting them to go outside or just engage in something without a screen. I’m so glad I didn’t publish this post a few weeks ago as planned because I’ve done so much more research/shopping and found stuff I’m really excited to get them – let’s just see/hope if they agree. I’m also just going to pepper in photos of my kids when they were toddlers, when I felt more ok to put them on the internet (because they didn’t look like who they were going to become yet). Y’all, they might be the cutest kids on the planet.

**the year I bought all these vintage action figures for charlie from a thrift store and he played with them for two minutes.

But first, for this year’s kids’ gift guide, I’ve asked our kids their favorite toys from every age that they can remember (I filled in ages 1-3), and then at the end I’m telling you what we are giving them. I shopped long and hard to find some new things this year that I really hope they’ll like. But on Christmas days they can act like monsters so who knows?!??!

Listen, these are the waters that we swim in – the Christmas consumer conundrum. So if we are doing this let’s just have them be great hits and things they’ll love and play with for a long time, shall we?

Ages 0-1

0-1 is the year to buy them toys and clothes that YOU like to look at because you get 100% control (which will change). I feel far away from the baby years (but would have another if I could snap my fingers – read about Brian’s vasectomy here) so there are likely other blogs that will do this better, but the classics and the goods are always classic and good.

Loveys for Babies

Both of our kids were obsessed with these blankies with faces – the face was soft but gave them a sense of a buddy, but the blankie part was extremely soft. Be prepared for them to have an outsized obsession with this guy and not be able to sleep without it.

Activity Gyms + Quiet Books + Busy Boards

First Quiet Book | Triangle Activity Center | Busy Board

Both our kids loved activity gyms or blocks (for multiple years) and I didn’t discover the quiet book til I had Elliot (amazing for restaurants, flights, anywhere they need something to do with their hands). Definitely good for toddlers, too. Busy boards are GREAT, too.

6 Piece Water Block Building & Color Mixing Learning Toy

These are both pretty and so fun to play with. Even I loved to build with them at the end of the day.

Rocking Pony

Rocking anything – you’ll worry about them falling off, but the moments between terror and joy will be worth it.

Ages 2-4 (Or Up)

Grocery Store + Food | Doctor Set

Imagination toys were my favorite things to play with the kids when they were toddlers. This grocery store (while big and not my favorite aesthetically) was so much more fun than a kitchen because they felt like they had a grown-up job, with credit cards and money. They played with it til they were 5 and 7. The belt actually moves and every item beeped when you scanned it. Our kids rarely played with the toy kitchen but played “store” for hours and hours.

Faux Wood Blocks | Colorful Foam Blocks

We had the larger version of these faux wood blocks and they were a huge hit for YEARS – they could go so high without fear of tumbling on them when they were little. These colorful ones are also a classic.

Interlocking Felt Blocks

Hours and hours of tactile fun.

Magnatiles

Go for a big inventory! Both our kids loved legos of course (A LOT), but these are more fun, less messy, and strangely rewarding to play with.

Colorful Bath Bombs

Because getting them into the bath every night is like hazing for a fraternity over and over. Sure, some nights it’s fun but for others, you need some extra tools. Colorful bath bombs always helped.

Princess Dress Up | Medieval Shield and Helmet Playset

Costume party: For Birdie, it was a Princess dress-up set with tiaras (or for Charlie he loved anything with shields, swords, masks, etc).

Jellycat | Squishmallow

Anything Jellycat and Sqishmallow – whatever secret magical formula these companies have created makes the kids go nuts. It’s like cat nip for kids. Be careful.

Indoor Foam Playset | Nightfall Blue Foam Kids Arc Playset

Huge wood play-on blocks – We had a version of these til we moved here (kids loved them until 6 years old or so), but these are much cuter (but not sure if they can stack as well).

Water-Based Nail Polish

Washable, no-stress nail polish so that you can have a mani-pedi with them without ruining their clothes, your carpet, or your life.

Ages 4+

Jewerly Box

Jewelry Boxes (or any secret boxes with a key). Elliot has the Pottery Barn ones (and I let her buy trinket boxes when she vintage shops with me). Most kids just like a box that only they can open that feels secret and private (same:)).

ATM Piggy Bank

I’d like to introduce you to one of the presents that looks like garbage but they continue to LOVE so it makes the gift guide every year. She ain’t pretty or cool, but they can’t wait to manage their money inside. (Just make sure they write down the pin, it’s annoying to reset). This toy expires around age 9 FYI, but we are still enjoying it with our youngest.

Robot/Comfort Cat

If cats already creep you out this will not be your friend. It’s weird and expensive (so try to snag it on sale next weekend). This is a comfort pet for senior citizens but our kids LOVE THESE SO MUCH. It’s animatronic, and meows, purrs, and cleans its own paws, rolls over to pet tummy, etc. WHY OWN AN ACTUAL CAT???? Do some people think it’s creepy? SURE! But it was the second stand-out toy from last year (behind the 3D printer which they still play with). It’s so fun TBH. Perhaps this was more for me.

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Exploration Kit | Star Flex STEM Building Toys | Magnetic Marble Run

These take some adult help at times, and are the types of toys that they resist playing with, calling them boring or “educational” but then once they start hours go by and you can check that stem box.

Warming Stuffy

My mom got Elliot one of these a couple of years ago and we all loved it. Just throw it in the microwave and it’s so awesome.

Gnomes at Night | The Secret Door

These are their (well, our) favorite cooperative games and they make us feel way better than turning on the TV.

Wood Building Planks Set

These wood blocks may look boring but aren’t. The kids LOVED them.

Sculpture Straw Kit

They pulled this out recently again and played for a couple of hours (started at age 4).

Ages 6 + And What I’m Giving Them This Year

Rainbowcorns Epic Golden Unicorn Surprise

Truly not one I understand, but Birdie and her friends (ages 6-8) are obsessed with these. Shrugging emoji. 🙂

Drumset

This was their main joint present three years ago during lockdown. You can hook it up to music and play along with songs which is fun, and yes use headphones so it’s much quieter. After we moved we kept it in storage and I feared that it was not going to interest them anymore, but we pulled it out six months ago and sure enough a huge hit still and Charlie is legit into playing the drums, almost every night. So this is specific to your kid, but our kids love this (as do their friends).

Toybox 3D Printer

This was their big present last year and was and remains a huge hit that they spend hours doing. It requires an app to create on (or just select an option), but they mastered it very quickly (within minutes) and even yesterday when we had eight kids over during the teacher’s strike they all took turns, for hours, making different little objects with no adult supervision (just how I like it). It’s a splurge and does require some adult setup/learning curve at first, but it has been a huge hit for a full year (and it’s super easy, Brian set it up and we haven’t had to troubleshoot since we got it last year).

Watercolor Pencils

Both of our kids take watercolor classes at their school, they love it. So I was marketed these pencils which you just dip in a cup of water and paint and boom, in my cart. I haven’t tried them yet but they have good reviews (and seem so much easier, and less messy than paints).

Music and Podcast MP3 Player

My kids have currently given up begging for the elusive phone, so my hope is that between their Gabb watches (that they use daily and we love as parents) and these MP3 players, they can be satisfied without hating us like I did my parents for not having Keds or Guess jeans. These MP3 players have no internet/social media and lots of parental controls (and they can’t add any apps). Spotify and Amazon music are pre-installed so we just have to add them to our accounts. I haven’t bought this yet (although I’ve done a lot of research) so if anyone has it let us know! Imagine Dragons and Olivia Rodrigo will be on repeat, I’m sure as well as a lot of kid podcasts.

Fun Room Cinema Letterboard

I know that Birdie would love this for her room, so here’s to hoping it lasts and isn’t too janky.

LED gloves | Disco Ball Lightbulbs

Here’s to hoping that these gloves don’t become landfill material, but I KNOW my kids will love them so much (they love any “lights off” toys, like the disco ball. Speaking of which, this year we are getting them these disco ball lightbulbs, they can just put them in lamps!

Create Your Own Video Game Set

For Charlie (video game obsessed and a constant battle over here), this DIY Video 8-Bit game will (I’m hoping) scratch an itch. Reviews are GREAT and at least teaches him coding and stem stuff.

Rubberband Bracelet-Making Kits | Fuse Beads Kit

Both our kids love these rubberband bracelet-making kits and y’all, Fuse beads are still a HUGE time grabber over here. Again, during this teacher’s strike, so many kids have been over here fusing all day (just make sure to get extra templates or shapes to form cool stuff).

Bitzees Pets

Our kids just got these from the Switch Witch (we exchange all Halloween candy for a toy). They are OBSESSED with these.

From Elliot: I like it because it’s like a little computer, it can open up. It’s fun and you can get 15 different pets and you can level them up by caring for them. it’s like a pet but in your pocket.”

Do I get it? NOPE. But the satisfaction and time consumption boxes are checked with these little boxes.

I know the last thing any of us want is to get gifts for our kids that they aren’t going to enjoy so hopefully, this list will minimize that as much as possible! Good luck folks:) xx

Opening Image Credit: Photo by Kaitlin Green | From: We Had Portraits Drawn Of Our Pups By A Professional Artist – You Have To See Them!!

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Jen
6 months ago

Great round up! Also adding new bath toys to the idea list. The cool ones always feel like a splurge and they get gross over time and need replacing so it’s a gift kids and parents both like getting.

Katherine
6 months ago
Reply to  Jen

So true! My kids love plastic Dinos for the bath and that ferry boat with the two cars. Bath toys are great for people with small houses who have overzealous grandparents because the bath tends to get overlooked. Just avoid anything with holes because those get gross and moldy with trapped water very quick.

Beth
6 months ago

My kids LOVE keva blocks also – got the big set and they spend hours making structures and homes for various toys – definitely a great time and attention toy. I do appreciate things that will last and not become landfill fodder.

Suz
6 months ago

Suz here. Another vote for the faux wood blocks. Charlie & Ellie still play with them when they’re here. They also enjoy making long trains & structures with dominos. Note to other grandparents: hold on to favorite toys & books from past years. When they come to visit, they dive right into the large basket & make comments like “I remember this!”

Susan
6 months ago

Great ideas – thank you! Added several to my list. I’ve also been looking for MP3 players for my 7 and 10 year old and was pretty set on the “Mighty” brand player, but your choice is much more affordable. I’m reevaluating! Also – why haven’t I heard/thought of this Switch Witch idea?! Genius and definitely going that route next year.

Lynn
6 months ago
Reply to  Susan

I love the Yoto for my children. A lot of the cards available in the Yoto store are twaddle, but the make-your-own cards are a snap to use, so I have loaded them with quality books of substance and literary value. There are few great Yoto ones, though, like English nursery rhymes, which I enjoy just as much as my children.

Alissa
6 months ago
Reply to  Susan

We have the Mighty and LOVE it – bought a few years ago for our oldest, and it’s now passed onto our middle. Highly recommend!

Alexandra
6 months ago

So impressed you guys aren’t giving in with the phone thing! My husband and I are the same and it feel isolating at times seeing how many other parents capitulate to what their kids want. We are with you in solidarity!

D
6 months ago
Reply to  Alexandra

No phone house here too! We got her a watch at 13 to keep in touch with us and friends. Plus she can use my phone. It’s been great!! She is 14 and off to high school next year so this might change.

Lynn m
6 months ago
Reply to  D

oldest Turns 13 in December, we are getting him a “dumb” phone. Kids don’t need smart phones and all the mental health stuff that comes with it. I always say let kids be kids

Amy
6 months ago

This is such a great gift guide! Thank you for sharing all your finds! Mine are 9, 5, 7, and 3, so I agree with so many of your sentiments – not wanting to give in on the phone/constant video gaming front but not wanting to be a total Luddite either. Wish I’d invested in a shop instead of a kitchen, too (though if you do go kitchen, there are fun ways to gussy up the classic IKEA kitchen). Thank you for being so generous with your insights – I’ll be using these links when I buy 😊

Jenni
6 months ago

The “switch witch” brought our 8.5yo son a “magnet fishing kit (around $20 on Amazon) and it is SO FUN! It’s just a giant magnet attached to a rope, and you toss it into a river or lake and pull it up to see what kind of metal treasures it attached to. If you live near a body of water, are willing to drive to one, or have any kind of boat or kayak, etc., it is a great way to get outside and treasure hunt!

Lorrie Elliott
6 months ago

What a great list. Thank you!
Pro tip concerning water color pencils. If you dip the pencils they soften and wear down quite fast but the color is lovely and intense. I usually draw with the pencils dry, then take a brush dipped in water to activate the water color. They last much better this way and still make a lovely picture.

Kiana
6 months ago

If anyone needs more ideas Legos are a hit with every kid I know as well as the Wings of Fire graphic novel set. My daughter is 7 and loves squishmallows, cry baby dolls, and anything with cats. She got a silicone muffin tin last Christmas and she really got into baking every weekend. This year we’re getting her a sushi mold so she can easily make her own sushi.

Stacia
6 months ago

Great ideas! Added a few items to my shopping list for the nieces. I especially like the letter board kit for my 8 y/o niece who loves to decorate her bedroom. I always get her new art supplies for her birthday and Christmas. Each year I get a lightly better quality “package” and explain that these are art supplies to add to her “art studio”. I add less expensive to the mix as well. I also try to get them personalized items from Etsy (puzzles, pendants, books) for home/their bedrooms. These were the gifts I used to love as a kid/tween. We all have unusual names so it’s hard to find items in stores. One item my now-grown nephew always loves was a little “lockbox” for him to keep his “treasures” in. He still has the last one I gave him where he keeps things he doesn’t want his younger sister to take!

LKB
6 months ago

I’ve been waiting for this (checking back every day!), and as expected–I love it! So many great ideas. I feel like you can never go wrong with Magnatiles. They’re great for my 4 yo, and my 8 and 11 yo’s still join in. This year we’re going to branch out with FIVES (www.fivesdesigns.com)–I’d never heard of them, but my kids’ STEM classroom had them and they came home raving about this cool new toy. Think those fusible beads on a (much) larger scale. They’re plastic tiles that click together so you can make really big pixel images. (Plus, they don’t hurt when you walk on them. Those perler beads kill me!)

Melody
6 months ago

I recently capitulated and bought my kids android tablets this year (we had a couple of long haul flights on budget airlines) and was super impressed by the Google Family Link App. We literally control everything (what apps, what you can access within apps, ratings of shows on streaming, how long you can turn it on for etc) and I’ve felt pretty comfortable with them using it without me having to constantly check on then as they can’t access You Tube/Google/Social Media or in app messaging.

They have a drawing program, a colouring in program, a puzzle game, can listen to kids stuff on Spotify and watch kids stuff Disney/Netflix and that’s it. You can also see exactly what they have viewed and when.

Suzanne
6 months ago

We always give our kids a new book for Christmas. Graphic novels have been a nice way to ease into reading. Our favorites have been: Anything by Ben Hatke, especially “Zita, Space Girl”, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, the “Tintin” books, and of course the Calvin and Hobbs comics.

Meg
6 months ago

Ooohhh, how have I never heard of the Switch Witch?! What an amazing idea – excellent Christmas gift from you to me!

Christina
6 months ago

We just gave our son that exact same MP3 player for his 11th birthday last week! He loves it and has had so much fun finding new music and listening to podcasts. It does come with an internet browser that we didn’t want him to have , but it was really easy to remove it in the settings 🙂

Katie
6 months ago

If you get the MP3 player will you get them a speaker for their room or do you have an Alexa?

Kim
6 months ago

I love the 3D printer. Do you have to buy the printer food from the manufacturer or does anything on Amazon work just as well?