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I Paid My Kids 25 Cents Each To Help Me With The “Kids Gift Guide” – Here Are Their All Time Favorite Gifts (And What They Want This Year, Of Course)

These gift guides are hard because IMO gifts are personal to the person and their interests, needs, homes, bodies, etc., and buying people a gift they don’t want or need is a massive bummer for a million reasons. So by nature making a list for “her” or “him” feels harder every year. But if I reframe it as just “ideas” that could spark other more personal ideas I can get excited. So in an attempt to gather ideas and understand what might be both specific and thus possibly universal for kids, I did what most moms would do on a Monday night in November, and offered to pay my kids a quarter for each solid gift suggestion they think a lot of kids would like. They understand the blog now and we made it a family meeting, which was actually really sweet doing it together. We all really went for it and I still need to settle up 2 dollars each, which I admit is totally weird parenting but oh well). FYI our kids are 7 (girl) and 9 (boy) and if your kids, or your gift recipients, are younger I highly suggest you check out last year’s gift guide which is still extremely relevant – all toys our kids genuinely played with a LOT. Many of them still to this day.


via amazon

1. 16-Inch Large Navina The Narwhal | 2. Plush 8″ Plush Mystery Box Three Pack | 3. 14-Inch Green Spotted Jellyfish

First off, I’m calling rank right now as they call me their #1 Squishmallow, because as they say I have a pretty darn great jelly belly (I know how much kids love the softness of their mamas and it’s really sweet). While these inanimate competitors are extremely squishy, snuggly, and cute stuffies (who don’t have my “love pillows”), our kids are obsessed with how cuddly they are. OBSESSED. They also want you to know that Jellycats are still the best (but not as soft as Squishmallows). Squishmallows are BIG THOUGH, which makes them a great gift because size matters to kids but you are warned that they take up a lot of real estate:)

Crystals, Gems, And Prisms

1. Color Hanging Crystal Prism Suncatcher | 2. 19 pcs Crystal Kit | 3. Moon Amethyst Crystals Suncatcher

Both of our kids really love anything that feels like a gem. They collect them and cherish them as something special. I think they recognize that they are earth’s real treasures. We have also given these as gifts to their school friends which are always a HIT and so affordable (tie a string to it so they know to hang it in the window). Not bad for a dollar a piece.


Really hard not to think these are cool. The cheaper ones will die/break faster unless you really know how to control them. But Charlie specifically loved his (until it broke after a few months).

Pokemon Cards

I feel like they are speaking a different language, but they are obsessed with these trading cards and it does keep them quite occupied. They sit in their room talking about them for hours with their friends. So when I asked for what kind of Pokemon cards they both looked at me like I truly will never get it and said “VSTAR and VMAX”. And so it begins.

Rubberband Jewerly Kit

1. Loomipal Mega Combo | 2. YITOHOP 12080+ Loom Bands Kit | 3. Rainbow Loom Craft Kit Neon Edition

Our kids play with these A LOT. Both of them. They made bracelets for all their friends (and us). So cute.

On the same note, Birdie got this one for her birthday and has made SO MANY bracelets since then. Many of them with “I love you mama” on it, which I highly endorse and encourage to potentially get to experience.

Fuse Beads

1. Perler Fused Beads 11,000/Pkg-Glow In The Dark | 2. Perler Harry Potter Fuse Bead Kit for Kids and Adults | 3. Perler Bead Fun Fused Bead Kit

Brian’s worst nightmare is tiny beads everywhere and yet we keep buying these because our kids love them so much. The key to these is to get a lot of the fun stencil shapes (not just circles and squares). Our kids will do this for hours and yes, it’s messy but their creations are just that – their creations, usually full of color with so much personality.

ATM Piggy Bank

Y’all. These are 3 or 4 years old (I originally put them on a holiday gift list years ago) and they still love theirs and have all of their tooth fairy and chore money in them (and they get a lot of use and haven’t broken down). They are ugly big pieces of plastic but they are a homerun that your kids will like (and include a special pin number so they feel like grownups). Plus they have to put their money somewhere, right?

Birthstone Anything

1. Mini Zodiac Crystals Gift Set 2 Piece | 2. National Geographic Birthstone Dig Kit  | 3. Birthstone Necklace

Birdie just got into birthstones and they feel so special to her (I guess opal AND tourmaline are both her birthstones and y’all Tourmaline is NOT a cheap stone, so we are leaning into opal). Charlie is actually into them too! She also loves this jewelry box where she keeps her jewelry treasures. Her box is the medium size and is kinda spendy but hopefully will go on sale this weekend! For her, I take her vintage/thrift shopping and buy her costume jewelry. Thanks, Sue Sue for giving her the idea.

Cozy Blankets

It seems like a lame gift but it’s not. I’m not sure what is normal but our kids are obsessed with extremely soft blankets. They each have their “cozy blanket” which gets A LOT OF LOVE. They drag them from their bed to the sofa every weekend and prefer them over clothes in the morning. My only beef with this type of fabric is that after you wash it a couple times it isn’t as soft (I think that’s just the nature of faux fur). So our kids avoid putting them near food/water so they NEVER have to wash them. Both disgusting and adorable. But yes these soft blankies are always a huge hit.

Sewing Machine

This is pretty specific but they INSISTED I put it on the list. For Birdie’s birthday, she asked for a sewing machine so I got her a $30 machine that not-so-shockingly stopped working on our 4th pillow (Day 1). The kids BEGGED (and begged and begged) for a real sewing machine and I was honestly hesitant to buy one (while secretly SO EXCITED to start quilting with them). Since we bought it they have spent hours upon hours sewing pillows or clothes for their stuffies (after watching these super slow and sweet YouTube tutorials). I’m bragging here for sure, but they learned how to thread the needle and bobbin and do it all by themselves. Obviously, this is personal to the child. I wasn’t surprised that Elliot loved it, but Charlie loved it equally if not more. I think most kids like “making things” and a sewing machine (when not framed as fashion design or even “crafting”) is a cool machine with engineering and sharp needles that helps them create something that satisfies their inner world. We went to a local store and after talking to the passionate salesperson, was recommended Baby Lock Joy. It’s only been two weeks but I feel good recommending it since the salesperson was so adamant that for our skill level and our desires, this was/is a solid machine that will last.

Some ideas that Charlie is into but we haven’t tried – night vision binoculars and lava lamps (dear god).

Gel Blasters

I cannot vouch for these gel non-nerf guns but I’m extremely excited about these because you don’t have to keep track of the bullets when outside and these “bullets” are biodegradable (we won’t allow these inside, I hope). IT’S ABOUT TIME. If anyone has experience with these please leave your tips in the comments, but these are going to be a family present for all four of us because we like to play these kinds of games outside, and this time no hunting for foam bullets afterward!

Paint By Number For Kids

1. Paint By Numbers, Moonlit Unicorn | 2. Pony & Mother Paint-by-Number Kit | 3. Beginner Easy Acrylic Watercolor Number Painting Canvas Arts for Kids

Birdie really wants this and I kinda want to get one for me too.

Disco Ball Party Pack

1. Large Mirror Disco Glass Ball | 2. Disco Ball Light | 3. UO Exclusive Disco Ball Light Up Wireless Speaker

Our kids (with friends or without) love to throw on the disco ball, ask Alexa to play The Greatest Showman, or now Marshmellow, and dance/sing and feel like they are in their own world. For a year we had out the drum machine which was awesome (and we need to set it back up). They could plug in their favorite The Greatest Showman song and play along. We added a karaoke mic one year which was fun while it lasted (but didn’t last long enough IMHO).

My Favorite Affordable Big Impact Present

Probably the most fun-for-the-price gift I ever gave them was for Birdie’s rainy birthday party last year. I went to Goodwill (which admittedly was before Halloween so the getting was good) and bought $100 worth of costumes, including hats, jewelry, and crowns, and shoved them in a trunk we already had. WHAT A HIT. The kids played with it consistently for 8 months and still do when friends come over. So much imaginative play and a LOT of giggles. I mean, I would love a treasure trove of costumes, too.

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

1. Mad Libs | 2. PAW Patrol Pez Dispensers | 3. Toothbrushes (Frozen and Star Wars) | 4. Cute Band-Aids | 5. Hair Scrunchies | 6. Fun Socks

The specific products above are just examples of Mad Libs, Pez dispensers, toothbrushes, cute band-aids, hair ties, and fun socks! All of these are great, easy, mostly practical, and are what goes in our kid’s stockings. They are always a hit.

And just as a reminder…

The “No-Fail” (In Our Personal Experience) Kid Gifts We Own

1. Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Clear Colors Set | 2. Straw Constructor STEM Building Toys | 3. Squigz Starter Set | 4. 3in1 Safari Wildlife Tree House Building Toy | 5. Rad Rainbow Craft Case | 6. Napping Nipper Dog Stuffed Animal

Lastly, I hope it doesn’t feel disingenuine to keep recommending the same stuff year after year but I’m telling you, Magna-Tiles, Straw Toys, Squigz, LEGO anything, Craft kits, and of course, Jellycats.

Again, if you have younger kids or want more, last years gift guide was more epic with all the toys they’ve ever loved and have not ended up in a landfill. Check it out HERE.

Well, there you have it. Gift ideas directly from Charlie and Birdie that they think most kids will really love (because they want them too:)) Hope this helps! xx

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Emily’s “Messy” But FULL Of Memories Christmas Family Room

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Karen T.
1 year ago

My boys are older teenagers now but I would remiss not to chime in and say you hit the nail on the head with this roundup. Legitimately the best kids gift list I’ve seen. Maybe give Charlie and Birdie an extra dollar or two! 🙂

1 year ago

I have a nine and ten year old and can concur that these are all home run gifts around here too. Another gift that they love was a head lamp. They use them to read at night, on evening walks, after-dark hide and seek games, etc…

1 year ago
Reply to  Emily

Haha! Exactly. We always do a “night walk” (dinner time) on NYE and can see all of our neighbors’ festivities happening through the windows.

1 year ago

I don’t have kids but still found this so fun! Thank you, Emily, Charlie and Birdie!

1 year ago

A lot of these ideas are excellent suggestions that I’m sure my kids would enjoy. It’s great that you got your own kiddos involved in the gift-list process, Emily! I share Bryan’s phobia of tiny plastic parts everywhere, though, which is why the rubber band bracelets and bead kits are a no go for now. We have the building straws and I find them fun places (like behind the toilet!). Thanks for this gift guide: in particular the stocking stuffers are cool! Keep it coming! 🙂

1 year ago

I’m blown away by the idea of a sewing machine and teaching them to sew things for their toys! Feels like there are fewer and fewer awesome tactile self-directed interests for kids. Am tucking this idea away for my 4 year old to pull out when she’s old enough.

1 year ago

This is awesome! This is one of the best kid Xmas lists I’ve seen

1 year ago

This is the best kids list I’ve seen!

1 year ago

Happy Sunday! I just want to say thank you for listing actually affordable and reasonable stocking stuffers. Those are really similar to what we normally do, but meanwhile I see so many influencers recommending stocking stuffers that add up to hundreds of dollars!

1 year ago
Reply to  Sara

Yes totally agree. I would add duplos maybe books or art supplies my daughter is 7 and she likes a 5$ journal from Walmart
I was worried it would be 100 dollar items thankfully it isn’t.

1 year ago

Could you share the link to the YouTube tutorials you referenced in the sewing section? My little asked for clothes for his stuffies this year, but we have a sewing machine and says he’d love to try making some himself.

1 year ago
Reply to  Jen

Yes! I would love the link too. No kids, but I would love to learn to sew despite having nearly failed my Junior High Home Ec. sewing project (the shame still haunts…)

1 year ago

THANK YOU for this list! I never know what is “cool” for my niece and nephews, who are 9, 8, and 5 and who seem to have everything already… SO helpful!

1 year ago

Yay! I was so excited to get a recommendation on a sewing machine — my daughter has been asking, but I was torn between teaching her on our industrial one or getting a more user-friendly version. Thank you!

Also, I am glad to hear we aren’t the only ones whose karaoke mic didn’t last… it was so fun, but short-lived.

Great roundup from someone with kids around the same age. Thanks to your kids for their input as well.

1 year ago

I love the suggestion of crystals for other kids’ birthdays! The Pokemon bandaids look like a nice way to play with my kids’ Pokemon love without buying anymore cards. I’m going to add them my kids’ toiletries Hannukah gift night, the equivalent of my own stocking stuffers when I was a kid. (They are always super excited to get their own toothpaste and shampoo. I think it’s just the thrill of getting a present.)

Our big holiday gift to our kids now is a “coupon” book. It includes things like: dinner of your choice one night, get out of one chore, go on a one-on-one outing with a parent. They seem to really like it, and it lets them spread out their fun throughout the year.

1 year ago

Re: Gel Blasters. My 13yo son has something similar to what you linked except his is a machine gun *ducks head.* We are NOT a gun family but this is enough like a toy that we feel comfortable with it. HE.LOVES.IT. His buddies come over and they have “wars” for hours outside and I’m thrilled we don’t have to pick up tiny bullets everywhere afterward. I know toy guns for young kids are extremely controversial but it’s actually been a great opportunity to discuss the differences between play/real and it seems to get whatever chromosome boys have that makes them want to shoot things out of his system. Win-win.

1 year ago

This might be the most useful gift guide (for me) you’ve ever published. My kids are 5, 8 and 11 and there were things on here for all of them. I started bookmarking, and then I just realized I needed to come back to the whole page because I was bookmarking so much. Seriously–I go through your guides every year, and really and truly, this one knocked it out of the park.

1 year ago

Thank you so much!! I have two sisters and one year we got a real trunk filled with dress up clothes and it was our favorite toy for YEARS! It never occurred to me to DIY this with goodwill costumes but what an AWESOME idea. I have a 3 year old and I can’t wait to do this for her. Bonus if you have young enough kids you can put costumes you already have in there and they’ll think they’re new in a new context 🙂

1 year ago
Reply to  Kim

My mother put one together for my girls when they were like 7 & 9 filled fancy prom dresses in small sizes she found at Goodwill. Also had a bunch of costume jewelry, silly hats and glasses. They played with it for years.

1 year ago
Reply to  Kim

Echoing Emily here—seriously, parents, this is your sign to make a costume bin! My mom was in charge of the dance program at the high school she taught at, and would set aside a couple of dance costumes every year for us. She also threw in accessories of hers that she was done with, like old hats, silk gloves, purses, shoes. I can still picture the bin clear as day—an absolute fixture of my childhood for my sister and I. I have two daughters now (2.5 and six months) and I cannot wait to make them a costume bin someday!

1 year ago

Thanks love these recommendations!

Our addition: Air dry clay. My 7 yo spends hours every week playing with it. We started with the sets including directions (Klutz desserts/pets, Original Stationery Mini World Food, Hey clay) but now just buy the 50 packs of colors. We like the ones that come in canisters so they don’t dry out between uses. Also it’s not messy like play dough…I’ll let her do this on our rug, sitting on couch at coffee table, etc. She’s created tons of stuff for her dollhouse and I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t like it.

1 year ago
Reply to  Meg

Thank you for the idea and the tips! Super getting this for my nieces.

1 year ago

Thank you Charlie and Birdie!

1 year ago

My boys, ages 10 and 6, have them gel blasters and absolutely love them! Cannot recommend enough!!

1 year ago
Reply to  Laura


1 year ago

Glow in the dark mochis for stockings, LED “spy” pen, a money/gift card “toy box” (where you have to figure out a maze/mind game to release it), or special ornament that can hold the same inside and has to be found on the tree, a clock/radio (or Alexa) so they can play music in their room, jumbo word find puzzle books, LEGOS, LEGOS, LEGOS. We also just got the extra large scrabble and they love it (and I am hoping will help with spelling).

1 year ago

the key to keeping faux fur soft is washing in cold, low spin and hang dry 🙃 otherwise I highly recommend Kashwere blankets.

1 year ago

My 10 year old and his buddies love those gel blasters. A few caveats, they are much louder and more realistic sounding than a regular foam bullet gun. You do have to plan ahead and hydrate the bullets. Also you need face protection, one of the kids got shot in the mouth and choked.

Sarah L
1 year ago

What I love about magnatiles and legos is that you can always use more- they’re a great thing to request from relatives who need direction.

I’d also add marble runs to the list- there’s even marble run kits that are add-ons for magnatiles!

Sarah L
1 year ago
Reply to  Sarah L

Also- what is up with Pokémon all of a sudden!?!?! My kid was more excited about the 3-card trick or treat pack than he was about his whole bag of candy!

1 year ago

Love the goodwill fancy dress/costume idea for my niece! Also, my twin boys are 15 now and they are STILL obsessed with really soft blankets. It’s a thing!

1 year ago
Reply to  larissa

My son is 30 and was happy to get a soft blanky.

1 year ago

I love that they’re getting paid for their contributions to your business. I used to get paid for putting my dad’s coins in paper rolls for the bank and i so wanted to do a good job! I think this is good for kids…to feel their opinions are valued! And to know you can make money from your ideas and input!

1 year ago

I love the sewing machine idea. Such a solid recommendation. My sister and I sewed all the time as kids and some of my fondest memories are making stuffed animal clothes with her and just being left to play and make things.

My kids are a little younger, but they either already love or would be thrilled to get most of this.

1 year ago

My kids, ages 9, 11, 13, just went through so many influencer gift guides and gave me feedback. Out of all of them, you really hit the nail on the head! They wanted every single thing on your list. Tell Charlie and Birdie they did a great job!

1 year ago

This list is great! So many things my kids are into and a lot of good new ideas. I’d love to see more of C and B’s book recs on the list. We loosely follow the gift giving structure of “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” I’m always looking for new book series, graphic novels, activity books, etc. Cannot recommend the National Geographic kids books enough!!! They are read and reread. And Harry Potter of course, lol. The large illustrated Harry Potter books are amazing and great to display as decor when the kids are done reading.

1 year ago

If your kids like to paint, the kits on Let’s Make Art are great. Every month a new one comes in the mail and you get a video to watch that shows how to use it. There are free videos on their YouTube channel too.

1 year ago

I’d add the Mindware “Dig it up” eggs. they fit perfectly in the toe of a stocking. Each egg takes my kids 10-20 min to excavate the dinosaur or mineral.

1 year ago

Nailed it! I have an 11yo and a 3yo, and always feel like most of these lists are written by parents. But this list is legit kid-approved — my kids own and love a bunch of these, and I found some new ideas, too. Thank you!