As evidenced by our extensive toy gift guides, I have a passion for doing lots of researching and trying to find the perfect toy that’s going to stimulate and thrill my three kiddos.
That does not mean, however, that I don’t get a little freaked out by all the clutter that seems to come along with Christmas when said toys enter the house.
I often try to do a big house cleanse just before to make room for the new stuff but sometimes it still doesn’t do the trick, or I just run out of time to do it.
So today I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite kid gift ideas that still elicit shrieks of excitement but don’t take up much (or any) space. Ready? Here we go…
#1 – Art & Craft Books
I love giving my kids shiny new craft books because, honestly, I know that I’m going to get just as much out of this gift as they do. They get to be creative and have fun. I get lots of help coming up with ideas to help fill the hours and keep them occupied.
Last year my friend Asia from the blog Fun at Home with Kids released her gorgeous new book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids and, just like her blog, it is absolutely fabulous.
It’s jam-packed with colorful, hands-on projects that kids of all ages will love (which is no big surprise given Asia’s background as a former classroom teacher with an M. Ed who now stays home full time with her 1 and 4 year old).
And now, this year, Asia has released the equally awesome, The Curious Kid’s Science Book: 100+ Creative Hands-On Activities for Ages 4-8! I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this ridiculously fun book of concoctions this fall. It’s a gorgeous read full of experiments that are always highly colorful and super engaging (that’s sort of her trademark). Again, as a former classroom science teacher with a Master’s in Science Education and a current mom of two young kids, Asia is a highly qualified expert on how to get our kiddos engaged in science early-on and it shows. My 5-year-old and I are currently delighting in working our way through the simple set up activities and I highly suggest getting the book so you can do the same!
(For more arts and craft inspired gift ideas, see also our Best Toys for Art & Crafts Lovers gift guide.)
#2 – Wall Decals
I gave up long ago on my kids having picture perfect rooms. I just realized very early on that their room is their space and if they want to cover it in rainbows or Power Rangers, far be it from me to deny them their artistic license.
Which is why I was all for a fun wall decal for Christmas when my Dad brought up the idea (My parents will be getting our 6 year old a giant football helmet and our 4 year old a Disney castle this year).
After all, what’s not to love about a gift that my kids will be super excited about, doesn’t take up any additional space in the toy room, and can be easily removed when they outgrow it?
#3 – Magazine Subscriptions
Did you know there are high quality magazine subscriptions available for kids of all ages – including pre-readers and even babies?! My kids absolutely love the subscriptions they’ve received from grandparents (everyone likes getting mail, right?).
- Babybug Board Book Magazine Subscription (6 mos – 3 years) $21.95/12 months – Babybug, is a unique board book style magazine full of the highest-quality content available from the world’s best children’s writers and artists. The subscription series progresses to enchanting stories, poems, and activities with Ladybug (3 – 6 years) and Spider (6 – 9 years) and fiction and classic literature as well as nonfiction stories on culture, history, science, and the arts for preteens in Cricket (9-14 years), which means your child may very well become a loyal subscriber for over a decade.
- Highlights (6 – 12 years), Highlights High Five (2 – 6 years), and Highlights Hello (0 – 2 years) $34.95/12 months – Highlights is a total classic in quality children’s literature. From science projects and foreign languages, to jokes and puzzles, the content in these magazines will capture your child’s attention and regular features every month give kids a sense of familiarity that makes them comfortable even when faced with material that challenges their growing brains.
- Owl (9 – 13 years), Chickadee (6 – 9 years), and Chirp (3 – 6 years) $34.95/12 months – A long-standing Canadian series of children’s magazines based on a different editorial theme each month. The issues are packed with interactive stories, puzzles, animal features, and science experiments to educate and entertain readers as well as topics ranging from sports and the environment, to pop culture and peer relationships for older readers.
- Cricket (9-14 years), Spider (6 – 9 years), Ladybug (3 – 6 years) and Babybug (6 mos – 3 years) $28.95/12 months – The introductory series, Babybug, is a unique board-book style magazine full of the highest-quality content available from the world’s best children’s writers and artists. The series progresses to enchanting stories, poems, and activities with Ladybug and Spider and fiction and classic literature as well as nonfiction stories on culture, history, science, and the arts for preteens in Cricket.
- Ask (7 – 1o years) $28.95/12 months – An innovative and award-winning children’s publication that focuses on the arts and sciences, it includes topics and themes that children have a natural curiosity about, such as the human body, Earth, animals, and nature.
- Zoobooks (6 – 12 years) $29.95 – Each issue is themed around a specific animal or group of animals, discussing habits and habitat in depth. The most unique features of each animal are broken down and explained at a child’s level. For species that are extinct or becoming extinct, children are encouraged to take action to ensure those animals’ futures. The last four pages of each edition offer a pull-out activity booklet filled with games, puzzles, and coloring pages.
- National Geographic Little Kids (3 – 6 years) $15.00/12 months – Includes articles on animals from around the world, science, and cultural topics discussing life in other countries. The large text and engaging full-color photographs help beginning readers explore the content on their own, and exciting activities throughout the magazine keep your child’s interest so learning becomes fun. Issues include age-appropriate mazes, matching games, counting exercises, and rhymes. Each issue also includes things parents and kids can do together, such as crafts, science activities, and recipes to try at home.
#4 – A Special Outing
photo via A Cup of Jo
Some of the best presents aren’t things at all. A new adventure is an especially exciting gift to give a child because there are so many things you can take them to do for the very first time ever! Take them to a play, a sporting event, or a city landmark.
We took our son to the Space Needle in Seattle for his 4th birthday and he loved it and if I lived in New York you can bet I’d be trying out the American Museum of Natural History Sleepover. It’s like Night at the Museum in real life!
#5 – A Box for All Their Treasures
Our extended family often asks me for gift ideas for our kids and this year I was feeling a little stumped. It really felt like they just didn’t need one more toy to add to the pile. Then it hit me – instead of trying to avoid the clutter issue, why not tackle it head on?
My 4 year old daughter is in a big collector stage – she loves to gather little trinkets from school, walks outside, etc. I’m all for her explorative and curious nature but it gets frustrating trying to figure out what to do with a lot of this stuff.
So this year, I suggested that her aunt buy her this ballerina treasure music box, in which she could keep all her most valuable possessions.
#6 – Books
I can’t write a list of clutter-free toys without including books (I literally tried in order to keep this roundup to a nice round number of 5 but it just couldn’t be done – the list kept crying out to me that it was incomplete!)
My team and I could write all day long about our favorite books – see past posts in the book nook by our resident children’s librarian Janssen for tons of excellent recommendations – but to keep it simple, here are the books that each of my kids will have under the tree on Christmas.
6 year old C – Bedtime Math (from our Best Toys for Fostering S.T.E.M. Skills gift guide)
- Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late $8.51 (3 – 7 years) – My kindergarten son started really getting into math this year and began asking for story problems at night before bed, so imagine my excitement when I saw this book, which contains just that! From the publisher, “Inside this book, families will find fun, mischief-making math problems to tackle—math that isn’t just kid-friendly, but actually kid-appealing. With over 100 math riddles on topics from jalapeños and submarines to roller coasters and flamingos, this book bursts with math that looks nothing like school. And with three different levels of challenge (wee ones, little kids, and big kids), there’s something for everyone.” This is a great way to change up story time at night and encourage math skills in kids that are excited about the subject as well as those who need some help getting excited.
4 year old S – The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
- The Book with No Pictures $10.45 (2 – 7 years) – A #1 New York Times bestseller, this innovative and wildly funny read-aloud by award-winning humorist/actor B.J. Novak will turn any reader into a comedian. Check out the kids absolutely cracking up over this book in the video above. We just love how this read will naturally make you the funniest mom/dad/grandparents/aunt/uncle etc. on the block!
8 month old M – First 100 Words (from our Best Toys for Babies gift guide)
- First 100 Words $4.76 (9 months – 3 years) – This quintessential first book for babies is uber popular, and with good reason. It’s a sturdy board book with a lightly padded cover that’s easy for baby to hold (and, let’s be honest, mouth) and it’s full of bold, beautiful pictures. Words are grouped together into categories making this a great tool for vocabulary building and shared reading time between mom/dad and baby (who pediatricians now recommend reading to at least 15 minutes a day from birth!)
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