What we’re actually giving our kids this Christmas

2 December 2021

I appreciate this post, because sharing it with you lights a fire under me to make decisions – instead of waffling for weeks! If you’re looking for real ideas for what to give your kids for Christmas this year, I hope this year’s post will be as helpful for you as it was for me :) As always, John and I tried hard to follow the fewer, better ethos when choosing gifts. None of us need more stuff, but we hope the things we’ve chosen will delight our kids, light up their imaginations, and help them feel seen and loved.

Here’s what each of our kiddos will be finding under the tree this year!

Photo from Annie’s newborn session by Graham – coming soon!

June (who is almost six) will be receiving:
— An American Girl doll and an overnight trip with mama to pick her out at the AG store in Charlotte. To be honest, I’ve had so much angst over this! As a child of the 90’s, my American Girl doll was extremely beloved. The brand has changed a lot since then, and so it’s hard to know what parameters, if any, to set up around which doll June can pick (i.e. should I have her choose a historical doll? But the worlds aren’t as built-out as they were in my day…) And what if in the end she doesn’t play with her? It’s an expensive gift, but more importantly, would that wreck me emotionally?! So many swirly thoughts. But we’re going for it, and if nothing else, I know we will have the best time on our little trip together.
— This diner set and a calculator machine, because she’s always writing orders on post-its and sticking them on the side of our counter like a short-order cook.
— A stuffie alicorn. This was a very specific request. For those of you not in the loop, alicorns are unicorns with wings – and that’s the stuffed animal she wanted. (I was able to snag this with a gift card, which was a double win!)
Gabby’s Dollhouse figurines. She really wanted the actual Gabby’s Dollhouse dollhouse (as prominently featured in the Amazon catalog), but I’m hoping these ones will be almost as good in the dollhouse she already has!
Personalized stationery and a custom notepad, because she loves to use mine. (I used a 20% off plus free ship code from a Minted postcard I received in the mail – maybe it will work for you, too? C2H3DEZYA!)

In case you’d like a few other ideas for a gal of this age, here are some of the suggestions I gave to family members who asked: fairy garden supplies, LEGO Friends sets, fun games (she loves playing Cover Your Assets, mancala, and Sushi Go Party!), Alice & Ames dresses, Boden leggings, chapter book sets, and a 2022 wall calendar!

Shep (who is about 3 1/2) will be receiving:
— Tickets to ride on the Amtrak train from Durham to Raleigh, and lunch at Brewery Bhavana. I think the $8 per ticket will be well spent :)
— This Picasso Tiles base plate set, because he loves to build castles and fire stations and parking garages.
— A flashlight for his room, so he can be like his big sister.
New sneakers, because his daddy thinks it’s time for some fly kicks.
— A shopping cart, because he is VERY into all things play food right now. Happy to have gotten this on sale for Cyber Monday!

Other ideas I gave to relatives: a Dustbuster (yes, really), a train set for around the Christmas tree, a toy leaf blower, and this castle tent that he picked out from perusing a catalog.

Annie (who is about 5 months) will be receiving:
…absolutely nothing from us, ha! As a third baby and a second girl, she needs nothing and would not appreciate anything we got her :) We will be getting her a few things for her stocking (a teether from a local shop, maybe some moccs), and grandparents will be getting her a Boat & Tote with her name embroidered like her siblings, but that’s it from our end!

Finally, June and Shep will be receiving a joint gift: a Yoto player from my parents. June has been asking to listen to audio books during quiet time, and I love that this is a simple, screen-free option. And so many of you have raved about it! My Mom snagged it during Target’s 25% off one toy promotion earlier this year – a lucky score.

Below, tell me what you’re getting your kiddos this year — I love hearing your shopping lists!

Shopping for other ages?
The gifts we gave to a 5-year-old girl and a 2.5-year-old boy.
The gifts we gave to a 4-year-old girl and a 1.5-year-old boy.

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December 2, 2021 6:48 am

Your comments about American Girl dolls perfectly capture my thoughts on this topic and my daughter only just turned 1! So lots of time before she receives a doll (and hoping to pass mine down to her) but my hope that she wants to have that magical American girl doll experience that I had may be the most and perhaps only “I hope my kid is exactly like me” thought that I have, and it would totally wreck me emotionally as well if she wasn’t interested or experience them in the same way that I did. I agree that the company and use of the dolls has changed and wonder if that sense of magic (the feeling of connection to the grander stories, the community – book clubs and the magazine, and that general “respect” for the doll because of the expensive (this could be taught obviously but feels like there is still something about how they’ve changed that perhaps makes it harder to teach). Anyway I too have lots of thoughts clearly so you aren’t alone (and I have to think there are many women our age feeling this way). Looking forward to seeing how it plays out in your family! Merry Christmas!!

December 2, 2021 6:52 am

Yes to all of the American Girl Doll thoughts. Keeping my girls safely in the Bitty Baby zone right now, which still isn’t the same as my experience growing up but I have all my old clothes for them to play with so it feels closer? Also, we LOVE our Yoto player and the idea of giving it to June during quiet time is genius. Going to try this with my 4.5 year old this week!

December 2, 2021 9:33 am

I am head over heels for our Yoto player! I recommend joining the Yoto Club it is $9.99 and you get two new cards (that you can select) each month. Oh, it’s just such a special thing that my 4 year old uses every single day!

December 2, 2021 9:36 am
Reply to  Victoria

Oh and also! We are getting our 4.5 year old boy a Fort Building set with play silks, a Botley Coding Robot, a Luigi Lego Set, and a Kinetic Sand Play set. I also always include a game and a puzzle every year which are sort of family presents.

Kristen M
December 2, 2021 11:24 am

I gave my daughter my Kirsten doll when she turned 5 – she loves it and does a good job taking care of her (she got all the outfits I had and all the furniture!) She hasn’t read the books yet, but hopefully in a year or two we can do those too (she’ll turn 6 in Jan) She also has a bitty baby which was given to her at birth (!) and that definitely gets a little more love and attention which is fine by me.
I am eager to hear about the trip to the American Girl store – I have been thinking about doing that!

December 2, 2021 12:05 pm

We took a train ride from Burlington to Charlotte when I was about 6 or 7 as a joint gift for us girls and our grandfather, who loves trains. To this day, I still have the fondest memories of that ride (even moreso than the destination — a kids’ museum)! Shep is going to LOVE it!

December 2, 2021 12:55 pm

We will have a 7mo at Christmas and really don’t have a lot of great toys – so he’ll be getting some Montessori inspired ones from his grandparents, and we’ll be getting him his own boat and tote, and some accessories for the IKEA kitchen we haven’t been able to find in stock yet!
We asked for more practical things for Christmas, and being the first and only grandbaby right now, I think he’ll be getting a lot of clothes! It was hard not to get him a lot this year because it’s all so exciting, but I’m trying to remember that I’d be doing it for us, not him!

Thanks for sharing this, it’s super insightful for a new mom like me :)

December 2, 2021 3:35 pm

I have 2 boys, so the American Girl doll (for better or worse) won’t be a thing for me. I actually never owned a doll, but we received the catalog and for my favorite (Felicity) I carefully recreated each of her outfits and accessories on my own out of cardboard and fabric scraps (and lots of glue and staples) for my generic doll. I read all the books, multiple times, from the library and my sister, a neighbor and I also renacted the storylines. They were such a huge part of my childhood (without actually owning a single item, lol) that I can imagine it would be difficult to see a daughter have a different reaction. I wish the best for both of your experiences!
Also, is the boat and tote you referenced the one you use for car trips? Do you recommend the large for that? (I think you said you wished it was a different size?) And do your kids have their own luggage? My family lives airplane distance away, so we travel both by car and plane quite often and I’m undecided on what/if to get my kids. It usually takes up a lot of room to store and I want to miminize our collection as much as possible!

December 2, 2021 3:43 pm
Reply to  Kristin

And for my boys, 7yr old: 2nd hand roller blades, helmet, a watch, Sushi Go. 5yr old: helmet, color changing moon night light, alarm clock, slap bracelets, UNO flip, french fry tshirt. For both: Chicago Bears tshirts, Monopoly Build, Ticket to Ride, Book Scratchoff Poster, slippers, new waterbottles and some additional track for their Polar Express train. Trying to keep it practical and still fun!

December 3, 2021 3:28 pm
Reply to  Em

I will exchange for the party version! Thank you! We have borrowed Ticket to Ride from the library and my kids enjoyed it so it helped me take the plunge since it is a little more expensive. I’m sure the European version is dreamy!

December 4, 2021 1:13 am

I can’t recommend the yoto player enough. We’ve ours for 18 months and it is a game changer for quiet time, independent-ish play (I.e. building legos or using magnatiles which I tidy up or do other life maintenance tasks). My kiddos are getting two cards each in their stockings! I loved this round up. My boys are 4 and 6. Both are getting a “big” lego set they’ll build with a parent during winter break, books (star wars and toy story), a balance board, wooden train accessories, and a multi purpose binocular/magnifier tool.

December 7, 2021 1:13 pm

This is probably my favorite type of gift guide! Thank you :)
I‘m done with Christmas shopping, but a Yoto Player is going on my gift idea collection for upcoming birthdays! We love audio books! Same goes for the board game recommendations!
Our kids (5 and 8) are getting a microscope, one of the „Guess in 10“ games (we have and love the animal version!), a sifter and shovel for fossil hunting adventures and a beach chair each. They also each get a Lego set (the 3 in 1 creator sets are some of our favorites!). Our 5 year old boy gets a set with safari animal figurines and our 8 year old daughter a Barbie set (not my favorite, but I know it will be much played with).
Writing it down it seems like a lot already, ahem. But from Grandparents they will get cozy slippers, one of those clear bird feeders with suction cups for the window(!), books („Do NOT Open This Book“ – so funny!, „Rebel Girls“ for the girl and „Bad Guys“ for the boy, ha!). Because I’m always looking for tips, here are a few more fun games that the kids have and love: Rush Hour, Guess Who, Enchanted Forest, and Silly Street.