What we’re actually giving our kids this Christmas

23 November 2022

Friends, I have gone back and forth on gift guides this year! On the one hand, they take a lot of time to prepare, they might in the end be only nominally helpful, and the sheer preponderance of gift guides on the internet feels almost distasteful. On the other hand, I genuinely enjoy compiling them, the delight of helping one of you find a perfect gift is intoxicating, and they do contribute to the cost of keeping my internet home online. A conundrum!

One gift guide I knew I’d share? What we’re actually giving our kids this Christmas! It’s been a favorite post since 2019, when we had a four-year-old and a one-year-old. Below, I’ve shared what each of our kiddos will be finding under the tree this year, along with a few suggestions I gave to relatives. As a sort of gift guide compromise, I’ve also listed a few of the very favorite kid items we already own at the bottom if you’re looking for a few more suggestions.

All three kids will be getting a selection of clothes from my favorite consignment sale. When I shopped earlier this fall, I set aside some of my favorite pieces to place under the tree instead of into their drawers! In addition…

June (who is almost seven) will be receiving:
A mama-daughter camp weekend. We have our eye on a particular sleepaway camp for the future (June looooves to watch their promotional video, ha), and thought it might be wise to dip our toe in before committing to a week in the summer. This introvert is a bit nervous, but also thinks it will be SO fun to spend the weekend with just my biggest girl!
The Penderwicks boxed set, because we both fell in love with the first book earlier this year and I know she’ll be excited to unwrap the full set of these sweet modern classics. I snagged mine on Zulily last month for a steal.
Word search and crossword books. June likes to help my Dad with his NYT crosswords when he visits, and she’s expressed interest in having a book of her own. We picked these up at a toy store in Highlands!
Paper Goods Projects + a craft store gift card, because she’s always cutting, taping, and coloring during quiet time. Kid craft books are surprisingly hard to find, but there’s no one I trust more in this arena than Jodi Levine (a member of Martha’s team for 19 years!)
New sneakers, because her old ones are pulling apart at the seams.

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: a walkie-talkie set, Sushi Go Party, Bananagrams, a 2023 wall calendar, a cute baseball cap, a gift card to our local paint-your-own-pottery place, and the complete Little House book set.

Shep (who is 4 1/2) will be receiving:
— A fire truck wallet, because the dollars he’s gotten from relatives are floating around his room and he loves June’s. Snagged this on our trip to Highlands, too!
— An art set, because he’s always drawing something. (I think he is going to LOVE this. The carrying case! So fun!)
— A puzzle table. He requested a table and chairs for his room, but since there’s not really enough space, we thought this fold-up surface would do the trick. And we can slide it under the bed when he’s not using it!
— A remote control Batmobile and figurine. This was a direct request :)
— A new winter hat, because Annie has inherited his old one.

Other ideas I gave to relatives: a super hero capes set, a police car “with siren” (another direct request), books, a Paw Patrol Color Wonder, and a dim sum play dough kit (I HATE play dough but this one is too cute!).

Annie (who is 1 1/2) will be receiving:
— A little plush carrier with animals inside, because she’ll love carrying it around and taking them in and out.
— A lunchbox, because she starts preschool soon and will need to pack a lunch!

As the third child and second girl, this gal needs almost nothing and is still so young that gifts won’t make a big impression, so I have very few other suggestions for relatives! The only other thing I’ve seen that looks fun is this color-changing sink :)

A few of our time-tested, very favorite toys and gifts:

— A set of MagnaTiles, because yes, they’re as good as everyone says they are. Played with multiple times a week by all three kids. Definitely add the cars, and remember MagnaTiles and PicassoTiles are interchangeable!
— A big box of colorful Duplos (also played with almost daily by all three!).
— This ice cream play set, which has provided hours and hours of entertainment. FIVE STARS.
— A Micro Kickboard scooter. These are hands-down the best scooters – we’ve gifted them to both of our kids around age 2, and 3-5 is the sweet spot.
— A game you can play together: try Cover Your AssetsTicket to Ride, or Sushi Go Party, all some of June’s favorites at almost 7. (More ideas here!)
— A Yoto, for a tech-free audio book player. The radio station is quite good, too! I’d recommend adding the Yoto Club subscription for a year to build up your card collection, and we also have the card binder. We’re all in, ha!
— The cutest personalized notepads. BIG favorite with June.
— A Priority Start bike. June started with the 16″ at age 4 3/4, and graduated to the 20″ at age 6 (and passed the 16″ to Shep for his 4th birthday!). These bikes are SO well-made and look good, too! :)
— Alice & Ames dresses, because they are the twirliest with the best patterns.
— A Kiwi Co subscription or Highlights magazine subscription.
— The Playmobil recycling truck, which is in constant rotation around our house. I would recommend for 4+, as the pieces are a bit small and finicky.

Whew! I hope that’s helpful! I’ve rounded up a bunch of ideas, but remember, kids don’t need much to be happy – in our family, we’ve actually found that too many gifts can be overwhelming and dull the whole experience. So choose wisely, and with joy – giving our kids good gifts is a really fun part of being a parent! :) And happy Thanksgiving, friends!!

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November 23, 2022 9:29 pm

The best gift ideas are in your last section there – time-tested favourites will always be the ones I want to hear about! We got our children a single book each from us last Christmas because we knew they’d get so many other gifts, and while I want to save special gifts for under the tree, I have also started bringing out new toys/arts/crafts/etc at random other times of the year so they are exciting all on their own.

November 23, 2022 10:49 pm

I went to an all girls sleepaway camp growing up that had a huge positive impact on me so I will always highly, highly encourage sleepaway camp for kids. I know North Carolina has no shortage of summer camps and I love to hear that June has identified one that she’s interested in! I hope you both enjoy your weekend there – sounds like a great way to get a feel for the environment and camp personnel.

November 24, 2022 8:17 am

I love this list!! I always find great ideas on what you’re getting June since my girls are practically the same age and into the same things. Paint your own pottery gift card is such a great idea! And I would LOVE to hear more about this mom-daughter weekend camp! :) Happy thanksgiving!

November 24, 2022 8:19 am

That ice cream set is amazing! We bought it for our niece’s second birthday in July and apparently she still plays with it daily nearly six months later. I’ll be bookmarking some of your other suggestions for future gifts!

Kelly Strawberry
November 24, 2022 8:40 am

I always find something I use on one of your gift lists, whether it’s the kids or adult one! Also, what I wouldn’t give to have a daughter! The mother daughter camp sounds so precious! And when I took Cam to paint his own pottery once, he just covered it in brown and was done. LOL….boys :) gotta love em.

My sister randomly picks the best kids gifts. Check out Kanoodle. It’s a little puzzle game that’s perfect for bringing along to restaurants, airplanes, or really just to play at the house but its easily transportable. Cam has loved it. Also we keep the Animal Balance Game permanently on the dinner table and it gets played often by either Cam or really any dinner guest while I’m cooking dinner.

November 24, 2022 10:57 am

I love hearing about your tried and true toys and gifts, as I think we have similar approaches to screen time and creative play- and because June is just a bit older than my son. Two of our go-tos are ThinkFun Rush Hour Junior (a logic/STEM game) and a Nat Geo Kids (or Little Kids) magazine subscription.
Opening oodles of presents can definitely be overwhelming- we try to stick to a “want, need, read, and wear” system plus a fun advent calendar to help spread the joy of the day throughout the season.

November 24, 2022 10:18 pm

I love these posts! What minimum age would you recommend for the Yoto? I’ve been eyeing one, but am thinking 2.5 may be a smidge young for her to enjoy it.

November 25, 2022 9:27 am

I came here specifically to search for your “twirly dresses” recommendation. I remember you recommending Alice and Ames years ago, but couldn’t remember the brand. At the time, I thought that sounded like the most amazing gift for a little girl, but I didn’t have one to buy for. But now I have my own little girl who loves to twirl! Thank you for always keeping your recommendations so genuine and thoughtful – they really have helped me over the years!

November 26, 2022 3:22 pm

Hi Emily! Long time reader, first time commenter :) Do you have any Yoto cards that are standouts in your home? Our girls are receiving a player for Christmas. Thank you!