Meaningful Children's Gifts - A Guide

We love giving our children good things. What doesn't feel as good is the accumulation of stuff that is inexpensively made, short-lived and ends up in a landfill after 6 months. Unwanted, unused and broken toys are piling up in landfills across the world. I’m not saying not to buy toys. This is NOT a non-toy gift guide. I believe that certain toys can play a very important role in the developing child. I simply want us to make wiser and FEWER selections when buying gifts for our kids.

A life with fewer, less glitzy toys is far from a childhood of deprivation. In fact, research has shown that kids focus and engage better and have more creativity in simplified spaces and when they have fewer toys.

Aside from love, play is the single most important thing that a child experience, and many thoughtfully crafted toys and items have been made by those who understand and value true creative play. Play literally shapes the brain. It is the highest form of research for a child, it is the work of the child. Flashy overstimulating toys do not fit into this criteria and do the developing brain a disservice. The heart behind why I created this gift guide was to give mamas (and papas) out there a curated list of some really great toys and items that will foster creativity and imagination in children. Lasting things that will bring delight and have a good chance of imprinting a fond memory into your child that they can cherish into adulthood. If you’ve been searching for some more meaningful gift options - this guide is for you! 

I began this list thinking that I would categorize it by age range, but I found it really difficult to do so because most of these items are so versatile! Since so many of them are great for ages 6mo to even 10+ years old, I decided to only slightly categorize them by type. Also at the bottom you will find a brief list of unconventional gift ideas that are truly outside of the box but very meaningful! I should also note that we absolutely do not own all of these, we have a very minimal amount of toys/possessions but most of what we do have are mentioned here Here are my top personal favorite toy and non/toy meaningful gift ideas:


ALL AGES + OPEN ENDED PLAY

We have a set of these wooden animals that my family gifted us last year (shout out to my sister Kelly for organizing that). They are so beautiful and absolutely worth the price tag, these are the type of toys that can be handed down generation to generation.

So much fun for all ages - kids can definitely do a lot more than just learn great balance on these! I’ve seen these popping up on my feed for a while now and I’ve been giving them the heart eyes.

This is an Etsy shop that I love - many of her beautiful wooden pieces like this moon phases puzzle are on my wishlist.

Playsilks are a beautiful and magical play thing for a child. Put one in the hands of any child and you will be amazed at what they do. Dancing, dressing up, making "ice skates", stirring them in a pot for "soup", carrying their teddy bears in a "sling" is only the beginning.

For a while, I didn’t know what the fuss was with these things. They seemed really expensive and I didn’t know why they were such a coveted item. We still do not have a set but we have a few freinds that do and Eden is drawn to them like.. a magnet! Ha! I have witnessed the draw that they have on kids, this is one of those extremely versatile toys that is good from ages 1-100! One of the only plastic toys I recommend.

We have a set of Brain Blox and many hours have been spent creating with them. I actually made a Youtube video on them, take a look here. Another example of a great versatile open-ended toy that kids can get really creative with.


Great for fine motor skills development. Fun for all ages.

A strategy game for kids as young as 3 - so much fun! Even incorporates fine motor skills development with the squirrel tongs that you have to pick up the acorns with.

Anything wooden deserves some consideration for your play shelf, how sweet is this pretend tea set?

This might be on the very top of my wish list for the kids. The arched pieces can be used in endless creative ways. If you’re considering this toy, do a quick image google search to see ideas of how these would be played with.

Kids love those rare times when something arrives in the mail just for them, and a subscription box will give them something to look forward to each month. It’s a gift that keeps on giving all year. There are some great creative and educational boxes available, like Kiwico, which shows kids how to be scientists, artists, creators and makers with hands-on activities and projects. They have a different box for each age group, even the really little ones!

Ladybug magazine subscription

We’ve checked a few of these out of the library and it is the best little children’s magazine I’ve seen. Lots of quality stories, projects, ideas, games and learning, it’s a hit with my 4y/o and I think getting a special magazine in the mail each month would be such a special childhood treat and memory.

Such a neat kids knife set! The finger hole on the knife’s wooden handle not only teaches them the proper hand placement, but also positions their fingers to prevent them slipping onto the blade. The accompanying finger guard allows them to safely hold the food without the worry of them cutting themselves. The tip of the blade is round, but the blade is sharp enough to cut through hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes.


ART + CREATIVITY

My sister gave my kids a set of these, and we love them! I recently learned that you don’t want to give your kids regular crayons and markers at too young of an age because it could spoil their pincer grip, and that can be something that takes a while to correct. With these crayon rocks, it helps them naturally develop their pincer grip because of how the rock has to be held. Love the range of colors on these and the colors go on really nice and pigmented.

I love these posters - whatever is put on a child’s wall should be worthy of looking at. These are educational, beautiful and are sure to inspire wonder. There are so many amazing designs to choose from!

Vintage poster hanging kit

This is also on my personal list - everything that is put on the skin is absorbed directly into the bloodstream so I love the idea of a completely natural paint that I don’t have to worry about if it gets all over my kids or if they want to finger-paint with it

You guys know how much I love this stuff. We prefer this over play dough any day - and we’re still on our first bag that was purchased over a year ago! We keep it in a mason jar and it feels the same as the day we got it.


NATURE OBSERVATION + NATURE RELATED

One of the most important gifts to give your children is a love of nature! Ask a grandparent some of their fondest memories of childhood, and I bet there is something in there involving nature. We owe it to our children to foster that connection to nature that every human being inherently needs. Here is a bundle I put together of my recommendations for starting a child off on a journey to observe and explore the great outdoors. Nature journaling using is a powerful learning tool for kids and adults alike. 


Any blank pad will do, but the thicker the better, especially if they will paint in it. I thought this one was sweet.

For an amazing close up view of birds nesting and if you’re lucky you’ll see baby birds hatching! Tip: do not put this on a play room window or somewhere you are going to be loud in - birds won’t come unless they feel safe. (We did this)

For bird watching! If you don’t already have a bird feeder in your yard, get one! It can be a part of this gift, too!

a fun and educational way to learn to identify bugs!


BOOKS

Reading to your children is one of the greatest gifts that we can give them in their early years. Not only does it create meaningful and lasting connection with our kids, it inspires compassion, and fortifies them with concepts and ideas that form the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. Sarah Mackenzie, founder of Read Aloud Revival says, “You can take your kids around the world in picture books.” Picture books with quality content are a wonderful gift to give any child. Write a little note and date inside the front cover and that book is sure to be passed down to your children’s children as a treasured keepsake. I want to inspire to bypass the “twaddle” type books which severely undervalue the intelligence of the child.

I could list so many good books, I’m truly in love with childrens books. I also have an amazon recommendations list of some MORE of my favorites, which I will link HERE - but here are a few of the top contenders:

This gorgeously illustrated volume of poetry — sprinkled with facts and fun things to do — sows an early love for nature in all its beauty and wonder. It is a big book - a children’s bookshelf staple in my opinion!

This was an unexpected find at the library. We read it through and I oohed and ahhed and it made my heart swell. Stunning illustration paired with a meaningful storyline will do that to me. Highly recommend this sweet book.

The same author of the first book mentioned, Nicola Davies. Oh my, this book is beautifully illustrated and carries a short and simple, yet powerful message along with perfectly struggles together words that help kids grasp the concept of life.

I grew up on these books so this one has a soft spot in my heart. The classic shortened versions of little house tales.

This is such a sweet interactive book for little ones! Beautiful collage-and-watercolor art follows the seed through its entire life cycle, as it grows into a zinnia in a garden full of buzzing bees, curious hummingbirds, and colorful butterflies. Children engage with the book as they wiggle their fingers to water the seeds, clap to make the sun shine after rain, and shoo away a hungry snail.

I’ve got mad love for Jan Brett’s books, and this one is my favorite. LOVE everything about this book.

Again with the swoon worthy illustrations and a beautiful writing style. There are a few other books in this series as well (Kate Messner can do no wrong) and they are all equally worthy of being added to your book collection.

Oh my stars, this book. I had tears in my eyes when I flipped the last page. I’d say this one is on my top five list. The paintings exquisitely portray a timeline of the little boy’s early year’s of life. Buy it, you won’t regret it.

A subtly meaningful story paired with beautiful illustrations. The story follows a dress and a girl on their journey to Ellis Island - it is the sweetest!

I had to include another Jan Brett book, because they are just that good. I’ve never seen a picture book formatted the way that hers are, it is stunning and would be difficult to explain. You’ll just need to see for yourself :-)

A simple and playfully curious introduction to botany and primary nature science. You can’t go wrong with a book about nature! It is so much more than that - nature teaches us more about every element of being human than anything else.

A must have for every children’s bookshelf! I particularly love this edition featuring exquisite illustrations by a top NYT best selling illustrator.

One of my favorite children’s illustrators wrote and illustrated this book and it is one of the sweetest books you’ll ever lay eyes on.


UNIQUE GIFT IDEAS

Play room makeover

If your children are still young enough that you can get away with rearranging their space and doing a slight overhaul of toys, this would be such a special surprise for them! Weather it’s an entire toy room or a small corner of their bedroom, organize all of their toys and rearrange it to be a lovely and clean, clutter free space that is conducive to creative play. An aesthetically beautiful play space is not something that is only a trend and pleasing to the adults eye, it is proven to be psychologically beneficial for children and is an optimal learning environment. You can watch my Montessori play room tour if you want more information and ideas on this concept.


A fruit tree to tend and plant in spring 

I think this is such a special and beautiful idea. Give the responsibility of tending a tree and the joy of observing the miracle of it’s growth. Alternatively, a small house plant to tend and keep in their room would be nice as well.

A makeover of an old play structure or larger toy

Do your kids have any old play things that could use a little tic, like a play kitchen or old wooden blocks or something of the sort? Pull it into the garage and do a little mini remodel on it - some fun paint and a few cheap materials can completely reinvent a play thing! If you don’t have anything, head to a thrift shop or look for free stuff on the side of the road - Pinterest has some really cool ideas for turning an old small entertainment center into a play kitchen. Or if you’re handy, grab some materials from a home improvement store and make something! I remember my dad making us a little wooden outdoor stove and kitchen set and making us close our eyes and leading us around the house to show us.. to this day, it is one of my clearest and earliest most cherished memory. The pure delight and and joy that it brought was immeasurable. It felt like love in it’s truest form.

Sensory bins

These are amazing for all ages but especially beneficial for ages 1-3 as they are in need of sensory experiences which is extremely beneficial for their developing brains! We have a bin of cheap dried beans with various scoops, tongs, etc.. There are some amazing ideas for sensory bins on Pinterest - you can customize them any way you’d like to fit your child’s needs/interests! You better believe that you can buy a Tupperware bin, make an exciting sensory bin and wrap it up as a gift. It’s unconventional, but your kids will love it!

Dress up box (for boys too!)

Clean out your closet and find a few fun pieces of clothing, belts, scarves and accessories or head to the thrift store. If possible, choose a variety of pieces of clothing that are versatile enough that they can pretend them into many characters. It should also have a few large and small silk scarves (easy to find at a thrift store) and hats and belts. Put it all in a nice basket or box. Kids dearly love to dress up and here’s why you should let them according to Charlotte Mason - “Children are born poets, and they dramatise all the life they see about them, after their own hearts, into an endless play. There is no reason why this natural gift should not be pressed into the service of education. Indeed, it might be safe to go further: the child who does not dramatise his lessons, who does not play at Richard and Saladin, who does not voyage with Captain Cook and excavate with Mr Flinders Petrie, is not learning. The knowledge he gets by heart is not assimilated and does not become part of himself.”

“Therefore it is well that children should, at any rate, have the outlet of narration, that they should tell the things they know in full detail; and, when the humour takes them, ‘play’ the persons, act the scenes that interest them in their reading”

Adult sized things

Sometimes the real adult version is better than a toy version and children know the difference! It will thrill them to be gifted their very own household item. It could be a baking set, a small real metal tool set with screws and boards with pre drilled holes (obviously nothing sharp or too dangerous). The possibilities are endless!


A FEW MORE FAVORITES

I love this concept. award winner! This durable tin moneybox is a timeless gift that will inspire and teach children to save spend and share wisely for a lifetime.

How cool is this! A wonderful winter craft (and very hyggelig at that! Read my Hygge blog post to see what I mean)

We have these and they are excellent. Volume limiting for kids and has a soft no-tangle cord.

old school CD player

no link for this one, any portable CD player will do! Avoid the new fancy ones that have bluetooth capabilities. We get audiobooks from the library and E loves listening to it just laying on his bed or while he’s playing with toys.

Teaching kids handicrafts like weaving, knitting or needlework is so beneficial to them in many ways.

We have this set and it has been well loved.

GIFTGUIDE-01.jpg
Rose Henges4 Comments