First things first. Spend a rainy Saturday going through the toys that you already have and weeding out the things they don’t play with. I’m a grandma, so I can say this and no one can be offended: If your kids have grandparents , they have too many toys. And if your kids are in charge of making a Christmas gift list, you might as well just write down every junky thing that is advertised on Nickolodeon. Ugh. Those hot toys that your kids had to have last Christmas but dropped in the bottom of the toy chest in January have earned a space in your “donation” box. Forget that they cost a small fortune and be realistic about what you hang onto.
I’m not a fan of single use toys. The Paw Patrol Lookout Tower is a toy that is single use. It takes up a lot of space, and when Paw Patrol is outgrown (it WILL happen someday—I promise!) that toy is practically useless. I much prefer toys that are open ended, like a good set of blocks. They can be made into sky scrapers, dollhouses, roads, fire stations, etc. and kids from preschool through grade school can play with them. The number of things you can build with a sturdy set of unit blocks or a solid collection of Legos is endless.
Classic games and puzzles are always a hit. For younger kids, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, matching games, and wooden puzzles are a safe choice. Playing a family game around the table or putting puzzles together is a great way to spend an evening that doesn’t involve television or other technology. Games that teach color recognition (Candy Land) for preschoolers or math skills (Yahtzee) for older kids are a double bonus!
To foster creativity, art supplies or journals are also a great idea. Gel pens, artist quality colored pencils, detailed coloring books, high quality paper pads, good watercolor paints and “how to draw” books are excellent for nurturing budding artists. Bead kits for making necklaces, shrink film (remember Shrinky Dinks when you were a kid?), and basics like pipe cleaners and yarn for open ended projects are also art kit essentials.
Before you add something to your shopping list, ask yourself these questions:
1. Where will this be stored and how will I manage it? Toys like Legos that come with a thousand tiny pieces should also come with a storage container. Once that box is torn up and the bags are ripped open, you’ll be glad you thought ahead about where you were going to keep these toys.
2. Will this toy stand the test of time? If it is a fad and will only be cool for a week or two after Christmas, steer clear.
3. What do I have to get rid of to bring this new thing into my home? If your playroom is already full, you need to be realistic about what you can keep. Having too many toys makes playroom clean up unmanageable and creates extra stress for you and your kids.
Be watching next week for my follow up to this blog post—Gifts That Don’t Need a Box.