Last year my best gift ideas for girls and best gift ideas for boys were my most popular posts during the holiday season, so this year I’m back with another edition. As many readers pointed out, almost all the gifts on both lists could actually be enjoyed by either boys OR girls, so this year I didn’t split the ideas up into two separate lists. Just as on the previous lists, here you’ll find 20 great holiday gift ideas for kids ages 2-12 that kids will actually spend time using. I’ve been so frustrated in previous years to realize many of the gifts my kids receive get ignored or broken just a few weeks after Christmas, so these are all gifts that encourage hours of playtime.
NOTE: all links in this post are Amazon affiliate links – I do nearly all of my holiday shopping at Amazon because it’s hard to beat the price and convenience, plus I love being able to read review before buying (and you can’t beat free 2 day shipping with Amazon Prime!). Prices noted are current as of post publication date, but Amazon prices often move around a bit. If you do find a better price on one of these items somewhere else, please let me know in the comments and I’ll update the description to include that info – thanks!
1. Melissa & Doug Bowling set: $16, ages 2+
Durable, cute bowling set for a variety of ages – little ones will like to hold (and chew) the adorable alien pins until they’re old enough to actually bowl, and older ones (even the big kids!) enjoy setting something up and knocking it back down. With classic Melissa & Doug quality, this is the highest rated kids’ bowling set on Amazon.
2. Playskool Mr. Potato Head Super Spud: $27, ages 2+
What’s the biggest problem with a Mr. Potato Head? Not enough pieces, and it’s too hard to get them all back inside that little back flap. Well, this set is a great big Mr. Potato Head who has his own pieces AND acts as a carrying tub for 4 more potato heads (2 medium and 2 small) and plenty of pieces for all of the them. Siblings or friends can play together, with plenty of pieces to go around.
3. Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll: $47, ages 2+
She talks, she sings, she glows, and every little girl between the ages of 2 and 8 is going to want her this year. I know some of us are getting a little tired of hearing “Let it Go” at every turn, but I’m not sure there’s anything that would make my daughter happier than this doll. Elsa says 15 different phrases from the movie when you touch her “magic” necklace, and when you raise her arms she sings 32 seconds of “Let it Go.” Find loads more Frozen loot here!
4. Disney Classics 8-Book Me Reader: $18, ages 3-6
The Me Reader is a genius product! It comes with 8 books, each based on a classic Disney film, and an electronic “reader.” Every page in each book has a symbol corresponding to the buttons on the reader, so all kids have to do is push the button that matches the page they’re on to hear that page read aloud to them. A little like a book on CD, but much easier for kids to follow along with since they control when the next page is read. It’s simple enough that my daughter was able to use it on her own when she was barely 3 years old, but fun enough that my 6 year old who can read to himself still enjoys using these (they like to sit at bed in night and “read” these books on their own). Look for other other Me Reader varieties, such as Disney princesses, Thomas the Train, and Dora.
5. PlasmaCar: $53, ages 3+
My older kids each got one of these nifty cars for Christmas 6 years ago and they still get used regularly! Kids sit with their feet up in front of them and wiggle the handle back and forth to make them go (alternately they can use their feet to push off from the ground to go faster). It’s fun to head down the driveway as fast as possible and then turn super quickly onto the sidewalk. Our 3 year old loves scooting up and down the sidewalk on them, and she really loves it when her big brothers take her for a ride on them. They’re great for a wide age range, although 3 to 10 year olds will probably enjoy them the most.
6. Foam Building Blocks, set of 100: $25, ages 3+
Blocks that stack just like the wooden ones but won’t hurt when they get chucked at a little brother? Sounds good to me! Wood building blocks are a classic toy for a reason – it’s just plain fun to build a tower as high as you can then knock it down – but they can be dangerous (plus they just plain hurt when you step on them). This foam set, while not a pretty to look at as the wooden ones, is a great, less-expensive alternative.
7. Tinkertoy 200 pc building set: $10, ages 4+
The classic building toy is back and better than ever. Pieces are now make of plastic, not wood, meaning they won’t splinter, they’re easily washable AND the dowel pieces can now bend, offering lots of new creative possibilities. Tinkertoys are like LEGOS, meaning the more pieces the better, so invest in one of the larger sets to start off with for the most fun. We often think of Tinkertoys as a great toy for the 4 and 5 year old set, which it is, but kids who are a little older (6+) might actually have a better time with it – even teens will enjoy it if they give it a chance.
8. Snowball & Snowbrick maker set: $20, ages 4-12
Playing out in the snow just got a lot more fun. Kids can use the snow brick maker to build walls to hide behind, and the snowball makers to quickly create a snowball arsenal. Amazon reviewers say even young kids (2-3) are able to use the snowball makers. We got snow brick molds a few years ago, and now the kids spend HOURS outside whenever it snows. You might want to order extra snow brick molds so you have one for each kid in the family!
9. Tabeoke Karaoke Player: $17, ages 6+ (although younger kids will enjoy singing along)
Karaoke for kids! Connect your phone using bluetooth and kids can sing along to any song you own (or can find on YouTube – for many popular songs you can find version where the lyrics show up on the screen, making it easy for kids to sing along). Younger kids will enjoy singing the Frozen soundtrack, while anyone old enough to navigate a phone will have a blast singing anything they want. Great for parties!
10. Set of 24 Plastic Drawing Stencils: $16, ages 6+
My kids love these stencils! It’s a set of 24 3×5 inch plastic stencils, each of which has 4-10 different designs on it, including animals, flowers, shapes, letters, and more. These are wonderful for kids who aren’t very confident in their ability to draw – they can use the stencils to get the basic shapes “right” and then embellish from there. Perfect for times when you want kids occupied quietly for a while – we take ours to church regularly, inside these plastic clipboard storage cases that can hold the stencils as well as paper and pens.
11. Over-The-Door Mini Basketball Hoop: $30, ages 6+
This durable hoop fits over any standard door with no need for screws or hardware, and is padded to ensure it won’t scratch the door. Unlike other cheaper over the door hoops, this version is built sturdy enough to stand up to lots of indoor play, and is very realistic looking. In fact, reviewers’ only complaint was that the ball is a little too realistic for indoor play – meaning it’s hard like a real basketball so if you have breakables around you may want to replace it with a softer rubber ball. (My younger kids have more fun trying to launch their stuffed animals through the hoop anyway.) Great way to keep kids active when it’s too cold or wet to play outside.
12. Epic Rubber Band Crafts book: $7, ages 8+
Did your kids get loom bands for Christmas last year? Has the novelty of making basic bracelets worn off? Give last year’s gift new life with this book that teaches kids how to make more complex bracelets, necklaces and accessories and even action figures.
13. American Girl Crafts Tech Case Sewing Kit: $7, ages 8+
The American Gift Craft kits are a great way to introduce your child to sewing by hand. Clear instructions teach several different types of stitches, and prepunched guide holes to make assembly easy. There are lots of craft kit varieties available, from this tech case to stuffed animals, coin purses, and more.
14. OgoSport Super Disc: $35, ages 8+ but younger kids may be able to play too
Two discs, each with a “trampoline” in the center, are used to toss a koosh ball back and forth. The discs are large enough kids are able play without getting frustrated. Since you’re tossing a koosh ball (as opposed to something harder), this works well for indoor play, but is especially fun outside as you can get the ball flying very high, and can even be used in a pool. Teens and adults will enjoy this too, making it a great game for the entire family. A mini version is also available if you’re looking for something at a lower price point.
15. Dabble – The Fast Thinking Word Game: $17, ages 8+
This game is like Scrabble, but moves at a much faster pace (yes!). Each player gets 20 letter tiles and has 5 minutes to create a 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 letter word in order to win the round. No waiting while other players take forever for their turns! Added options, like bonus points for creating words within a set category, keeps play interesting.
16. Zing Air Zip Bak Bow: $18, ages 8+
I can’t even begin to imagine how cool my older boys would think this thing is. You pull a foam tipped arrow back as far as you can, then let it fly. Reviewers say arrows really fly over 30 feet when shot by youngsters and 75 feet when shot by older kids or adults, but don’t hurt since they’re lightweight and foam tipped. Looks like it might be a good idea to purchase arrow refills
17. Brother XL2600I 25-Stitch Free-Arm Sewing Machine: $80, ages 8+
If you have a child you think would be interested in learning to sew, this would be an amazing machine to get him or her. There are plenty of “kid sewing machines” on the market, but most of them don’t cost much less than this, and the best way to convince someone they hate sewing is to let them learn on a bad machine. This machine is actually a slight upgrade (!) from the machine I do almost all my sewing on and it’s selling for an amazing price on Amazon right now. My mom starting teaching me to sew when I was about 8 years old, and I’ve loved it ever since!
18. GOgroove Portable Speaker System: $13, ages 10+ but even younger kids will probably enjoy it
This is a small but powerful speaker your tween can take with her just about anywhere so she and her friends can enjoy their music (measures 3.5 by 3.5 inches). It’s powered by batteries or USB, and comes with a 3 year warranty. There’s a large variety of different animal styles to choose from, so you can find one that’s perfect for your child.
19. Hue Animation Studio complete stop motion animation kit with camera: $70, ages 10+
If you have a techie kid who tends to play video games a little more than you’d like, this stop motion software & camera might be a great option. Instead of losing brain cells playing computer games, kids can stretch their creativity by making their own super cool stop motion videos using LEGOs (or anything else, really). You can even add sound effects and different backgrounds. It might be a good idea to give in conjunction with this Stopmotion Explosion book for all the info your child needs to get going. (Note: we have not used this software ourselves, but it gets good reviews!)
20. The Ultimate Book of Optical Illusions: $9, ages 10+
I remember how cool it was to look at optical illusions when I was a kid (heck, it’s still pretty cool), and this book is one of the best. Reviewers say: “my 13 year old is a gamer and stays on his xbox360 and computer as much I will let him. The book drew his interest and he has spent hours figuring out the illusions.” “The whole family – both parents and 2 kids, looked at the book enthusiastically for much of the night.” “The book was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be, with many pages of illusions. The paper was not thin as a reading book, but thicker so will last a lot longer. The illusions kept me going from page to page and section to section, not wanting to put it down.”