I have 4 children, and every year when birthdays start rolling around, I always get the question….”What would _____ like for his/her birthday?” Sometimes, I know exactly, but often I don’t have a clue! Coming up with gift ideas for kids can be hard! And coming up with an idea for a gift that the child will use on and on can feel down right impossible!
However, over the years of buying different toys for my kids, I have found that some toys encourage them to play for longer periods of time and the pieces don’t just fill up the bottom of the toy box (or worse… their floor!).
These toys that encourage cooperation, imaginative play and creativity are called open-ended toys! Open ended toys can be played with in a variety of ways… think blocks versus a sedentary basketball shooting game.
What Are Open-Ended Toys?
According to MyBrainBlocks.com, open-ended toys give kids space to explore ideas, test theories and engage in new concepts in a relaxed environment and without the fear of making mistakes! I have personally seen my children play for hours and hours with open-ended toys such as blocks, games, and puzzles while other toys sit unused because they are only capable of doing one thing over and over on them!
With that in mind, I thought I would make a list of gift ideas for kids that contained many options for open-ended toys! Now this doesn’t mean that these are always the toys that my kids are asking for, but as a mother, I know that often those little toys they beg for in the dollar store will only hold their attentions for a few minutes and then be tossed down!
And I believe with all of the attention that STEM is getting in education, these toys are more available now than ever before, so be on the lookout! You may make some amazing discoveries!
Gift Ideas for Kids: 2 Years and Younger
Babies and young toddler are starting to learn about their environment and have such a curiosity about all that is around them! Gift Ideas for kids this age should be toys that encourage exploration.
I think I would be in trouble with my children if I didn’t put Legos on the top of my list!!! They have provided HOURS & HOURS of play for my boys, and they have insisted that their little sister a few sets of the larger, Duplo blocks before she ever turned 2!
Melissa & Doug Block Train
Blocks are always a hit! This block train can be stacked and pulled around by the toddler as they go about their business of play.
Yookidoo Musical Crawl & Go Snail
This adorable snail was one of the first toys that I bought my oldest son! It rolls encouraging your baby to crawl after it as it plays music. The stacker on top turns as it rolls and can also be removed and taken apart for even more fun.
This kind of makes me laugh even thinking about it, because no parent (especially not one with 4 kids), wants to encourage more noise in their house! =) (I once brought maracas from the Dominican Republic to my nephew, it didn’t go over so well with his mom & dad… and now I’m paying for it with my kids!!!). However, musical instruments can be a fun way for your child to explore different sounds and pitch.
I have always loved the Pottery Barn Kids anywhere chairs! I like them because my kids can just pick them up and carry them wherever they want to sit and play! Here is another options that is a little more affordable.
There are so many wonderful board books for little guys. And they are great for little hand! This book titled, Now You Are One, would be a perfect gift idea for a first birthday!!!
Gift Ideas for Kids: 2-4 Years Old
My boys (and my daughter too), love playing with large trucks, especially one that they can load the bed up with other toys!! Also, any large trucks with trailer (they called them “hook-ups”), are also a big hit!
I really like wooden toys and puzzles, this one is especially great! It is like a shape sorter for older kids where they can stack different shapes with a different number of holes onto the puzzle board. A name puzzle is also a great way to start teaching your kids how to spell their name.
I could put these on every age group… truly! My kids have enjoyed these magnetic building tiles SO MUCH for years! They are a little bit expensive, especially if you buy the Magnatile brand, but in my opinion, they are well worth it!!!
These are not your typical bouncy horses on springs! These horses (and sometimes other animals) that are made of similar material to a large exercise ball, are so much fun because kids can bounce around wherever they want to go! We have this kind, but it I had it to do over again, I would probably get this one that actually looks like a horse!
Dress Up/Pretend Clothes
I think it is great for a child to use their imagination and pretend that they are cowboys, or firemen or royalty! =) These costumes have been lots of fun for my kids over the years… actually one of my boys almost lived in the cowboy costume for a couple of years!
Backpack, Flashlight, &/or Lantern
It is great for kids to have their own “tools”. Things that make them feel, look, and function like the real thing! Each of my boys have really enjoyed having small things that are very similar to their dad’s big tools and just as useful, but their size! This is a great backpack, a kids flashlight (one easy to turn off and on), a headlamp (they LOVE these), and a lantern have all been wins for us as gifts!
Kids love little area that are there own, and a kids tent or teepee is a perfect spot for your little ones to play! We have had several different tents over the years, but I think a large one for several children is ideal!
I love books and sometimes I feel guilty about not reading to my kids enough, when I do there are certain books I reach for over and over! The Pout Pout Fish is probably my all-time-favorite kids book! It is SO CUTE and has a lesson that even us grown ups can relate to! This is a HAVE TO READ!!!
Gift Ideas for Kids: 4-6 Years Old
These fun little cases have a magnetic board that children can use the different colored and shaped magnets to build their own unique scenes and designs. These would be great for travel or even church (I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for a good church toy to keep my little ones quiet!!!).
Loose Bricks Legos
If there is anything that I regret about my kids starting to play with Legos, it’s that I started out buying them the Lego Creator set and not loose bricks. Lego Creator sets are wonderful and build amazing things that really pushes my boys to figure out how to build each step, however they don’t encourage much creativity, and once they are built, they don’t want to take them apart to build other things. Loose Lego bricks is a great way to introduce a child to Legos and to encourage them to use their imagination. Be sure to include some large base plates with those loose bricks when you give them as a gift, so the kiddos will have a good foundation for their creations! 😉
Lincoln logs fit into the group of blocks and free building toys, but with all of the other block options, I would honestly have never thought of buying these for a child nowadays! However, my mother-in-law has a set at her house from years ago and my boys LOVE playing with these!!! One of my sons specifically asked for Lincoln Logs for his birthday this year!
Wooden Barn & Animals
If your kids are into farming like mine, a barn and toy animals will thrill them! My boys have more Schleich horse than we can count and they play with them daily! I don’t get excited about a lot of toys, but these horse are beautifully crafted with perfect detail! If you child isn’t into horses, there are many other Schleich animals to choose from.
Art supplies are SO MUCH FUN!!! Even for adults! And there are so many good quality options now to choose from! So check out this simple Crayola Create N’ Carry out for your budding artist!
Apron & Baking Set
I think all kids like to help in the kitchen… at least all of my kids do! A sweet gift for your baker-to-be would be an adorable apron and baking set complete with cookie cutter that your little ones can really use!
Cardboard Decorate Yourself Structures
Many a parent has marveled that their child will play with a box instead of the toys hey received (open-ended play anyone?), but these cardboard houses, circus tents and other imaginative structures allows children to decorate their own house and then use their imagination to play with it once they are finished! You might be surprised that people will pay for cardboard, but these little house and cars, etc are cute and work kind of like a large coloring sheet. Keep your eyes open when you are in craft stores also! I have seen these under $20 at Michaels!
Gift Ideas for Kids: 6-8 Years Old
Mind Bender Games
My oldest son LOVES any brain bending kind of puzzle or game. Several years ago I bought him the game Kanoodle, a solitaire game that is perfect for enhancing problem solving, critical thinking, and strategic thinking skills. My son has had SO MUCH FUN with this game and now, he is ready for a more challenging game!
Board Games or Group Games
Gift Subscription to Kids Magazine
Kids love getting things in the mail! And a cool magazine with topics a kids enjoys coming to them each month? That’s a win!!! Check out National Geographic Kids, Highlight, Ranger Rick, and others kids magazines here!
Keva Contraptions are like like Keva Planks but with project ideas for tunnel, mazes and chutes. The contraption set also contains a Keva ball to run the course that your child designs!
Paper Airplane Kit
Kids love paper airplanes and this kit is complete with instructions and special paper to make your child’s airplane creations truly unique!
Bow & Arrow Set
Archery has become a pretty common sport recently (I think it’s because of the show The Arrow), and kids love shooting bows and arrow! But often many bows can be difficult for little guys to use. So, some companies go smart and made kid friendly bows! One of these is Two Bros Bows. This bow comes with kid friends “arrows” that are soft and rounded on the end. For Ages 6+.
Gift Ideas for Kids: 8-10 Years Old
Lego Chain Reactions
Lego Chain Reactions Science & Building Kit shows kids how to build 10 different awesome moving machines! It contains a book and 30 new legos to complement your child’s loose bricks in building these fun contraptions!
Perplexors is another great activity for those kids that love to try to figure things out!!! These books have puzzles that encourage kids to think critically and figure things out! One Amazon reviewer encourages buyers to start with the basic level before moving up to the more advanced puzzle books to build a child’s confindence.
This is another solitaire game that looks like it would be great for kids that love games like Kanoodle, but are getting older and needing more of a challenge. This game is made up of a hinged contraption and challenge cards. Kids will fold, loop, bend, twist, & turn the hinges until they figure out the challenge!
Players (2-6 players can play at a time) have colorful ribbons attached to their velcro wristbands. The objective of this game is to grab other players wristbands before they can get yours and collect as many as you can!
Many kids really enjoy doing crafts, and this sun catcher kit is a creative and fun way for kids to use their artistic ability!
I know we covered art supplies earlier, but as children get older, they can enjoy more advanced art tools. Check out these color pencils, this Drawing Book for Kids, and How to Draw Unicorns, Mermaids, and Magical Friends.
I read the book Simplicity Parenting several years ago. One thing that really stood out to me was that the author encouraged parent to give their children real tools! He said, (I’m paraphrasing) “Don’t give your child a toy hammer, give him a real hammer so he can feel the weight of the tool in his hand”. Almost as if a child knows when we try to just pacify him with just a little toy! Well, two of my boys have asked for real tools from their aunt and uncle for Christmas and they love them!!! They jump at any chance to help dad with a project so they can use their tools. A bonus is they get a real tool bag and belt with those tools!
I have said since my oldest child’s first Christmas, that we could get rid of every toy on Christmas Eve and start over on Christmas day because of the volume of toys my kids (and I’m sure most kids) get! Well, if you want to give a gift that will last throughout the year, give a subscription box. Really! There are awesome subscription box services for kids just as there are for adults and they can have surprises all throughout the year!
Here is a list of a few kids subscription box services. Check them out, you might just find the perfect gift! (Remember you don’t have to send a whole years worth of boxes, you could even send just one month!).
Be sure to check the websites for these companies to discover any special offers when you sign up!
The Boxcar Children is a classic series of books originally published in 1942. These books follow a group of children on their adventures while traveling on a train. My son really enjoys the Geronimo Stilton series which follows a very intelligent mouse reporter!
Gift Ideas for Kids: 10-12 Years
As kids get to this age, they may be doing less sitting in the floor and playing, and more playing while on the couch or bed. Games, puzzles and books are a good choice for any age, but especially now!
Single Player Games
Once again, single player games are a hit! Check out Dogpile, an unusual game of challenge where the player arranges the play dogs in a pile according to the card. A great take along game sans electronics! Crankity Brainteasers is another portable challenge game involving gears and a grid that encourages critical thinking.
Multiple Player Games
SwipeShot is a 2 player game that has players trying to knock down cups with the same wrecking ball! And Sculptapalooza is a party game where the players sculpt their answers to prompts all while being timed!
Hex robotic spider is a small spider that fits in your hand. As the spider crawls, you can see the complexity of its internal workings.
String art is super popular right now, and a string art kit would be a really fun gift for the crafty kid in your life! Check out this one by Klutz (they have a lot of great products if you haven’t already picked up on that!!!). Also, check out this scrapbook kit that would provide hours of fun!
Books are a great way for kids to pass time and learn. The I Survived series of books is a good series to teach kids about some historical events all while being entertained by fictional story of a young person during that time period. National Geographic Kids Why! Over 1,111 Answers to Everything would be a great book to get that inquisitive kiddo in your life!!!
Finding gift for the kids in your life that they will actually play with and enjoy for years to come can happen! Look for things that they can use in more than one way, encourages their imagination, and causes them to think critically!
If you still need more ideas, check out fatbraintoys.com and lakeshorelearning.com, these are 2 online toy companies that supply families with lots of open-ended play possibilities!
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What are some toys that you have found to be a real hit with your kiddos? Please share in the comments below!