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With the holiday season on the horizon, now is the time to start brainstorming gift ideas. Gift guides for kids of all ages are easy to find. But what if you don’t want to just buy the latest popular toy for a child? Or what if you are a parent who is highly critical of the toys your child plays with? That is where a non-toy gift guide comes in.
(Make sure you read about why I don’t put toys on my kid’s Christmas list.)
The preschool age (3-6) is where non-toys will start to get tricky. At this stage, children will understand the holidays and the fact that their peers may be receiving toys. So at this level, the trick is to make sure there are enough presents to physically unwrap while also making them fun.
Books are always a great gift, no matter what the child’s age. There are lots of books out there that do a great job of straddling the line between educational and fun.
When children are just starting to read, we recommend the BOB Books, Set 1. They are easy books, but fun to look at and fun for young ones to read. I love that they come in a set because they build upon each other. Children only need to know four sounds to read the first book.
Another series that is a bit more advanced, but also popular with the kids in my classroom are the Pete the Cat books. These books are still pretty simple to read, but have fun storylines and great illustrations. They would make a fun “read together” book that will then transition into a “read alone” book for your beginning reader.
If you are looking for a great series to read aloud to your child, consider the Mercy Watson: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder series. Mercy is a pet pig who lives on Deckawoo Drive and causes all sorts of trouble while simply looking for her favorite snack: some hot, buttered toast. The children in my class beg to have these read to them, even though they have heard them multiple times. I’ll admit, they even make me laugh out loud.
Consider also buying some books from the Tales of Deckawoo Drive series. These books explore the hilarious lives of Mercy Watson’s neighbors on Deckawoo Drive. The stories feature a small cowboy, a ghost raccoon, and a runaway. They are just as funny if not funnier than the Mercy Watson series.
By the time children hit preschool age, they tend to be a bit more refined in their artistic abilities. They can expand out from the toddler basics (which you can find in the toddler gift guide) and start using other mediums.
One very simple, stocking stuffer idea is a pack of glue sticks and some cut-up magazines for collage work. The children in my classroom go wild when collage week comes. We cut up pictures from magazines they might enjoy, anything from animals to cookies to seasonal objects. We also cut up tissue paper, wrapping paper, leftover wallpaper, colored paper, etc. Anything they might glue to a piece of paper to make art work.
If your child is an artsy kid, is there a better gift than a pack of construction paper? Kids can go through paper so fast, but if you give them a special pack during the holidays, maybe they will use it a little more wisely.
Why not put together an “Odds and Ends Art Basket.” You could include art supplies that others might not think of like:
Or you could get an “art kit” that puts all of those things together for you. ArtSkills makes an activity bucket that comes with glitter glue, beads, sticker eyes, and so much more. It all fits into a bucket for handy storage. Alex Toys makes an even larger Art Jar that comes with multi-colored pom-poms, fringed crepe paper, and feathers, among other things. Consider buying a ready-made kit if you are short on time.
I think the preschool level is the perfect age to introduce “experiences.” To me, an experience is something that an aunt, uncle, etc. plans to spend a day one on one with the child. This means planning a special outing to the zoo, a museum or an amusement park. As long as it is planned with the specific child in mind, it will be a great memory.
Obviously this is not something a preschooler can unwrap, so I would make sure it happens very close to when it is introduced. For instance, if an uncle gives an experience of a zoo day to a preschooler at a family celebration at the beginning of December, maybe they go on their special zoo day in mid-December. The younger a child is, the sooner it should happen.
Good experiences would depend on the child but some examples are:
This is another category that is great for so many different ages and you can find so many that are fun and educational at the same time.
The first set of board games are old favorites that many probably remember from their own childhood days. HiHo Cherry-O is so simple, but also involved some counting skills. I always remember having fun setting up all of the cherries in the trees. Candy Land is great game to help introduce children to the concept of playing a board game. You have to wait your turn, follow directions, and deal with set-backs.
In the book section up above, I talked about Pete the Cat. Did you know there are a few Pete the Cat board games? The first one is based on the book Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. You travel around the board game collecting and losing buttons. The Groovy Buttons games helps with counting skills. The other game is Meow Match where you must cards with scenes from Pete the Cat on them. Children love matching games and it helps develop their memory skills and visual perception.
One great game company I found not too long ago is Peaceable Kingdom. They are a company who puts out great, cooperative board games for kids and families. Make sure you check out Peaceable Kingdom for games and other fun products. In Count Your Chickens, players work together to round-up all of the chickens using counting skills. Then there is Snug as a Bug in a Rug. Players work together to match bugs under a rug. This game uses colors, numbers, matching, and counting. For older preschoolers, Hoot Owl Hoot is a winner. Children once again work cooperatively to get the owls back to their nests before sunrise. This game will help them learn to start using strategy in board games.