I've written in the past about some of the ways we keep it simple around here. I also recently posted a few gift ideas for a two year old, since we celebrated Asher's second birthday back in October.
In light of the upcoming Christmas holiday, here are a few thoughts on the subject of giving gifts to kids.
First, some other bloggers with wise words on the subject:
1. Lindsey Kubly
2. Erin Boyle (Reading My Tea Leaves blog)
Secondly, I tend to get a bit uneasy with the excess that comes at Christmastime. I know from experience that less is more (especially with little ones!), and that getting too many gifts at the same time is actually counter-productive and stressful.
We give our kids four gifts each year (something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read), and this year we're starting a tradition of giving four small stocking stuffers, to be opened one per night on the evenings leading up to Christmas day. My parents gave the kids their gifts when they were here this past week, and we'll give our gifts at a separate time from the other things our kids receive from family and friends-- to spread out the excitement, and to give time for them to actually use and enjoy each present. (*In my mind, this is a major key to simplicity and contentment at Christmas, the time when our cultural tendency toward excess is wildly obvious!)
In general, I prefer gifts of experience (or time) over toys. Museum memberships, movie theater tickets, aquarium/ zoo passes, and swimming lessons are all brilliant things to gift to children. Even though things can be useful and fun (especially if they are high quality things like I've listed below!), children truly thrive on quality time with the people they love. So bonus points if you can gift an experience that they can do with their parents, grandparents, friends, etc. :)
So, without further ado, here are some great gifts I'd suggest for your little ones this Christmas. Many we have already, and others we expect that the kids will get for Christmas or an upcoming birthday:
MagnaTiles. This is the number one toy in our house. They are expensive, but worth every penny!! They get used by both kids, every day, multiple times a day. We build roads, and garages, and houses, and animal pens, and hospitals, and so, so many more things with MagnaTiles. Definitely worth the cost, and definitely worth getting at least 100 pieces if you have more than one kid.
Strider balance bike, sport version. I have recommended this balance bike before, but just realized one specific perk of this specific bike-- the sport version is made so that the bike seat and handelbars can be adjusted without tools. This has been SO awesome in our transition period, as Charlotte learns to ride a two-wheel bike with pedals and yet sometimes wants to revert back to the speed and confidence she had with the balance bike. We're trying to get Asher started on the balance bike, too, so it's great to be able to adjust the seat/handlebars quickly as they take turns with our Strider.
Kid's guitar. We actually got one of these for FREE, from someone in our local "Buy Nothing" group!! Her son had outgrown it, and she responded to my request. Asher is obsessed with music and loves to pretend he's playing guitar with the little plastic vacuum we have, so I'm really hoping he will think an actual guitar is the best gift ever. It's been hiding in our living room closet for over a month; I can't believe he hasn't discovered it yet!
Toddler-sized outdoor tool set. I'm SO excited for Asher to get this as a Christmas gift! He's used a similar set before, and he's going to be thrilled to "help" in the yard with all these tools.
Dollhouse. (Note: this link is different than the one I've used in the past. The dollhouse looks more open-ended; I envision it being used as a barn, or maybe a fire station, or school building...) I'm using a tutorial from Lindsey Kubly's blog (see link above) to make one for the kids (mostly Charlotte), and already bought the bookshelf from IKEA. My parents put it together and now I'm going to add the posterboard to the back and wrap up some furniture to put inside. Here's the furniture we're going to use: Bathroom. Kids' bedroom. Kitchen.
Calico Critters family set. I plan for the kids to use these adorable animals in their dollhouse, and hopefully for many, many other creative games. They are the sweetest, and my children are far more interested in animals than dolls these days, so I think they will work well with the dollhouse.
Art supplies! We don't have a ton of this type of material at our house, partially because Asher isn't super interested in sitting still for art projects, but also because Charlotte is mostly into coloring in big coloring books with crayons or markers. But these are some art supplies we have used and loved...
Neon colored paints. Charlotte got a similar paint set from her grandparents and it was a HUGE hit. I'm hoping she'll be really into these bold, neon colors as well, since most of her paints are running out by now (after 6 months of frequent use!).
Tiny markers (THE BEST for little hands!!).
Giant coloring pad (great for paint, watercolors, or regular old markers)
Water WOW coloring books. These are our absolute favorite airplane activity! We have at least three sets, and they get used a lot, even when we aren't traveling. Asher, especially, likes to use them when Charlotte is painting at the dining room table.
*Looking for more ideas? Here's a post I wrote back in August, about the toys we love in our home.