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Gifts for Children

We all want the children in our lives to be thrilled with the gifts we give them! In our house, we love to scheme about gift-giving for Bambino, his cousins, and his friends. The most popular gifts in our house are those that encourage open-ended play. In other words, gifts that don’t prescribe HOW to play with them, but that encourage a child to use her imagination. Here are a few of our favorite gifts to give the children in our lives.


Are you the child’s parent? Then read on. If not, move along. Don’t ever give a child a pet unless you are the parent — you must be ready to care for the living creature.

OK. Disclaimer over.

We gave Bambino a Grow-a-Frog for his birthday, and it has been a wonderful gift! Actually, we gave him two tadpoles in a small container. Over the course of a few weeks those tadpoles sprouted legs and became awesome aquatic frog pets. This fall we gave them a larger habitat — a 10 gallon aquarium with a filter. They are such happy little frogs. They zip around their aquarium with great speed! And they are very interactive — much more so than fish.

When you purchase a Grow-a-Frog, they will assess the weather for an appropriate time to ship the frogs to your home. We started with two tadpoles and a 2 compartment Tube-Town. It was only once the frogs were full-grown and the water just didn’t stay as clean as I would like that we moved them to an aquarium. The people at Grow-a-Frog are very helpful, and they can help you troubleshoot any issues you might have, too.

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Art Supplies

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Sticker Subscription

I really wish this had been a thing when I was a child. I used to save my money to buy Mrs. Grossman’s stickers from the big rolls at a little shop near our home. But now they will come right to your door!

Mrs. Grossman’s has a monthly sticker subscription! Each month they send out an envelope of their cutie patootie stickers.

There are other sticker subscriptions as well depending on what your child’s interest might be. Pipsticks has options including several for adults. And for people who use planners, there are planner sticker subscriptions, too.


Xyron Create-a-Sticker Machine

This is the craziest contraption, but it works — and it is really fun! If you have a child who is into art or scrapbooking or journaling, this has a thousand uses. When you insert a piece of paper into one end of the machine and turn the knob, it comes out the other side with a thin layer of archival glue on one side — essentially creating a sticker. The adhesive is stronger than a glue stick, and it is great for gluing down heavier paper.


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Water Colors & Paper

Every child is an artist.
— Pablo Picasso

Artists need good quality supplies. Frankly, most art supplies marketed for children are terrible. We love water colors. I don’t buy the tubes of pigment, yet, but I buy good quality palettes and, more importantly, really good watercolor paper. The paper is key — watercolors run and drip on paper that isn’t absorbent which is frustrating and can ruin a masterpiece. Buy good paper, an assortment of good watercolor brushes — there are different shapes and thicknesses which help paint all kinds of images — and decent watercolors. You never know what doors a good paintbrush will open for a child!

make An Art EveryWHere Kit

I always have a sketch book in my purse or bag, and when we are waiting — at a restaurant, at the doctor, wherever — we pull it out along with a pouch of colored pencils, and we draw. As with watercolor paper, paper quality matters. Blank books tend to be made with cheap paper that doesn’t take color well. Choose an unlined sketch book and a set of Crayola’s twistable colored pencils which never need to be sharpened. Tuck the sketch book and pencils in a cute zippered pouch, and you’ve created an art-everywhere kit.


Inspired Play

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Costumes & Dress-Up Clothes

Now, I am not suggesting that you run out to the Disney Store and buy a princess costume for the child in your life. We do costumes that are a little more open-ended.

I’ve purchased wings from Etsy which have been bird, dragon, butterfly, and bug wings as the occasion required. Hats are awesome — Goodwill and vintage clothes shops are good sources for fun hats. Scarves, gloves, large pieces of silky fabric (hemmed), masks, glasses, necklaces, animal noses — these are all the foundation of great dress up play. And the less prescribed they are the more children will use their imaginations to create costumes of their own.

So, leave the pre-made costumes at the store and opt for a box of pieces — and then sit back and watch what happens.

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Dinosaurs & Animals

Our child started with animals and then added dinosaurs to his imaginative play. Now both play — sometimes together, sometimes independently. When he was a toddler, we started with the Playmobil 123 sets with which he played constantly. We have the zoo and farm sets as well as a variety of forest animals. They are still beloved, and they sometimes mingle with the Legos and even appear in our family Nativity set on occasion.

When Bambino’s interest in dinosaurs piqued, we chose the Schleich dinosaurs. They are more expensive than some dinosaur toys, but they have lasted and lasted through many adventures including water play and exploring in the snow. Schleich makes all kinds of animals, so even if dinosaurs aren’t your child’s thing, there is something for everyone.

No matter what brand you choose, animals give children an opportunity to play out all kinds of scenarios whether alone or with friends. And it is through that kind of open-ended play that they learn so many critical social-emotional skills.


We have been playing I Never Forget a Face since Bambino was four. I love all the different children’s faces from around the world, and Bambino gets very excited when his favorite faces are flipped over.

Another option: Pinhole Press’ memory game made with family photos is a fabulous idea! Kids love Memory, and to have familiar faces pop up — all the better!

Uno is a classic card game, and I was shocked at how quickly Bambino not only understood the game but learned strategy, too. Like I Never Forget a Face, it is about winning. But Outfoxed and Busytown are both games which emphasize teamwork. These games are great for children to play with each other, too — something that can be harder with competitive games.


Books. Books. And More Books

I give lots and lots of books. When giving a gift, I try to buy them in hardcover. I also look for gorgeous illustrations, and I search beyond the best seller list for a copy that not every child will have. These are four of our latest favorites.

The Antlered Ship
By Dashka Slater
Ocean Meets Sky
By Terry Fan, Eric Fan
How to Be a Lion
By Ed Vere

For more book recommendations, check out these book lists:


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