With nine children I have had 19 years to experience different levels of Christmas toy failure. I like to think that I have acquired an eye for gifts that will last. At least a leetle bit. As in, which ones will hold up and hold attention beyond December 27th.
These are all simple gift suggestions that held up or held attention for at least one year, probably because they are so simple. The prices range from a few bucks to hundreds and they include a variety of ages. (Read to the end for a great giveaway!)
We received our Blokus game as a gift several years ago from a family member, and it has proven to be a winner for several reasons. It is suitable for a variety of ages because you don't have to know how to read to play it. It does, however, require strategy and thinking skills. It is challenging for teens or adults, even if they play a much younger child. My only caveat--be careful not to lose all the small pieces or you're sunk.
None of us have ever broken a bone or had any other injury on a trampoline. I guess I would feel differently about this being a successful gift if we had. But we have loved owning a trampoline. It is great for exercise and family fun.
The Hop Ball
I bought hop balls last year and Shiloh and Serenity have bounced and bounced and bounced. It was hard to get this photo because sitting a 2 and 4 year old on a bouncy ball and telling them not to bounce is next to impossible.
The balls cost us less than 5 dollars. When guests come over they are
You just can't go wrong with building toys. And you can buy them on eBay for really cheap. Tinkertoys get played with a lot here...at least a couple of times a week. Legos and Lincoln Logs are tied for second place. Train and train tracks are good too. The marble racer set is another builder-winner...we'll give it an honorable mention.
But the grand prize building toy goes to....that's right...Mr. Potato Head.
Our huge Mr. Potato Head collection is actually sort of famous. Who can't like some Mr. P. with accessories like a pan of fried bacon to stick in his hand? And again, you can find lots of Potato Heads and accessories on eBay.
The years that we have been able to buy musical instruments have been investments that we have never regretted. Over the years we have bought a keyboard, a violin, a viola, an acoustic guitar and last year, an electric guitar. I will always, always, always be thankful for the gifts of music. Bonus points if you include music lessons.
The Melissa and Doug collection of food has been around our house a few years. When one kid outgrows it there it is just waiting on someone else to use it. The cookies and pizza maker are such fun.
Rubber Band Guns
Our rubber band guns have been around for years too. You can get them cheap or probably even make your own if you're creative. What I love about them is 1.) there is always a ready and cheap supply of ammo 2.) there is no cheesy internal mechanism that is going to get worn out 3.) they are moderately quiet as compared to other toy guns.
Lastly...books. Books make such great gifts. Often, I think, we go for the gift with the "wow factor" that we think will surprise the kid, but it doesn't take long for that to wear off. But books last. And can be passed down. And send a message to our children of what we value.
Now for the giveaway from Usborne Books!
While I can't give two thumbs up for their science books or fictional series for teens, 95% of the books are fantastic. Last year I had an online Usborne party and earned enough free books to just about bury my kids in books for Christmas. Don't worry, they didn't mind. And just today, they had their Usborne books out again!
Some of our favorites for ages 6-12 were
I did remove a sticker or two from some art that was disturbing in this one ^^. Judge for yourself.
My boys fell in love with these:
The touch and feel baby books are precious, their history books for older kids are great and the coloring books for the really young or more challenging for older kids, are terrific. You could spend all day on the website looking around!
My daughter Shelbi is an Usborne Consultant and she's giving away three Usborne books, valued at over $40.
These three books are great examples of the wide range of types and topics of books that Usborne has to offer. I especially love the "See Inside Your Body" book. It's full of lift up flaps. Great visual aid!
The Secrets of the Apple Tree book is really unique. If you shine a flashlight behind the pages, you can see "secret" and hidden pictures. Very cool! And the math book, well, makes math much more palatable ;)