Hot Gift Ideas for Your Family
"I want! I want! I want!" A trip to the toy store comes with no shortage of pleas for the latest toys. But what does your child really want? And what will he actually play with? Instead of taking a gamble on the first thing that catches your eye, check out these guaranteed winners.
There's a reason building blocks have been a favorite for years. Building lets your child push the limits of her imagination. Plus, blocks are just plain fun. Focus on the age appropriateness of specific building sets before making a purchase.
For babies and toddlers, opt for traditional large wooden blocks or soft fabric blocks. They can easily grasp larger blocks without the risk of choking.
LEGOS always rank high on Christmas wish lists. Many LEGO sets are specialized to create a specific thing, but you can also get general sets of the building bricks. You can find them in many different themes, including Star Wars, Disney Princesses, Minecraft, City, DC Comics and the Simpsons. Your chances of finding something your child likes are good. LEGOS are best for older kids who don't put small items in their mouths.
Magna-Tiles are flat magnetic building pieces in various shapes. The pieces stick together easily because of the magnets, so your child can get creative. Magnets are dangerous if swallowed. Keep Magna-Tiles away from young kids.
The classic doll never goes out of style, but modern girls have a range of new doll options to choose from. The American Girl Doll remains a beloved favorite of older girls who can handle taking care of the higher-priced dolls. Our Generation Dolls have a similar look with different props and playsets. Hearts for Hearts Girls fall into the same category of doll, but each is designed to look like a real girl from a different country. When you make a purchase, a donation is made to World Vision, an organization that helps kids around the world.
Another hit is the L.O.L Surprise Doll. These mini dolls come hidden inside small plastic containers. The surprise of which doll you get is half the fun. They come in Tots and smaller Lil' Sisters. But perhaps the most coveted item on Christmas wish lists is the L.O.L. Big Surprise, a giant ball with 50 surprises in it. The sparkling ball can double as a place to store all the dolls and accessories.
They're not exactly dolls, but Fingerlings monkeys are just as popular as L.O.L. dolls. The mini monkeys cling to your finger, blink their eyes and make other movements and noises.
For toddlers, stick with a classic soft doll without any pieces that can rip off or hard parts that hurt when bitten. A squishy cloth doll is the perfect cuddle buddy for your little one.
Inspire your child's imagination with dramatic play gifts. Costumes and props work well for all ages. Choose costumes that match your child's interests.
For little ones, check out the Melissa & Doug Diner. This cute playset features a toddler-size booth on one side and a kitchen on the other. The Little Tikes Two-in-One Food Truck is another fun dramatic play set option. The LeapFrog Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart combines learning with dramatic play. If your little one loves being a princess, look for the Little Tikes Princess Horse and Carriage ride-on toy.
For the budding artist, a selection of art supplies and gear works well under the Christmas tree. Start with an easel or drafting table as the home base for creativity. Stock up your little artist with a selection of paints, markers, crayons, glue, scissors and other gear.
If your child is more of a musician than a visual artist, pick up a child-sized guitar, so she can start learning chords. You can also focus more on experiences than physical items by gifting your child music lessons or other musical experiences.
Technology isn't limited to cellphones and tablets. These days, you can get a variety of technology-based toys that actually teach your kids something.
Encourage beginner coding skills with the Kano Pixel Kit. Kids first build the pixel panel. Then, they get to code it to control the colorful light pixels on the panel. The Project Mc2 Smart Pixel Purse offers a similar option with a pixel screen built into a purse. Kids program the screen from the app.
If you have a video game fan, check out the Mattel Bloxel Video Game Builder. Kids use blocks to create layouts in their own video games. The app digitizes the creations and makes the games playable.
Robotic toys challenge your child to use technology in fun ways. Anki Cozmo is a small robot that recognizes your face, shows emotions and does many kid-friendly movements. For Star Wars fans, check out the Little Bits Droid kit. Your child gets to build a replica of R2-D2 and then play with it.
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Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.