Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Toy Ideas: Our Favorites

Here's an updated list of our favorite, most-played with, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

I know that finding good, classic stuff can be hard...there is just SO much straight-out junk for kids in the stores today.

I do end up spending a little more on good stuff, but to me it's worth it, because it just gets handed down from sibling to sibling (I've had 18 years of Santa visits at our home already!), and really really played with-it's not just broken and thrown away.  I have always loved adding to our collections (and always have something to offer when those relatives ask, "What should we get them?)...whether that collection be Legos, or a train set, or Magna Tiles.

If you have some family favorites of your own, please let me know-I love suggestions.
Our family favorite books and games are here and here.

Patrick loves this puzzle-I think it was his most-played-gift last year.  

Everyone should have a big ugly plastic basketball hoop in their living room, don't you think?
I don't mind it as much when I think of all the energy the four boys burn during the 5 long months of winter.
We've tried a few different brands but this one has been the only one that has really held up to all the dunking it endures daily.

A great marble run that comes with a nice booklet of different configurations.  (I have to help Patrick with this one-Andrew who is nine can figure it out on his own.)


This is another really cool marble run that the boys get really creative with.  I often find it wrapped around my living room.

We've had this forever and it's about the only toy that makes noise that I don't mind.

Patrick and Andrew were introduced to Playmobil by their cute neighbor friends.  
Legos will always be a favorite of ours, but this collection is a little relief from the thousands of little pieces and parts, while still being "buildable" and great quality.  
They decided to start with the popular dragon land sets.

Ripstiks are probably one of the favorite outdoor toys we've purchased.  They do take some co-ordination and core muscles to master-which means it takes kids about 5 minutes to figure out.

Andrew's big birthday present this year was the Razor Electric Scooter.  He was SO excited about it, and uses it to patrol the neighborhood. 

This basic ancient scooter has suffered so much abuse from all ages of children, poor thing, but it has endured it all.

For teenagers, a longboards are all the rage.  

This particular one has just the right amount of spring.  I think Andrew's record is several hundred, no joke. It gives me a headache just watching him.

I don't even remember who asked for this once, but it's now in Patrick's closet hiding his treasures.  He loves that it is all under lock and key.  The kids have used it to play store too.

This maze is a great toy for bored kids.  From Isaac to Patrick, it's been a hit.

A nice reader left a comment about this toy being a favorite with her sports-crazy boy and I bought it for Patrick and he plays with it constantly. He is always setting up games-one time I thought he was cleaning up because all the guys were in a big pile, but he corrected me and told me he was just waiting while they all fought over the ball.  
His Christmas/birthday list this year asks for the Football Guys and the Hockey Guys .    
(I love that each of the sets comes in its own box.)

Magna-Tiles   A few of you asked me what in the world these cool blocks are when I posted this picture in one of my Ordinary Day posts.
Patrick and Andrew probably play with these the most out of any toy we own.  Honestly, they are really irresistible even to me.  All the sides of each tile are magnetized so they click together.  We bought the 32 piece set,  but this year I'm going all out and getting the 100 piece set which I would have bought in the beginning had I known this was going to be an all time favorite.

The boys also love Zoobs. We have thiscase of them.  They come with a huge set of instructions for all different types of models.  Andrew loves these (he is 8.)  Patrick (almost 4) just started being able to snap them together. Andrew is asking Santa for the Zoob car designer kit.

Build A Road set-It has little cars that DO need a battery in them just so you know, but the batteries seem to last forever, and the cars really zip around.  The kids can snap the track into all different configurations.  k.

Magna Doodle-A cheap old magna doodle has always been a favorite with each of the kids.  Patrick and I play a game where I draw something and then he guesses what it is and then he draws something and I guess.  I never get it right, go figure, and he loves that.


 Kapla blocks -My parents had a set of these at their house last year and at first I thought, "What's the big deal with a whole set of little planks?"  Well, my kids (and my husband!!!) played for hours with these things and Santa brought us our own set.  It takes concentration and skill to build with these blocks.  The set comes with a big book of ideas.


Scoot N Shoot Indoor Soccer with 2 Goals
This year's all time favorite-thank you Aunt Tracy! It has gotten many a boy tired before bed time and my boys playing together-ages 17-3. It comes with 2 nets and a different ball...one that has a flat side so it doesn't sail in the air.  What a great invention!  Except that my children, because they know I will only get mad if I hear lamps fall, use a little "real" soccer ball. There is a game at my house (in my living room) almost every evening...the furniture pushed back, teams chosen, and sweaty kids rolling everywhere.  I go hide in the den.
PlasmaCar-Andrew and Patrick wore this thing out with miles and miles of riding.  They would also wear out the tops of their shoes with miles and miles of dragging, but I didn't mind.  That energy burning exercise is all I'm looking for.

Drawing books and sketch pads.  Once in awhile Michaels will have a 50% sale for their nice sketchbooks.  I have found all sorts of drawing books at book stores.  

A vintage typewriter from Ebay.  Abbey loved this when she was younger and her friends did also.  Make sure you get one that comes with tape-they don't sell that at Office Max anymore. :)

Vintage Fisher Price (from Ebay also.)  They don't make them like they used to.

Paper Fashions Klutz book-One of Abbey's all time favorites- she played with it from about 3rd grade till about 6th grade.  (I have seen this book at Michaels also.) She received it with a big sketch book and a little pair of scissors-it comes with the all the cute paper.  She filled a big folder with fashion designs.  Aren't they cool?  When I was pregnant with Patrick she did a couple maternity designs for me.  How cute is that?

Shrink Art Jewelry Kit-Abbey also loved this craft book. She even had a little business going in 7th grade selling earrings to her classmates.  I spent many an evening, baking shrinky earrings, thinking, "Oh boy what did we get into here?"  She loved it though and could hardly keep up!

Snap Circuits -Matt (12) has always loved these and I saw Andrew (8) had it out the other day.  I have never figured it out but the kids seem to be able to make things work.  I know they've tricked me with a door bell sound before.

The Razor Rip-Rider-This thing is crazy and gives me a heart attack but all the kids love it.  It goes really fast and the wheels in the back allow you to spin in circles.  We've gotten lots of use out of it.

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Of course Legos are a huge favorite here.  My favorite is the Eiffel Tower that Matt built.  I am glad that we bought it when we did because it now sells for $1,189.  No joke.   I think Andrew's favorites are the Star Wars Lego and Lego City series.  I can't imagine life without Legos.  As you can see, they can quickly take over a room.

Jumbo Zoo Animals-This is a cheap little set of BIG zoo animals.  It's really hard to find big models of animals and I searched high and low.  These go in the bath tub, the pool, the sandbox.  Sometimes it seems that they all get along so well, and sometimes there are a few battles.

Zingo-One of my favorite games to play with Patrick, and all the kids enjoyed it through the years.

Duplos-Especially the Thomas the Train duplos.  Some of these blocks are 17 years old, no kidding.  All the kids, even Abbey, played with these.

Trains, of course!  This collection started 17 years ago and I just love it.  We started with the most basic set (and I think it was maybe just a Melissa and Doug-not a Thomas brand) and added to slowly and surely over the years.  Even with all the boys, I think it was one of Abbey's all time most played with set.  I just love those little Thomas characters.

Groovy Girls   Abbey loved these little rag dolls! She had some of the clothes that are made for them, but she would often just sew or pin her own together out of little quilting quarters I would pick up, or just plain felt.  Her and her friends would put together the cutest little outfits on these girls.

Here's some things that wind up in our stockings on Christmas  morning.  It's funny because lots of these things you can just find during your weekly grocery shop.  Mrs. Claus I'm sure is in charge of this aspect of Christmas. :)
-flashlights/headlamps for reading in bed
-new pens and pencils for school
-cheap gloves (the kind that cost $1)
-gum/breath fresheners
-socks and underwear
-for girls: little make up items, hair bands and ties, nail polish
-candy
-new toothbrushes
-dollars
-card games
-ITunes gift cards
-ornaments

75 comments:

Nicolette @ Momnivore's Dilemma said...

thanks for sharing this! you just took some of the legwork out of my shopping for the boys. {my sons are 4 and 2}...

sharing this at pinterest.

Cath said...

Such fabulous suggestions! Thanks Sarah! Don't stop doing this yearly post. Ever!

Holly said...

My kids love the Ed Emberley drawing books. We got Zingo last year after you recommended it - a hit with my youngest 2. Great list!

Proud Mama said...

I like your list. We have many of those items, and you are spot on. They are toys that get played with. Most of the stuff sold these days is total junk.

Becky @ Our Sweet Peas said...

I am up at 4:30 because my son had an accident and decided to check my google reader account while the sheets and blanket washed. I am SO glad I did.

Due to this list my 4 1/2 yr old twin boys (between Grandparents, Aunt & Uncles & us) will be getting the Zoob build a road kit, magna doodles, indoor soccer set, plasma cars & possibly zingo. AND I feel as if I may survive a Michigan winter inside with my 3 kids. YAY!

**I plan to get the magna tiles for their b-day in April and we will be all set for years of play. I appreciate the idea of not buying junk. I just added up what we would have to spend (around $100 from us and Nani & Papa can get the Plasma cars)and it is about the same amt. we'd planned but for non-junk toys. Thanks!

Paula Gale said...

wow - I struggle to know what to buy for my two - so goodness knows how you get on with 'THE list'.

A great post full of nostalgia, recognising stuff that my boys have had and even me, my sister and brothers when we were kids (lego, magna-doodle). It's not the same any more.

i'm new to your blog - came from 'Todays creative blog'... Kim did a great job of describing you blog, so I'm going to read on...

Paula x x x

Cindy said...

Great list Sarah!
Funny, I just looked up your list from last year to find the name of that magazine/book you recommended...Between! I am getting that for the girls this year!
have a happy day

S said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE your list - I so agree with you, so much JUNK out there. And the kids want every dang thing they see on tv - I need to switch to dvd's or something to avoid all the Christmas "I want that" shouts! One of my kids is a marketer's dream - he's always saying "oh mom, look at that you need that" and I just look at him and say "moon sand" or "blendy pens" and he'll look chagrined, because NEITHER of those things in reality were as cool and fun as they appeared on tv!

Thanks for some real mom tested ideas. I'll definitely be getting some of these, except the soccer net since my husband would just about lose his mind at the chaos that would ensue.

Denise said...

The wooden Thomas the train set is my all-time favourite toy. My oldest son (who turns 20 today) played with that set for years. Today I keep it in my tv room in a cupboard and it is always popular when my little nieces and nephews come over.

Grace in my Heart said...

Thanks Sarah, I appreciate this! Last year I took one of your recommendations and got E the "Find and Say It" book. I found it on Amazon for 50 cents and it's still a favorite! :)

Carrie said...

Great list! Thanks for sharing!! I am so glad to see toothbrushes on your stocking list. My husband thinks I am the only one that puts things like that in stockings. I am glad to know I am in such good company!!

sara@augustfields said...

sarah! i'm loving this...i have two of the SAME items on my list that will post tomorrow! :) :) i think when you have lots of kiddos you weed through the crapola and stick with the good toys that will last..... good post!

Mikey said...

I agree with your feelings about the toys that are available today....they are cheaply made and just not the quality that I want for my kids. I have some of my old Fisher Price Little People sets and I haunt ebay and the Goodwill for more. They are still holding up after 30 plus years.
I also like to get my shopping finsihed by Thanksgiving....Preferably the kind of shopping that is delivered to my doorstep!

knit one, knit two said...

Thank you for the ideas! I'm at a loss what to give the kids for Christmas - the boy is swimming in Lego and the kiddos have a lot of Thomas (courtesy of the boy).

Pam said...

So funny...Will has been begging for a real typewriter for months!

greg's wife said...

Love it, and thanks for the ideas. Another favorite in our home is

http://www.mindware.com/p/Amaze-N-Marbles-60-piece-Set/38035?SG=PMDDF

Santa brought three boxes last year b/c of the seven kiddos. Even the uncles are on the ground building faster/better marble routes during family gatherings.

You Can Call Me Jane said...

These ideas are great. You and I think a lot alike when it comes to kids' gifts, but there were a couple new ideas here for me- thank you! I'm going to have to think about those Zoobs!

Becky Brown said...

A Great Post. Thanks for all the ideas! I'm with you, I think the classic toys get a lot more use than the fad plastic toys. And we have two Plasma Cars and they are the all time classic!

Cheryl said...

You give the BEST ideas!

kris said...

That indoor soccer will be a great gift for my 11 yr old daughter. She is really hard to buy for and getting to the age where she is not as interested in toys any more. But she loves soccer and really all the kids will get in on that one!! I am also considering the jewelry and fashion klutz books for my other daughter for bday and Christmas. I'm going to tell my sister about Kaplan for her teenage boys, they still love legos so that might be a fun change for them. Great list!!

Heather said...

Thank you so much for doing this list...you have some great ideas. I think you just helped me get most of my shopping done! Great help.

Amy @ OurScoop said...

Thanks Sarah! This is just what I needed! I've been trying to think of fun things to get my 8 year old son. What do boys"play" at that age anyway? He loves Legos but sometimes when friends are over, the friend doesn't have the same interest. I think the indoor soccer looks like such a blast and will be a great friend game.

My husband and son were actually playing last night with a real soccer ball and I just had to hold my breath! Thanks for the tips! Your blog always inspires me!

Emily said...

Thank you! Your lists are wonderful and I've referred to older ones often.

We've been on the e-bay typewriter hunt. Any suggestions or trouble finding the ribbon/tape or other accessories?

Amy said...

Great list Sarah! Thanks! My children are Zoob fanatics too. The Zoob Car Designer set is on my 6 year old's list too. :)

Haley said...

Thanks for the great ideas! A lot of things just got added to my boys' wish list!

Mrs. E said...

Wow Sarah,
Great mines think alot. LOL I just blogged this morning about stuff. Stuff we don't need nor want.
My gift giving this year is going to be much diffent.
Have a wonderful day.
Elizabeth

Lesa said...

What else would you suggest for little girls--mine are 7 & 5 and I hate everything that is out there for this age. I know you have done other favorite toy posts so I will look in your archives, but if you have other ideas please share!

Jenny and Justin said...

thanks for sharing that was so helpful! Maybe you can show us how you store them, you're house looks so tidy!

Sarah said...

Thanks for all the ideas. I recently was admiring your cool duplo set and think I might get that one for my almost 4 year old little one.

BeingBrook said...

Love the suggestions! We already have a few of those like the Kapla blocks. I've been looking for more building type stuff since that's what my boys love to do. Great ideas!

Cat said...

Great list! We have several of these (the same big Zoob set, lots of Legos, drawing stuff, Thomas the train) but you gave me some great ideas. And I am with you on shopping online...one of those things I love about modern technology.

Karianne said...

Thanks for this post! It may have just saved Christmas at our house.

Meagan Kenney said...

Thanks for some good ideas! I literally lol'd at the vampire hooker dolls because I had a "fight" with my 6 year old last week over those darn things. Did you happen to see them in the Walmart toy catalog? We got it in the mail last week and it kept the kids quiet for hours....and then I heard, "Can I have these dolls mom?" I took a look and almost passed out! It was the vampire hookers! I told her absolutely not, that they were not dressed modestly or appropriately and Santa won't be bringing them to our home. Of course I'm , "the only mom who won't let her have them, blah, blah, blah...."

Natalie B. said...

Thanks a million...just placed an order on Amazon and now I just have a few more things for the big kids. You saved me so much time! Hello, Amazon, where have you been all my life? Love the part about the hooker dolls they have these days, sheesh...seriously people!?

Mark and Ashlie said...

Great ideas! I have never heard of Zingo before but I am adding that to my 3 1/2 year old daughters' lists. It looks like a fun one. Thanks for sharing.

Tricia said...

Thank you so much for your list! I will be returning a bunch of plastic and ordered Magna Tiles and the Rip Rider instead. I think my 5 year old will be so much happier. Thank you also for the helpful links...Amazon must be loving you!

Gina @ LivingSolutionsid said...

Thank you so much for these ideas! I have two boys-almost 3 1/2 and 1, and I think you just helped me with my Christmas lists! I love reading your blog and your perspective on life. It always seems like you write about just the thing I am thinking of/worry about/contemplating...Thank you :)

Beth said...

I don't know what it is with 6 year old girls but mine is head over heels about the vampire hookers too!! She knows there's not a snowball's chance - along with Bratz dolls, they are on my "never, ever, ever, EVER, not in a million years" list.

My boys' list mirrors yours Sarah, though one thing you didn't mention that you might like are Superstructs - along with magna-tiles, they are an everyday toy around here!

Beth said...

I love this, thank you!!!

Rebecca said...

I really enjoy your round up of good Christmas gift ideas. I've been thinking about plasma cars for my two boys, and your info about them just about sealed the deal! Thanks!

Elz said...

These are AWESOME ideas. I forwarded a few to my parents and plan on buying a few of these myself. I LOVE the idea of indoor soccer for my friend's little boy who lives where it snows all the time.

Courtney said...

Great ideas. We love Zingo. We give it as a gift all the time as well.

Sarah said...

Thanks for this. Always good to know the tried and true gifts...

Melissa Davis said...

Thanks these are great ideas!

Miranda said...

Thank you for your list. I'm ordering very soon a few things for my son off of your ideas! I love ideas from a pro-mom! :) I think we have enough legos and Thomas for now..I wanna play with something different as well! ;)

Becky said...

I LOVE it when you do this post and this year some new things I hadn't seen! Thanks.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

What an amazing list! I am off to explore Amazon and check out a few things on your list.

amy said...

What a great list!!
Magna-Tiles are amazing. My son's preschool has them and they are his favorite thing!!

Merry Advent!

christal said...

This is the best Top 20 Christmas gift ideas list I have ever seen! Thanks for these fantastic.

christal said...

This is the best Top 20 Christmas Gift Ideas list I have ever seen! Thanks!!

Midwest Mom said...

Sarah- LOVE, love, love this post. YOU are the best! Just ordered a bunch of these toys. Thanks so much! I, too, so the hooker dolls last week- Seriously? What is wrong with our society today that ANYONE would even consider buying one of those? It makes me SO sad.

Anyway, rant over. But thanks so much for all the helpful hints. LOVED this...

Have a happy Thanksgiving:)
Your loyal reader, Amy W, from the West. Suburbs of Chicago.

Ali said...

Oh...I'm so thankful for your post! Do you recommend American Girl dolls? Are they worth it!?! My daughter wants one! What about dollhouses? What type? Do you recommend doll houses? Did you build one from a kit or make your own or buy a certain brand?

This post was so helpful for a Mom tired of buying plastic useless junk!

~ Ali

mom2lots7 said...

Sarah, Thanks a million. I, too, love to shop online. Suffice to say I just hit "add to cart" several times. Due to your post, our 5 year old, Luke, is gonna be sooo happy Christmas morning :) Deb

onehm said...

LOVE this list! Thank you!!!

Alyssa said...

I've listened to your advice for almost everything since I became a mom. Your Christmas list is so great! You wrote it the day before my daughters birthday and we happened to see the plasma car in the toy store that day. Now I want one for our entire family. It is so fun. What awesome suggestions. Not only are so many toys such junk, but kids including mine have soooooo much stuff. I am petitioning for a pared down Christmas. Another suggestion I have is sleeping bags, an indoor tent and flashlights for winter camp outs inside!

haleyj said...

Loved this list! I've been instantly recycling all the toy flyers and catalogs this year. I feel like a scroogy mom, but they are just filled with junk, and my kids circle it all. Love the good for you toys you posted. Thanks for sharing!

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing.
We love Zingo too and now there is a new Zingo 1.2.3. for counting! Santa's bringing that one for us!

Mandi @ Catholic Newlywed said...

Love the Kapla blocks - I've never heard of them before, but they look like they would be so much fun! And such a simple concept (I really like "real" toys that you have to play with, not toys that do all the playing for you while you watch!).

thebradshawfam said...

Thank you so much for this post - it helped my online shopping for Christmas (and birthday - we have a Christmas baby) for our two boys. I'm so excited about Magna Tiles and Doddle Pad is our favorite "I'm pooping" distraction. =)

mouse said...

Thanks so much for sharing your list! I totally used this to Christmas shop for my cousins' kids who we'll be seeing this year, and have some great ideas for the future :) (My own son is only 1 and will be most excited about the wrapping paper, but I can still plan for future Christmases, right?)

Mom Taxi Julie said...

Some great ideas! I hate when I spend money on things and then the kids don't even end up playing with them.

My son loves to build things so several things on your list would probably be great for him.

Ryan said...

OK I'm so grateful you posted this list. We had just sat down trying to nail down a few presents for our son that is Patrick's age that isn't electronic or plastic or dumb. You just gave us some fabulous ideas.

Kristyn said...

This list is wonderful! I really needed it. Thank you!

Tricia said...

Santa ended up bringing our 3 year-old an iplay build a road and it has been a HUGE hit in the past 24+ hours. I'm seeing hours and hours of entertainment in the future. Thanks for the idea! Merry Christmas!

Shell in your Pocket said...

Love the snap circuits! GREAT toy list!

sandy toe

Michele said...

Sarah, thank you. You are so wise. I wanted to offer you a suggestion. Have you ever played the card game Spot It? It is seriously very fun for all ages. I have it and play it with my nephew who just turned 8. But it is great for younger and older kids. I don't think you will be disappointed in it. Also it is a game that offers more than one way to play.

Megan said...

Love this post! I have it bookmarked so I can find it in the future. My little guy will be about 18 months at Christmas, and I'm so unhappy with most of the stuff out there for his age group. I don't want to buy him a little laptop...please. He has some Little People and some wooden blocks, but I have no idea what Christmas will hold. Eee. I wish I could just buy some Playmobile and Legos and be done!

Elizabeth said...

That was an awesome post!!!

carol jane said...

Does anyone know of a cute tea set for a 2 1/2 year old little girl? I am having the hardest time finding a pretty one that is actually usable with a tray, and is not teeny tiny or metal. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Patti said...

I look forward to this post every year....I've gotten some great great great ideas from you! I just wanted to mention something to you about the "soccer guys" that Patrick likes... Did you know Playmobil has a soccer game?? It's AWESOME!! We bought it for my son years ago when he was 3. He's 9 and still loves playing with. It will be staying in our house forever. The soccer players feet are movable and "kick" the soccer ball so you can have a real match going on. Lots of fun! It's not a highly advertised item but still available. I have a feeling your kids would love it! :)

Amy said...

I LOVED this ! Thank you so much for taking the time to put it together! My kids are 12, 9, and 7 and like you said its so hard to find quality, lasting toys. I have a cute boardgame for you that every single one of my kids love (still). It's called Allowance Game and it's from the Toys To Grow On catalog/ website.

Sara said...

Does the typewriter plug in? I'm overwhelmed on ebay and wondering if you went the electric route or not.

Vera said...

I love your lists SO much, because after two girls I feel really lost when it comes to boys' toys. THANKS! :)

Wendy said...

Thanks Sarah! I used so many of your suggestions in the past, the plasma car was great, the flexible car track is a hit, zingo, electric typewriter (they are on etsy too)...the list goes on and on. Love it, so helpful!

Art of Dealing said...

This is still my go-to gift guide for my two boys! We just bought the zoobs for my oldest (who is 4) for Christmas and cant wait to see what he thinks. The Magnatiles were a hit last year as well as Zingo! We're in the market for a marble run, too this year. My 4 year old is really into Legos (my husband is, too) and LOVES the Lego Heroica board games. He asks to play them at least once a day - they are games intended for older kids, but we've made up our own rules to fit his age - so if you're in the market for a new board game I recommend those!