It’s that time of year when we’re wrapping up our Christmas lists. We’re making those final decisions on what to get our kids (and others we need last-minute gift ideas for). You might even have family members asking “what does your child really want?!”
“What do they really want?” you find yourself wondering. Oh sure—there are hot new toys every year that are in “high demand”—but do they really play with those? Or do they bring excitement for a few days, and then get set aside to collect dust?
What do kids really want? What do they really play with time and time again? What will fill your home with hours of fun (instead of piles of “stuff”?!) I polled my group of friends + the other Birmingham Mom Collective writers to find out the answer to that question. If you want to purchase gifts (for Christmas or birthdays) that elementary age kids will really play with, here are the top 5 recommendations from real moms! Plus, the gifts can all be purchased locally, so they’re perfect last-minute gifts!
#5 Craft Supplies
There’s a reason we joke about kids playing with the boxes instead of the toys! It’s because they love to use their imaginations to craft fun creations! One of my daughter’s favorite gifts a few years back was a plastic bin full of crafting goodies from her aunt. So create a fun collection of twine, ribbon, glue, googley eyes, buttons, special papers, cardboard, stickers, and other craft supplies. You’ll be amazed at how much fun a child can have when their imagination can go wild! (Just please don’t include glitter without parent approval or you might end up on the naughty list! Ha! That stuff gets EVERYWHEREEEE!)
Kids love to play dress up, and the more “open-ended” costume pieces are, the better! Our little girl has quite a few beautiful character costumes (like Raya, Moana, Belle, and Elsa), but the things she uses most are the random capes, gloves, scarves, belts, and masks in her costume box! She’ll turn a cape or scarf into almost anything, such as a dress, a veil, or some other fashion accessory. The more she can use her imagination, the better!
#3 Ride-On Toys
Bikes, scooters, wagons, and tricycles are classic toys for a reason—kids have always loved them, and they always will! They’re all great ways for a child to get in their exercise and calming sensory input, as well as some much needed fresh air.
For rainy days though, allow me to recommend our favorite INDOOR ride on toy, the Ponycycle! While this is a more expensive gift, it was absolutely worth the investment for our horse-loving girl. It functions the same way you would ride a horse (up and down in the saddle to “gallop”), but rolls forward on wheels like a bicycle. Our daughter has had hers for four years and STILL plays with it at least once a week, sometimes even every day! Her horse has been Spirit exploring the Wild West, Mulan’s horse going into battle (carrying our daughter with sword and shield), and even a unicorn named Lyria on a grand fantasy adventure!
We have a small house, but it works in our space; she is able to ride it around and around our dining room table even though it’s a tight squeeze! I love that it “goes” on carpet, rugs, tile, or hardwood and has never damaged our floors. It’s the perfect way for a kid to get out their energy and play pretend on a rainy day!
#2 Family Games
There is little our daughter enjoys more than time together playing a game. It’s a wonderful chance to connect as a family and make memories together! When she was younger, she loved the game “Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel”. From ages six to eight she just couldn’t get enough of “Trouble”! These days she wants to play “Sleeping Queens” again and again (which is wonderful, because it helps her with math too)! At every age, though, she’s enjoyed “Charades”—which is really fun to play with visitors too! (You’ll have everyone laughing before you know it!) We like this version, because it can be played by kids too young to read, as well as by adults.
And finally, the most recommended gift was. . .[drumroll please]. . .
#1 MAGNET TILES
Again and again, moms shared stories about how much their kids LOVE playing with Magnatiles and other similar-style magnetic tiles! From ages three to ten (at least) they are a crowd favorite! I’m not surprised, as my daughter asked for a bigger set last Christmas to add to her existing set because she loves to play with them so much! (Just be sure to supervise play around pets or toddlers as the magnets could be a choking hazard. We’ve never had a Magnatile break and expose a magnet, but it’s something to keep an eye on, just in case!)
In addition to Magnatiles, kids keep coming back to play with Legos, wooden blocks (our family loves the Uncle Goose and PLANTOYS block sets), and other building sets like Lincoln Logs, Zoobs, and Brain Flakes.
If you haven’t figured out a theme yet, let me spell it out for you—less tech & more imagination! Kids these days are begging for fancy toys that “do” all sorts of fun things, but at the end of the day it’s the gifts that let their imaginations run free that they come back to play with again and again!