We sure do buy a lot of presents around here. Today seems like a good time to talk about the ones that turned out to be good purchases — the ones our kids actually played with, and that didn’t fall apart right away, and that seemed worth the price.
All the links lead to products on Amazon. I’ve mentioned many a time, I get a small percentage of each sale made using one of the Amazon links on my page. These little bits of sales really add up, and help our family out tremendously!
We get a percentage of any sale made through Amazon, as long as you got to Amazon through using one of my links. So, for instance, if I say, “Hey, this nose pencil sharpener really turned my life around!” and you click on that link, you hate the nose pencil sharpener, you keep shopping, and you eventually order a diamond nose stud instead, I will get a percentage of the sale of the diamond nose stud. I will then use my Amazon credits to buy many more nose pencil sharpeners, because duh.
Here is our list, organized according to price, from “Stocking Stuffer” to “No Complaints Out Of You; We Got You Rotten Kids a Trampoline, Didn’t We?” No remarks about our little Doctor Who problem. The pediatrician says it’s within the normal range and does not technically qualify as a disorder yet.
Note: a few of the prices may have changed in the few days it took me to put this list together! Everything is more or less the same, though.
- Dover Stained Glass Coloring Books
$1.39 and up.
Oh, so nice, and available in every imaginable theme for boys and girls. I love hanging these up in the windows, especially when it gets dark and bleak outside. Tip: color on both sides of the page, to make the colors more brilliant.
- Spock Ears
These Spock Ears are Spock Ears that go on your regular ears.
- Strongbad decal
You will need this for your car window or laptop or locker door if you ever break your . . . clavicus . . . majoris.
- Beatles Tin of Guitar Picks
As advertised. Hooray for songs with only four chords! Hooray for things that come in tins!
- 20-40X Lighted Pocket Microscope
Portable and easy to use, runs on batteries so you can bring it outside and check out bugs and whatnot.
- Shake ‘n’ Go Racers
These go really fast — and they are powered by shaking, not batteries. The harder you shake them, the faster they zoom away when you put them down. Ingenious, tons of fun, and very durable.
- Car Keys
Babies are not supposed to suck on your real car keys because of the toxins or something, but car key toys are usually made out of plastic, which is no fun for babies. So these are made out of safe metal (with flat edges, so they can’t cut their gums), they are heavy and they rattle, and the keychain has different buttons that make various car noises — but it’s muffled, so not terribly intrusive. (We like a lot of the toys from the B. company. They hold up well and are designed with actual kids in mind.)
- Set of 20 Multicolored Sky Lanterns
Fine, we haven’t actually used these yet. BUT I CAN’T WAIT. Maybe if you have a Tangled fan in the house, this would be an exciting present.
- Greek Coin Replicas
I dunno, maybe your kids would want these. We have a kid who really likes owls, so he got something similar to these, a drachma coin made into a pendant from Etsy. Neat, unexpected little present.
- Groovy Girls dolls
Smaller, soft, colorful dolls with cute hair and nice little outfits (the clothes don’t come off). Neither trashy nor simpering.
Sort of like free-form Scrabble, you race to build up a group of intersecting words, and whoever uses up their tiles first wins. You can vary the rules to make it a quick or a long game, and you can easily introduce handicaps so adults can play with younger kids. I never mind playing a round or two of this game.
- Zoetrope Animation Toy
For the doodler of the house. Make a simple animated picture on a strip of paper, fit it inside the wheel, peek through the slots, and watch it move. A very old toy, simple and cool.
- Totoro lunch bag
For the person in your house who really, really wants a Totoro lunch bag. This one is sturdy and made of soft, water-resistant fabric.
- Weeping Angel Earrings
Don’t blink. Blink and they’ll be $12.01.
- TARDIS pendant
Surprisingly heavy little piece of jewelry. A lot of the TARDIS pendants we looked at were half-TARDISes, which are only half as big on the inside. No fun at all.
- LEGO Wii games
We have Batman, Batman 2, LOTR, Star Wars Complete Sage and Clone Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, both Harry Potters, and I forget what else. Everyone agrees that Batman 2 is the best. Tons of fun, not too too loud, and they are filled with cute little weird jokes and sight gags. They involve fighting, but the people just fall apart into Lego pieces, so no gore.
- Butterfly Wings
All of our girls want wings, but nothing is more tragic than when the metal bends and the wings flop. These wings don’t have frames. Instead, they have shoulder straps and finger loops, so you can flap nicely with your arms outstretched. Durable and pretty. They come in purple, pink, and orange, and are responsible for melting the hearts of many a playground mom.
- Wooden Pattern Blocks
The right kid will find these endlessly fascinating. There are many versions. This Melissa and Doug set comes with a sturdy wooden box and several patterns to try to reproduce, or you can build your own designs.
- Snake Oil game
A hilarious family game, also good for parties. Blogged about it here.
- Tournament Chess Set with Roll-Up Board
We were SO pleased with this set. It is HUGE, the board is very tough, and the pieces are big and heavy. Great product for the price, and portable.
- Kinetic Sand
This stuff is awesome. You can squeeze it and shape it, or you can let it dribble out of your hands like . . . wet sand lace foam, or something. You can buy kits with molding toys, but cups and butter knives work fine.
- Wooden Family Doll Set
Oh my gosh, these dolls don’t fall apart. Their arms and legs and heads don’t fall off, their hair doesn’t fall out, their clothes don’t unravel, and they don’t have creepy faces that make you want to hurl them across the room. Great size for doll houses, and they come in a nice little wooden box. They also have African American families, royal families, etc.
- Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls
Wow, more Melissa and Doug! I guess I’m a fan. We had a kid who loved the idea of paper dolls, but found the little tabs endlessly frustrating. These made a nice compromise: you can mix and match the outfits, and they just stick on with magnets.
- Schaeffer Calligraphy Set
So you say you’d love to let your kids have that magical, sensual experience of writing in pen and ink, but you’re not dumb enough to turn them loose with a bottle of ink? Here is a lovely set, with 3 pens, 3 nibs, and a bunch of pre-filled ink cartridges in various colors. Also includes an introductory calligraphy booklet.
- Fairy Design Kit
Years and years later, the girls still love these. We had a friend who had the Barbie version of these — you remember! You lay the paper over it and rub over it, and the faces, bodies, and clothes magically appear. Then kids can color it in, add details, etc. Pretty fairy vignettes.
- LED rope lights
Makes rooms awesome the LED way. 16 feet of awesomeness that doesn’t overheat if your wiener kids leave them on all night.
- Curious George Tin Tea Set
TIN TEA SETS. Why did we not think of this several daughters ago? You do need to dry them off so they don’t rust, but it’s so much better than endlessly gluing broken shards together.
- 14″ Bride, Ballerina, and Princess Dolls
Pleasant faces on these dolls, who are proportioned like little girls, and not like, you know, strippers. We got three of these last Christmas, and no limbs have fallen off, and the dresses have held up for a solid year without ripping, unravelling, or even going limp.
- Bushnell Falcon 7×35 Binoculars
Heavy and easy to use, with a nice carrying case. Good price for the quality.
- TARDIS beach towel
Big and bright — works well as a wall hanging or door cover, too.
- Whirl and Twirl Swing
For little miss or mister Upside-Downer. Exactly as advertized. She whirls, she twirls, she hangs from her knees, I can’t watch.
- Wooden Chinese Checkers
and pouch of marbles$30.56
(and Sack of Replacement Marbles for Chinese Checkers $5.01)
There are cheaper boards, but this one is very big and sturdy, and the marbles stay in place. Popular with kids of all ages. And for goodness’ sake, buy the replacement marbles now. You will need them.
- Pet Vet Center
Strikes the right balance between adorable and interesting, for kids who really want to play vet, not just play puppy. The stuffed puppy has articulated joints and is posable and durable. Lots of nice details, like the X-rays and the velcro bandage, and the storage case works well.
- Jedi Fleece Bathrobe
If you saw my ten-year-old son in this, you would die. You would just die.
- Gromit Microwaveable Plush
I KNOW, this is a really expensive stuffed animal! But Wallace and Gromit toys are hard to find. This one, you can put in the microwave and it heats up and smells like lavender or something, I dunno. She likes it.
- Dragon Sword
Only to be purchased by people who want to be the best parents ever. It’s not terribly sharp, but it’s not a toy, either — more of a stage or cosplay prop. Reasonably heavy and sturdy, satisfyingly long and bright, with nice details on the dragon. The chain broke pretty quickly, but we just bought some jewelry fasteners and put it back together.
- Doctor Who 11-piece Micro Action Figure Set
As advertised. The first eleven Doctors in the palm of your sweaty little hand. A handy gift for people whose birthday is coming up right after Christmas, so you can set them up to expect one more Doctor . . .
- Buddha Board
You use the brush to paint elegant shapes with water, and it slowly evaporates. Soothing and pleasant, comes with a little easel and water pot. This also comes in a mini version for cheaper.
- Make Clay Charms Book and Kit
Such a hit! You can follow the directions (which were clearly tested by actual people, whew) to make the various charms pictured, or you can make up your own stuff. My daughter loves making and baking little figurines, earrings, and pendants for herself and for gifts.
- Roller Derby Adjustable Roller Skates for girls
The best skates we’ve found for the price, comfortable and durable.
- Chicago Adjustable Roller Skates for boys
Same review as above.
- Set of 9 Tempera Paints
Gotta have big bottles of paints, if only for that wonderful nostalgic smell.
- Doctor Who David Tenant Dress
This really barely qualifies as a dress and not a costume, and doesn’t have much structure; but on the other hand, SHE LOVES IT. And it looks great on her.
- Twilight Turtle
I shuddered at the price, but when you have four little girls sleeping in one room, and some of them can’t sleep with the light on and some of them can’t sleep with the light off, this is a godsend. It projects your choice of three colors of stars onto the ceiling, and it turns off automatically after the kid has a chance to fall asleep. Much beloved. This also calmed the whole family down during a recent power outage.
- Rody Inflatable Ride-On Horse
Pricey but very, very durable, and cute as heck. Easier to get on and off of than hopper balls. Some of the older kids even watch TV while sitting on them, which may or may not be an endorsement. Anyway, the one we have (in lime green) has stayed inflated for years, no kidding.
- Steel Toe Combat Boots
Really tough, and just as attractive as Doc Martens, in my mompinion. We looked at a lot (A LOT) of boots, even buying and returning more than one pair, before we found these, which are the best and sturdiest ones we’ve ever seen, for a really good price. My teenage daughter is really happy with hers, and they have held up well.
- Tribot Remote Control Robot
Listing this here even though I would not recommend paying the list price of $285 for it! If you can find it on Ebay or somewhere, though, snap it up. Durable, funny, easy to use, surprising, and entertaining. It is quite a noisy toy, and fairly obnoxious, but somehow endearing, and it has tons and tons of features. Its eyebrows wiggle up and down.
- Roller Coaster
Again, not sure if I would pay full price for this — unless maybe a grandparent gave me a gift card and said to buy a group gift for a bunch of little kids. We got ours super cheap when a store was going out of business, and we’ve been using it steadily for something like ten years. It has survived many winters of being forgotten in the yard under several feet of snow, and never stops being fun for little guys.
- iPod Nano
(price varies) Our kids have refurbished iPod Nanos, which we found after some hunting (they sell used and refurbished items on Amazon, don’t forget; or you could check eBay, etc.) They can play music, they can watch videos, they cannot go online. Bingo.
- 13-foot Trampoline
with net and ladder, $279.99
IT’S SO GOOD. YOU SHOULD HAVE A TRAMPOLINE. NOTHING IS BETTER THAN A TRAMPOLINE. We actually have a slightly different brand, but this one looks similar. We (shh) don’t have a net, and we used a stepladder for a ladder, so ours was closer to $200. Wonderful, wonderful purchase. Every single last person likes being on it. It lifts your mood. It wears you out. It’s funny and makes your hair stand on end. And you can lie down on it and look at the stars without bugs getting in your hair. Get the biggest one you can afford.