Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas

At Ni Hao Y'all, they are compiling a list of good Christmas gifts. So now that I've ranted about what I won't buy, here are some of the best purchases we've made for our kids over the years. Our kids range in age from 3-19, so if it made the list, it's probably stood the test of time. And kids. ;)

The Chronicles of Narnia, Audiodrama on CD

When Anakin was about 8, we bought him this radio theatre CD set. We thought it was a good deal back then at about $30. Now I see you can get the 19-CD boxed set, 22 hours total, for less than $20. That's crazy cheap. And hours of entertainment for the entire family. Ages 6 (depending on how sensitive your child is...some content is scary) to adult.

I've mentioned the most played-with toy in our house before...the over door basketball hoop. This SERIOUSLY gets played with EVERY DAY. All ages. My 3-year-old can shoot and make baskets and the bigger kids play some pretty serious ball with it. If you do a search for "basketball hoop door" you'll find a LOT of options. Ages 3 - 12. (Although my teens still play with it!)

SET is one of the best games out there. I recommend it when I lead teacher workshops and those who are familiar with it always sing it's praises. Basic concept? Lay out 12 cards and look for "sets"...a set comprises 3 cards in which all the characteristics are either completely the same or completely different. But there are many characteristics and therefore, many possible combinations. Some sets are very simple, others very complex. Kids as young as 6 can play...and sometimes beat!...adults. Any number of people can play. I've used it in homeschool co-ops before, spreading it out on a table so kids can look for sets as other kids are arriving. It's an awesome family game and is wonderful for developing mathematical skills (like looking for patterns). But it's so fun that no one notices that they're learning. Ages 6 to adult.

Fisher-Price Crazy Combo Horn Set...
While this is no longer made, you can still find it cheap on Ebay. I bought ours years ago at a garage sale. It has been played with a TON. A couple months ago I considered buying another one because the two youngest were constantly fighting over it. They use it in the way it was intended, to build and play their own unique instruments. But Anakin had a whole 'nother agenda. He'd pop pieces together to make his own toy gun. That toy has seen a LOT of use! Ages 3 (or younger...I don't think the parts are too small, but not sure?) to 7 years old.

Lego Mindstorms NXT...
Two of my kids spent 4 years in organized Lego Robotics. They used the LEGO Mindstorms NXT on an almost-daily basis. Our NXT was sponsored by a local company, thankfully, but we would have considered investing in one ourselves if we hadn't had that support. They grew tremendously through the Lego Robotics program. Highly recommend it. Our two younger kids will likely do the program as well. Ages 10 to adult.

Our favorite family game is probably Settlers of Catan. If you aren't familiar with Catan or haven't been bitten by this addictive game yet, it's well worth checking out. Over the years we've added the 5-6 player extension as well as Cities & Knights. Ages 10 to adult. (I think our kids played at younger ages with help.)

And, while we do not own this, it's what I'm coveting...a Quadrilla Marble Railway. I don't actually know anyone who owns one, nor have I touched one personally. I just think it looks very cool. ;) It's what *I* want for Christmas. :) LOL. Ages 3 - 12. (Although it's ME who really wants it!)

Other "most played with" toys in our household:
  • Legos!!!!!! (age 3+)
  • Playmobile (age 3+)
  • Fisher Price Little People, vintage (I realize that they were taken off the market for safety--choking--reason, but if kids are supervised and/or older, they are a great toy. Lots available on Ebay. My kids did not tend to put toys in their mouths and enjoyed them from ages 3 to about 8 or 9.)
  • Balls (all ages)
  • Playdough (all ages, with supervision)
  • Bubbles (all ages, with supervision)
  • Wooden Puzzles (toddlers)
  • Dolls ( big girls still have their collectible dolls)
  • Art Supplies of all kinds (all, Lizzie especially loves Polymer Clay, ages 8 to adult)
  • the OUTDOORS!

I'll post more if I think of them. What toys stand the test of time at your house?


Sue said...

Toys with lots of play value in our house:

1. Wooden train sets (Walmart brand that works with Brio trains) -- we actually have 2 sets ($30/set) and have had elaborate train setups that fill half a room)

2. Knex -- my older daughter at 6 years old could build the most complicated truck in the instruction book.

3. Plastic Horses and riders -- all kinds -- hours of pretend play for my older train building daughter

4. Dolls/even Barbies (sigh) for my younger, nontrain, Princess oriented daughter

5. Playing Cards -- Go fish, Solitaire, Crazy 8's.

6. Games: Blockus - a strategy shape game -- we have family tournaments on this game at Xmas (I bought it on a store clerk's recommendation at an independent toy shop and we now have 1 game each for every family).

7. Ikea thick wooden rings on wooden poles. This is a toddler game that has had over 11 years of play value. As a toddler you put the coloured wooden circles on the correct pole (the bottom of the pole is coloured). Then as a pre-schooler, you string the wooden rings with a shoe lace. Then as a SK-grade 1 kid, you pretend they are cookies -- or cupcakes. Honestly, this $5 or $6 toy looks like I just bought it and has had a lot of play!

8. Lovely picture books. I love reading to the kids at night. Right now, we're into the stash of Xmas books. Seriously, what's better than a book with a snuggle?!


Stefanie said...

Great ideas!!
I've got yours added and will be posting my new and improved lists this week :)
Thanks for sharing!

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