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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Best Gifts for Kids 3-8

Even though I'm bad at gifts, I do know several excellent gifts for kids 3-8. These are not the kinds of gifts that will cause a moment of ecstasy when the wrapping is torn off. In fact, they might get a rather low-key response....or even be ignored. But long after Tickle-Me Elmo is in the donation box, your recipients will be playing with these. In fact, if you take cost-per-play (based, of course, on the cost-per-wear concept), these items are practically free.

1. UNIT BLOCKS. I bought these when my kids were little and they were played with every day for 8 or so years. They became roads, puppet theaters, and Noah's Ark. Make sure you get UNIT BLOCKS (this will embed math in your child's head); mine were maple. Twenty years ago, my set of 60 cost over $100.00. I got mine from a school supplier. Like many other things, these are now available from Amazon and are cheaper, perhaps for ecological and economic reasons that might upset us.

2. PATTERN BLOCKS. These make fantastic patterns and provide hours of fascinating play. These are fun for adults too.

3. CUBE BLOCKS. These were a particular favorite of Miss Em, who called them quilt blocks. Here is something similar.

All you need for the rest of the childhood years are a few dolls/animals, some plastic animals, some little cars or similar. Maybe a marble run.

4. OK. Can't resist that memory. Get a marble run too. You need to watch the little ones with the marbles, however.

And remember: GOOD art supplies. Your children can play with the toys du jour when they visit their friends. Their friends can play with the blocks at your house.

With the money you save on toys, you can .... do something wonderful. Your choice.

Any other good ideas?


Marcela said...

Great ideas! My kids are 2 but I'm taking notes!
Zoe loves puzzles and Luka likes building things, so these sound like perfect presents for them! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

1. Of course you will give them some book treasures! Take them to the library, of course, but everyone should have a few favorites.

2. A few bouncy balls, jump ropes, bicycles, and the like.

3. Basic musical instruments (a recorder, a glockenspiel) to complement what they create themselves. Inexpensive digital cameras are also now available. If they show an interest in adults' hobbies, find ways to nurture that.

4. If you live near a major city, family passes to local museums, zoos, etc. With this age group it is much better to go for an hour or two every few weeks than to spend the whole day on an outing once in a while.

5. High quality household items, but child sized. E.g. small baking pans will move with them through mud pies and sand sandwiches through baking a "mini" loaf reserved from mom or dad's baking through learning how to make their own. Likewise, if you garden, a space for their own seeds and a few sturdy small tools will allow them to work alongside and learn the ropes from mom or dad.

6. Stamps and envelopes for writing to distant friends and relatives (with supervision as needed).

Anonymous said...

NPR is in sync with you today, discussing the importance of less-structured pretend play where children create their own agendas and use toys symbolically. That's at Make sure you catch the sidebar which talks about strategies for modeling executive function.

Suzy said...

books! also my brother and I got a lot of mileage out of his Lincoln Logs.

Anonymous said...

The Klutz Bubble book. Kids can't use it on their own but it's a majorly fun playdate activity with an adult-- chasing ginormous bubbles.

Any kids books by Mo Willems. Also Ferdinand...and the country bunny and the little gold slippers. (We have an upcoming post on kids books we love in a couple weeks.)

DH recently made his own marble run, only it's a bouncy ball run made out of paper towel and toilet paper tubes.

Pixel blocks are small if you've got a kid who still puts things in places they shouldn't go, but they are tons of fun.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela--Oh, glad to be of help. The first two are especially wonderful. Will be posting more on this.

@MxdStratHousehld--All wonderful suggestions--will add to the list. We had memberships to the great New Orleans zoo, aquarium, and children's museum.

@Suzy--Books and logs--of course! Great suggestions.

@NandM--And every other Klutz book. Love them! Great ideas.