It’s finally November and I am so excited to release our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide! Below are affiliate links for your convenience.
We’ve been embracing minimalism and striving for less “stuff” for about a year now and that has greatly impacted how we approach holidays and gift giving. We re-focused our priority to “quality” over “quantity” and it has literally been life changing! I’ve shared how initially this change in mindset made me feel “guilty” – I wondered if others would think we were “depriving” our girls from things. However, the positive changes I’ve seen in my daughters over the past year has completely wiped those fears from my mind. Our home has fewer tantrums, less fighting, more creativity and more peace. The girls can easily play independently for 2 hours now…it used to be 5 or 10 minutes on a good day. I have never felt so much joy in motherhood and so much calm in my home. So to all of you mamas who are seeking that for yourselves, I SO encourage you to check out my past posts on minimalism.
Ryan and I took the leap and fully implemented the “4 Gift Rule” for Christmas last year. We were a little hesitant going into it, but ultimately it turned out to be one of the best decisions we have ever made. I promise you that none of us left the holiday disappointed or “in want”. If anything, I believe we walked away with a better grasp of what Christmas is truly supposed to be about. We both agreed that it was the best Christmas we have ever shared as a family. I wrote a detailed post about how and why we’ve implemented the 4 Gift Rule for any of you who are interested in our approach. I also shared some emotions and misconceptions about this approach in last year’s gift guide.
Our basic setup is that we give 4 gifts to each member of the family: Something they want, something they need, something to wear & something to read. On top of that, we will each have stockings, which are additional items outside of the four mentioned above. The stocking gifts are very intentional – again, I try to avoid the dollar section and the sense of buying just to fill the stockings. Our girls also receive a special “Santa Gift” each year and a gift box on Christmas Eve that has their holiday jammies and a book/movie to watch/read as a family before bed. We love tailoring all of this to meet special traditions that we want for our family.
Lastly, parents frequently ask, “What do you do about relatives and friends?” We’ve tried to share our feelings with others about gifting, but Ryan and I decided that our plan is to graciously accept any gifts given to our children without any hesitation or push back. We feel blessed that others would care enough about our girls to thoughtfully purchase gifts for them and we want them to feel showered with that love. We encourage books, outdoor play items and “experiences” (dance lessons, science center passes, etc), but what others choose to gift is ultimately up to them. Once the girls lose interest in a gift or outgrow it, we evaluate it like the rest of our belongings and anything that no longer brings value or joy to them is locally donated.
So that’s just a little information on why our family chooses the “4 Gift Rule”, but if you have any other questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or check out our previous posts on minimalism. I also highly recommend checking out last year’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide or even the 2015 Holiday Gift Guide. The 2015 one even has items for kids of all ages (including infants!). So now, without further ado, I give you our 2017 Minimalist Christmas Gifts for Kids!
Something They Want is that fun item that they are dying to get. It might be something they’ve been talking about for months, or an item you think is a little silly, but you know it will bring them joy. If they are younger, you can focus on a gift that centers around an activity that they truly love. We have found that items that foster a child’s imagination, incorporate problem solving, or promote creativity are the toys the girls go back to again and again.
- Doctor Kit: Our girls absolutely love this doctor kit! We actually have the pink version (which is strangely a lot less expensive) and I specifically chose this one because of the number of different tools and bandages it came with. The stethoscope and cell phone make noises and most of the tools have fun features. They use this with each other, on stuffed animals and even on me (:
- Kindle Fire: While we do limit the amount of screen time the girls get, I cannot say enough great things about their Kindle Fires. They are pretty inexpensive for what you get! They come with a protective bumper cover and if ANYTHING happens in the two years after purchase, Amazon will replace them for free. That means even if they are dropped in the toilet! No, it’s not a scam…one of our charging ports stopped working and they immediately fixed it, no questions asked. These are great for traveling and I really like that I can set their ages and they are given free reign to use only apps that are age appropriate for them. They have a deal where you save $65 if you buy two – which worked well since we have two kids 🙂
- I-Spy Game: I got this game earlier this year and it is hands down their favorite game. I can honestly say it is the first “children’s game” that Ryan and I don’t get bored of. It is a HUGE playing board and you hunt together at various points to find hidden objects. I love that it is a cooperative game and there are so many different cards and scenarios that you never feel like you are repeating things.
- Jumbo Animals: I was hesitant to put these on here since I also included them last year, but these animals get more use than the majority of their toys. The girls love pairing them with smaller animal figurines to make “mamas + babies”. I really am shocked at how obsessed they are with these, but I think it has to do with their big size!
- Magnet Blocks: Again, these were on last year’s guide, but to this day they are the best toy investment we have ever made. Magnatiles are stronger, so I highly recommend getting a name brand set and then adding off-brands to it. If the girls try to build with only the off-brands, the structures are a lot less sturdy and often collapse – causing tears and frustration.
- Interactive Animals: So my girls thought they wanted FurReals this year, but both Ryan and I agreed that we couldn’t justify investing $100+ on a toy that we knew they wouldn’t get very much use out of. I found these interactive toys on Amazon a few weeks ago and showed the girls and they loved them! Yes, I know to an adult they may seem “cheap” or corny, but the main thing our girls wanted was a stuffed animal that moved around the floor and made noise. At only $10-15, these completely satisfy what they wanted and we won’t feel bad if they lose interest after a few weeks. Rilynn really loved the bunny and Rowan wanted the pig, so they will be wrapped under the tree come Christmas.
- Wooden Rainbow: We absolutely love our wooden rainbow and it’s been really neat to see all of the things the girls do with it. I made the decision to purchase ours from a small business and I have nothing but good things to say about the quality! The Grimm’s Rainbows are also available on Amazon if you prefer to purchase it there.
- Vet Kit: We have a similar toy and it gets a lot of use, but I wish I had seen this one back when we purchased it! Ours only came with four items and the dog, but even so, the girls absolutely love it.
- Legos: My nephews are obsessed with Legos and sent Rilynn her first set for her birthday. Both girls LOVE the one she was given and they have a bunch of other sets as well.
Something They Need is a category that has a ton of flex to it. It could be a new backpack or pair of shoes or maybe a college student needs a new tablet. It can also be something that you deem important to your child or family goals! One of the things I am most passionate about is getting the girls outside and for that reason, we love outdoor play items for this category.
- Sleep Training Clock: We really struggled with the girls waking up when it was still dark out, so this is a perfect gift for families in a similar situation. Once we got a sleep training clock for them they instantly understood what we had been trying to verbally teach them for weeks.
- Garden Table: I absolutely fell in love with this when I saw it! We currently have a water table that gets tons of use, but if we ever replace it, this will be my top pick. We are planning to plant a real garden in the spring and I think the girls would love having their own “garden space”.
- Logic Games: Both girls either take a nap or have a quiet time each day, so I’m always looking for quiet things that they can do independently. We got both the one above for Rilynn and the toddler one for Rowan as their “need” gifts this year. Based off of my research and all of the positive reviews, I believe they will enjoy these for years to come.
- Science Kit: Both this science kit and these science tools are highly rated and they make an excellent hands-on gift for a child. They can be used with the provided instructions or used in free play to stretch their minds and imagination.
- Chore Chart: I absolutely love this chore/activity chart! We have it in our homeschool space and its purpose is to give the girls structure for their day. I let them help me set the “schedule” and it gives them a visual representation of what our day will look like or what is coming next. This is a beautiful tool to establish a daily family rhythm in your home.
- Sleeping Bag: This is a great, creative gift idea for little ones. They have a ton of different designs – I personally like the adorable furry animal ones.
- T-Ball or Basketball: These came in second place for the girls this year (we are getting them the scooters below), but I know we will be getting these in the near future!
- Letter Tracing Board: We own a ton of different items from this shop, but their tracing boards have been so wonderful for us. It’s the best way I’ve found to encourage Rilynn to write her letters or number correctly. The girls also love filling the carved out letters with marbles or other objects in order to “trace”.
- Tricycle or Scooter: I did A LOT of research surrounding these items. Initially, Rowan was getting the trike, but due to how tall she is, she will be getting a scooter along with Rilynn. We love going on walks and out to local parks and we still felt they were too young for bikes. In addition, we do not have a garage, so for now, these scooters are a great, compact option for outdoor play. After looking at dozens of scooters, I ultimately selected this one based on excellent reviews, the high weight limit and the fact that the front handles can adjust as your child grows.
Something To Wear is also a fun category to get creative with. This can be a clothing item, but also something like accessories, towels, makeup, perfume, etc!
- Backpack: This is what I consider a very good investment. I have an adult size Kanken and I use it as my purse/diaper bag. They are extremely well made, durable and they don’t hurt your back. They are spacious and make wonderful travel bags. The best features are that they can be carried as either a backpack or purse/handbag by adjusting the straps and the snap on the handles allows you to attach it to things (like a stroller or shopping cart!). We got the girls a pink and lavender one in the mini size for Christmas. These bags are made to last forever!
- Dress Up Clothes: We’ve tried a lot of dress-up items and not all are created equally. My biggest pet peeves are items with zippers, things that can’t make it through the wash without unraveling and scratchy material. This is the best line of dress-up clothes I’ve found. Everything is durable, soft and designed so that kids can get them on without any assistance. The girls just got another one of their dresses in their Halloween baskets and they still have yet to disappoint. They have great items for boys too!
- Hand Puppets: A creative twist on a wear gift, the girls love playing with these at the library. Another great option is finger puppets.
- Shoes: I purchased these particular shoes for the girls (in black and gray) earlier this year and they are a fantastic buy. I made sure to get them a little big and they will last for at least another year. They are great because they look cute with everything and still look fine as they get dirty and worn in. They never complain about being uncomfortable and they wear them frequently.
- Robe: Our girls love their robes. It seems like a small or unnecessary piece of clothing, but for some reason, they are obsessed with them.
- Headphones: These are great because they filter sounds for little ears in order to protect their hearing. We love using our headphones in the car or on planes when we are traveling.
- Bows: I am very picky about bows and really prefer the hand-tied ones. We absolutely love this shop and all of the various styles and sizes that she offers! Most of all, I am very adamant about buying our bows from a small business so that I can support another mom!
- Blanket: We love snuggling up and reading books or watching movies. I highly recommend investing in a high-quality blanket – they last forever so that you don’t have to keep buying new ones every year or two.
- Helmet: There are hundreds of designs and this is a great practical gift that your child can get a ton of use out of.
Something To Read is pretty self explanatory. We are trying to choose Classics, Living Books, or special vintage book sets for this category. I also love the idea of choosing books that can be used for years to come (like the books above featured in our literature units).
- Women in Science: We love this book and it’s celebration of strong, intelligent women through history. They also just released another volume focusing on women athletes.
- My First Dictionary: We have the version pictured above and the girls really love it. The illustrations are gorgeous and they have see-through pages throughout that let kids “see inside” of things. You can still purchase our version, but they also offer an updated version as well.
- Julia Rothman Series: Some of the best books I’ve ever owned. If you’ve seen these then I am sure you feel the same. They are wonderful for nature study or just learning about the world around you. I am hoping she comes out with more books for the series – we already own the first three.
- Botanicum and Animalium: Breathtaking illustrations and interesting facts, they “lay out a museum” on the pages of these books. They are great additions to any home library.
- Poems For Every Day Of The Year and Poems For Every Night Of The Year: I did not grow up liking poetry. It was always overwhelming to hear other moms talk about incorporating poetry into their homeschool…until I found these books. I wanted to be passionate about poetry, but I did not know where to start. These beautiful books have a poem per day – chosen based on the day or holiday or season. It also shares fun facts about the poem. I will be formally introducing these into our morning basket and bedtime routine after the holidays for next year!
- Maps: Another one of our favorite books and one of the most requested in our instagram pictures. It boasts illustrated maps from around the world with facts laid out in pictures across the maps.
- Lillypost: Our favorite book subscription box for those of you looking for a creative book gift. We’ve had both the board and picture book boxes and we’ve never received a book we did not like. I also love that they wrap each book individually so the girls can unwrap them every month.
- B is for Breakdancing Bear: More parents have purchased this book than any other book I’ve ever suggested. This was the way I got Rilynn excited about letters and what led her to agree to write. It’s a fun activity book with a giant version of every letter and a ton of activities and stickers that will excite your child.
- A Year Full of Stories and A World Full of Animal Stories: I am a sucker for beautiful illustrations and for classic stories. These two books are lovely. They take your child around the world over the course of a year and share stories, myths and fables that even you may not know. I love that they are matched to the month and season you are in and that they introduce you to other cultures and holidays.
- A is For Apple and 1, 2, 3, Count With Me: Each thick page has the letter or number carved into it so that your child can “feel” them. They also have a flap to lift with objects that pertain to the letter or number. Two of the best books I’ve ever gotten the girls.
Like I said above, we still plan to do stockings each year! Our goal is to find quality items that our girls will actually use, instead of just buying little trinkets to make sure the stockings are full. Besides the items below, there are also some great ideas in our Creative Easter Basket post I did last year!
- The Sweet Smell of Christmas: Such a precious book that some of you may remember from your childhood! It’s a sweet little story filled with scratch and sniff Christmas items on some of the pages. We got this book for our Christmas Eve box this year.
- Hand Bells: We had a cheap music set for the girls when they were younger, but they used it so much that it fell apart. I’ve slowly been collecting quality music items now that we are rebuilding our stash and the girls are getting these (4 bells each) in their stockings.
- Weather Playdough Stamps: We are big play dough fans and I am in love with the play dough stamps in one of our favorite Etsy shops. She makes these weather stamps, bird feet prints and more. Such a great way to incorporate science and learning into play!
- Miniature Stuffed Animals: My girls love carrying handheld dolls and figures around the house, so we usually try to find one for each holiday. I found these two “bunny sisters” for their stockings this year.
- Shopping List Game: I’ve recommended this for years on my blog and I continue to stand behind this game. Both girls love it and they’ve been able to pick it up around 1.5-2 years old. It’s inexpensive and comes in a small box, so it makes a great game to travel with.
- Christmas Puffy Sticker Activity Book: We’ve had a bunch of these over the years and the girls love them. They are reusable puffy stickers that come with a folding book. They use the stickers to pretend play on the scenes. We especially love these for traveling since they are compact and the stickers are stored inside the pages.
- Bow + Arrow: An adorable play bow and arrow set from one of our favorite Etsy shops. Perfect for pretend play or adventures outside.
- Block Crayons: We own the 16 pc. block and stick sets. I will never buy another brand of crayons. We’ve had these for over a year and they barely look used. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was to invest in quality art supplies. It makes a HUGE difference. These are extremely vibrant and blend together more like an oil pastel would.
- Wikki Stix: These are fun for mess-free art time. They are also reusable which is great!
- Christmas Activity Book: We love these activity books and got each girl one for their stocking. These are awesome for quiet time, car rides, restaurants, etc.
- Decorate A Christmas Tree: It’s a tiny sticker book with a tree and a bunch of stickers that a child can use to decorate it. Just a fun little activity for Christmas morning that only cost me a little over $1. We got one for each girl.
- Hot Potato: Ryan owned this game as a child and I had never heard of it! After he showed it to me I knew it would be a hit with the girls, so this will be in one of their stockings this year. It’s very simple – pass the potato around while he plays music and don’t get caught with him once the music stops. It’s something that almost any age child can play.
- Playsilk: Your mind would be blown with how entertaining a playsilk can be for a child. Our girls use them for so many activities and they were worth investing in. We bought ours from an Etsy shop that is currently closed, but I linked to one on Amazon. I cannot stress how much better it is to invest in the 100% silk ones. They hold up to anything – including trips through the washing machine. I personally feel they are worth every cent we spent on them and Ryan agrees – even though he thought I was crazy when I bought them last year.
Hopefully you found these resources to be helpful! If you aren’t already following along, we would love your family to join our letter units or literature units. These activities are geared towards infant – preschool aged children. The community that has stemmed from the units has been an incredible blessing to our family – we’ve made lifelong connections and friends around the world!