2016 gift guide for kids

I’m always looking for new or different gift ideas for my kids, and I love a good gift list. I have worked hard to make a list of toys that my kids love and that have held up well over time. The majority of the toys on the list we own and love; a few are ones my kids will be getting for Christmas that we have tried out somewhere else.

Free shipping from Target and Amazon: As you’re doing your shopping, keep in mind that Target has free shipping on everything now through Christmas, and if you don’t already have Amazon Prime, now is a great time to sign up for a 30-day free trial.

Dramatic play

fort-magic-castle

Fort Magic: Fort Building & Construction Toy Kit

This is what my kids are getting for Christmas this year, and I am so excited about it! Fort Magic is a 354-piece fort building set. Not only can you build forts, it comes with instructions for many different construction projects. I love that it is creative, but also that they are big sturdy pieces to make forts large enough for kids to really play in long term.

View this item: Fort Magic: Fort Building & Construction Toy Kit
firehouse

KidKraft Everyday Heroes Play Set

This is basically a fire station version of a doll house. I love the detail and the various options for creative play.

View this item: KidKraft Everyday Heroes Play Set
superhero will

Wonder Crew's Crewmate: Superhero Will

My 6-year-old son has been wanted a doll for a while now, I’m so excited to have found this Superhero Will doll. The Superhero Will doll, also comes with a cape and mask for your son or daughter.

View this item: Wonder Crew's Crewmate: Superhero Will
Playfully Delicious - Gourmet Kitchen

Kitchen

There are probably hundreds of kitchens to choose from; many of my friends have made their own. Our kitchen is hands-down one of the 5 most used toys in our house. It always surprises me how early my kids started playing with the kitchen. I think a kitchen is a great gift starting at 18 months.

View this item: Kitchen
pots & pans from Melissa & Doug

Pots & Pans

I have had a variety of pot and pans over the years, but these are by far the most popular. I think it is because they look like real pots and pans. We also really like this cooking utensil set.

View this item: Pots & Pans
ffod

Play Food

There are so many options when buying play food. Personally, I love New Sprouts play food. We have quite a few sets, but if you are looking for something a little different, check out some of our favorites: waffles, soup, and seasoning set.

My kids also love this felt pizza set from Melissa & Doug.

View this item: Play Food
Cash Register

Play and Teach Cash Register

We have been through at least 3 cash registers in the past few years. This is the only one that has held up well.

View this item: Play and Teach Cash Register
dinosaurs

Dinosaurs

My boys create elaborate stories with their dinosaurs and blocks.

View this item: Dinosaurs
costumes from Melissa & Doug

Melissa & Doug Costumes

We have received many of these as gifts over the years and they are the only costumes we have owned that are still in great shape despite their daily use. They are super easy to put on, which is also a big selling point. There are many choices available. We have chef, fireman, knight, pirate, veterinarian, and construction worker.

View this item: Melissa & Doug Costumes
plamobil

PLAYMOBILE

Oh, I love PLAYMOBIL!  A lot of the sets are recommended for ages 4–10, and they do have lots of little pieces. These sets are so well made and so detailed. They also have SO many options! No matter what your child is interested in, they probably have a set for you. We have one of the PLAYMOBIL Castles and the Animal Care Center.

View this item: PLAYMOBILE
calico critters

CALICO CRITTERS OR LI'L WOODZEEZ®

I love these playsets. There are so many options to choose from you can set up a whole town! Calico Critters are great quality but very pricy. Li’l Woodzeez are the Target version and significantly cheaper. My daughter has sets from both brands and they work really well together.

View this item: CALICO CRITTERS OR LI'L WOODZEEZ®

Building

magnetic tiles

Magnetic Tiles

I put off buying these for quite a while because I wasn’t sure they would be worth the money. They are worth every penny. These babies get used every day in our house! We have Magna-Tiles® brand.

View this item: Magnetic Tiles
duplos

Lego Duplo

Duplo’s are a great first building set for preschoolers.

View this item: Lego Duplo
lego figures

Lego

Everyone knows Lego is extremely popular. While the kits can be fun, they are often built and then forgotten. Instead of investing in many building kits, I have bought sets of Lego figures,  Lego wheels,  Lego doors and windows, Lego building plates, and boxes of just bricks.

View this item: Lego
knex

Kid K'nex

This is another building set that is great for older preschoolers and early elementary school. We also have a transportation set that includes wheels and instructions to make different kinds of vehicles.

View this item: Kid K'nex
knex

K'nex

These K’NEX are a great next step for older builders.

View this item: K'nex
wooden blocks

Wooden Blocks

A nice wooden block set is a great classic toy. My kids use their set often for building towers as well as accessories when playing with animals or cars.

View this item: Wooden Blocks
bristle blocks

Bristle Blocks

Bristle Blocks are great for toddlers and preschoolers. They are super easy to stick together and give your kids the ability to make all kinds of things. My 2-year-old loves building airplanes and cameras.

View this item: Bristle Blocks
marble-run

Marble Run

There are a lot of options when it comes to marble runs, I’ve found Marble Genius Marble Run Super Set to be easy to use and put together for a variety of ages. If you have older kids, Trix Tracks may be a good option. We have several sets and while our kids really do like them, they need an adult to help set them up.

View this item: Marble Run

Transportation

garage

Melissa & Doug Service Station Parking Garage

My boys love this garage. They especially love that it includes a car wash. I like that it has a lot of elements of play, without taking up a ton of space. It has also held up so well with tons of play.

View this item: Melissa & Doug Service Station Parking Garage
car mat

Car Play Mat

If you have a car lover in your house, a car play mat for them to drive their car is a great gift idea.

View this item: Car Play Mat
flexible track

Neo Tracks

Neo Tracks are flexible car tracks that snap together to create endless designs. The battery-powered cars drive themselves around whatever design is created.

View this item: Neo Tracks
farm

Fun on the Farm Set

My 3-year- old plays with this set of tractors daily. I bought a bag of small pom-poms at the Hobby Lobby and he uses them constantly with both his tractors and his construction vehicles.

View this item: Fun on the Farm Set
train table

KidKraft Train Set and Table

I recently bought a KidKraft Train Set and Table off of Craig’s List and my boys love it. I like it more than other sets because it isn’t just for trains. It also has cars, boats and whole play scene.

If you don’t have room for a train table, they also sell sets without the table, which are really nice as well.

View this item: KidKraft Train Set and Table

Active play

Bow & Arrow

Bow and arrow

I bought a set of these when we were on vacation this summer and I think I have just as much fun with it as the kids do! The arrows (which are not real arrows) are sold separately.

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swurfer

The Swurfer

The curved shape of this swing gives kids more power and stability while soaring side to side through the air.

View this item: The Swurfer
cup stacking

Sport Stacking Set

I will be honest and say I wasn’t sure if this would be worth the price, but it definitely is. The mat has a timer built into it, so you can try to beat your own time or someone else’s. We have had a lot of fun with this at family gatherings. Everyone from the kids to the grandparents try to beat each other’s times.

View this item: Sport Stacking Set
balance bike Strider

Balance Bike

I love balance bikes so much someone should really pay me to advertise for them! All 3 of my older kids started riding a balance bike around age 2. During bike rides, people have often stopped us to ask about the balance bike and commented how impressed they are by it.

My kids each transitioned to a regular bike in one day with no issues because they already learned how to balance on their balance bike. I should also add that my kids also rode theirs in the house, which helped get their energy out in the winter.

View this item: Balance Bike
tumbling mat

Tumbling Mat

This is one of the best purchases I have made for my kids; it gets used constantly! It is great for practicing gymnastics, wrestling or my kids even stand it up on its side to use it as a wall when they are building a fort.

View this item: Tumbling Mat
river stones

Gonge Riverstones

These stones are great for building an indoor obstacle course or for playing “don’t touch the floor.”

View this item: Gonge Riverstones
indoor gym

Doorway Swing Set

I think an indoor swing set is an awesome idea! I know someone who has one and they rave about it. If you don’t want one with multiple attachments you can also get a Doorway Swing. One of these is high on my list for us this year.

View this item: Doorway Swing Set
croquet

Color Croquet

This croquet set is perfect to set up in your living room or playroom for fun active play when it is too cold to go outside.

View this item: Color Croquet
trampoline

Trampoline

There are many kids’ trampolines to choose from; I like this one because it is large enough for 2 kids to jump at a time.

View this item: Trampoline
Spooner Board

Spooner Board

This board helps to simulate many boarding sports, like skateboarding. My kids love balancing and spinning on it and I am pretty sure it is indestructible.

View this item: Spooner Board
table tennis to go

Table Tennis To Go

We have this set, and it is a nice alternative when you don’t have room for a full ping-pong table. It is nice that it fits onto any table.

View this item: Table Tennis To Go
boochie

Gamewright® Boochie

I really like this game; we use it as an indoor game during the winter. You throw the target ball and then throw your ring and bean bag balls to earn points. It even comes with a score keeper to wear on your wrist.

View this item: Gamewright® Boochie
hockey-set

Franklin Sports 2-in-1 Goal Set

This set is easy to fold down and put back into the storage bag, which is a huge plus for me!

View this item: Franklin Sports 2-in-1 Goal Set
kids-dvd

Exercise DVD for Kids

This DVD is great for younger kids, my kids got it as a gift a few years ago and still enjoy it.

View this item: Exercise DVD for Kids

Science

weather

Weather & Climate Kit

This is on my son’s wishlist this year; he is obsessed with weather and will love studying it and doing experiments.

View this item: Weather & Climate Kit
snap curuits

Snap Circuits

Snap Circuits has easy to follow instructions that help kids learn how every day electronics function. They’ll also gain valuable lessons in building and in following instructions.

Snap Circuits Jr is also available for younger kids.

View this item: Snap Circuits
microscope

Miscroscope

My son is also getting this set of pre-made slides.

View this item: Miscroscope
metal-detector

Children's Training Metal Detector

This one is on my son’s list this year. I am excited to see him out exploring and treasure hunting.

View this item: Children's Training Metal Detector
science lab

Science Kit

Mixing water with a little food color is a great learning experience for preschoolers; or use them for experiments as your kids grow. My kids LOVE this set!

View this item: Science Kit
moon

Moon in my Room

My kids have this moon on their bedroom wall and are excited every night to turn it on. It even shows the 12 phases of the moon, so if your kids are interested in space, it would also make a great gift.

View this item: Moon in my Room

Individual play

sandbox

My Little Sandbox

My kids received two of these as gifts a few years ago and it is still one of their favorite toys. I love it because it really isn’t very messy and it keeps them entertained for a long time. There are many themes to choose from— fairies, dinosaurs, pirates, princesses, construction, a farm and more.

View this item: My Little Sandbox
sand

Sands Alive

We have tried several different kinds of kinetic sand and this is hands-down our favorite.

View this item: Sands Alive
Stacking pegs & peg board

Stacking Pegs & Peg Board

This has been popular with all my toddlers and preschoolers. It really is one of my favorite quiet activities for that age group.

View this item: Stacking Pegs & Peg Board
water-wow

Melissa & Doug Water Wow

I keep this in my purse for restaurants or other places we need to wait, and it is almost always fought over.

View this item: Melissa & Doug Water Wow
castle2

Castle Logix

Use challenge cards to build the castles pictured. There are are various levels of challenge from easy to expert. If you have a child who loves puzzles, this would be a great option.

View this item: Castle Logix

Games

rush hour

Thinkfun Rush Hour

Set up the traffic challenge and battle the gridlock as you slide the blocking vehicles out of your way to find a path for your red car to exit. This game features four levels of difficulty, allowing players to progress at their own pace. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

View this item: Thinkfun Rush Hour
dinner

Beginning Dinner Games

Waterproof cards that have conversation starters and games to play at meals.

View this item: Beginning Dinner Games
card-holder

Card Holders

If you play card games with kids, I can’t recommend these enough; they really do work so well.

View this item: Card Holders
headbandz

HedBanz: The Quick Question Game of "What am I?"

Kids ask yes or no questions in order to guess what the picture is on their headband.

View this item: HedBanz: The Quick Question Game of "What am I?"
qu

Qwirkle

A simple strategy game for ages 6 and up. Even my husband and I enjoy playing this one.

View this item: Qwirkle
darts

Magnetic Dart Board

We really enjoy this dart board. The magnets are super strong, and we have never had an issue with them not staying on the board.

View this item: Magnetic Dart Board
klask

Klask

Klask is a magnetic game of skill. You control your game piece with a large magnet under the table. The goal is to move the ball down the board, avoid the obstacles and score a goal.

View this item: Klask
busytown

Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It

Busytown is a great co-operative game for preschoolers. Players need to work together to make it to their picnic lunch.

View this item: Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It
parcheesi

Parcheesi

Parcheesi is a classic, but it is definitely our favorite game right now. I like it just as much as my 7-year-old does!

View this item: Parcheesi
knock hockey

Knock Hockey

Think air hockey without the air. I really enjoy playing this with my kids, and I also love that it easily slides behind the couch!

View this item: Knock Hockey

Arts & crafts

kwik stix

Kwik Stix

Paint sticks for painting with no mess and it dries in only 90 seconds. The quick drying time is a big selling point for me!

View this item: Kwik Stix
dot a dot markers

Dot-A-Dot

I love these for toddlers and preschoolers! It is the fun of paint without the mess. You can also get activity books that are designed to go with them.

View this item: Dot-A-Dot
sticker

Melissa and Doug Sticker Pads

Melissa and Doug makes several different kinds of sticker pads. These are great for non-messy play at home or for travel.

View this item: Melissa and Doug Sticker Pads
airplanes

The Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes

My boys love making paper airplanes with these papers.

View this item: The Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes
drawing

LCD Writing Tablet

My son loves to draw but he can go through a mass amount of paper in just a day. He is getting this board for Christmas to hopefully give him an outlet to draw without the mass paper waste. Don’t worry, he will still be able to use paper too.

View this item: LCD Writing Tablet

Baby/young toddler

tunnel mat

Foamnasium Mats

We love these mats. I got them right after Titus’s 1st birthday. He loved climbing on them then as much as now at age 3. What surprised me is how much my older kids play with them. The mats get used almost everyday in our house. There are a bunch of options to choose from— we have the tunnel, the wedge, and the stairs.

View this item: Foamnasium Mats
slide

Slide

A slide is always a good idea!

View this item: Slide
piggy bank

Piggie Bank

I will be honest, I didn’t think this toy would get played with very often. Turns out I was wrong. It was Titus’s favorite toy for quite a long time. He just loved fitting the coins into the bank.

View this item: Piggie Bank
bug jug

Melissa & Doug Bug Bag

What baby doesn’t love putting things into a container and pulling them back out? The bugs also have different textures and some rattle or make a crinkling sound.

View this item: Melissa & Doug Bug Bag
shopping cart

Shopping Cart

I loved using a sturdy shopping cart for my kids’ first walking toy. Sturdy is the key word if you are using it to help a new walker. The great thing about using a shopping cart is that it is also a fun toy as your child grows.

View this item: Shopping Cart

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12 comments on “2016 gift guide for kids”

  1. You always have so many cool things…and things I have come across over the year and have forgotten about and now you have it all in one place! The magnetic tiles…THE BEST! My kids are always fighting over ours!

      1. Last year I got both big girls a used iPod shuffle to listen to audiobooks. I got one from craigslist and one from Amazon. Both were $40. Greatest Christmas present ever!

  2. Question: does that kids vacuum cleaner really work? If not, would it be illegal to give my kids a working small vacuum for Christmas? 😂 I’m totally thinking about it now. 🤓

    1. The vacuum does suck up a little bit of stuff, but no where close to a regular vacuum. I vote you totally get them a real one, might as well get a cleaner floor out of the deal!

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