Christmas is almost upon us (in shopping terms at least) but I’ve made a point of buying earlier this year, to avoid the mad rush nearer to Christmas Eve.
The problem with shopping for Christmas presents for kids is that:
1. Sheer volume of toys available can be overwhelming
2. Too many toys aren’t focused on stimulating imagination and creativity
3. Three words: “cheap plastic junk”; also: “not made to last”.
4. Toys made to look better than they are, ie, kids get bored of them quickly
With those issues and time constraints in mind, I’ve already made a point of buying most of the main toys for my kids.
I also made a point of getting some things that were either educational or just plain unusual, not least because they play on an ever diminishing sense of wonder I want to preserve for a time.
So, here are a few of the things I’ve been buying for the children:
1. Mood Beams
Something simple for kids first – a nice novelty toy in the form of cute little monsters, which can glow and flash a range of colours.
There are a range of glow/flash modes, and with a full rainbow of colours, should keep the children amused on those dark Winter nights.
While probably aimed at the younger children, I can see even my eldest getting something out of these, so I’ve made sure they all get (a different) one each.
More here: Mood Beams
I think this is an absolutely brilliant idea – after all, how many children aren’t fascinated by dinosaurs?
And here’s a set that will let them hatch a set of little creatures from dinosaur times.
In that way, it helps stimulate an interest in the past, nature, their imaginations, and even teaches some basic responsibility in terms of looking after animals.
They are easy to look after, but only live long enough to create a sense of fascination – usually a few weeks to a few months, so it’s hard to go wrong with aquasaurs.
One of the benefits over a set like this over an ant farm of similar is that you get the creature’s eggs with the set, which you don’t with ant farms – so it’s ready to get started as soon as it’s unwrapped.
As a little tip, though – if you do buy an aquasaurs set, it may be worth buying some extra eggs to keep the wonder going – so I’ve also bought a set of Triops eggs.
More here: Aquasaurs
3. Moon in my Room
Children are naturally fascinated by the moon and stars, and Moon in my Room brings that magic inside.
The really nice point about this is that no matter the weather outside, the kids can still see the moon changing.
It also gives them a chance to understand the basics of the moon’s phases, and why they happen.
Which means the toy plays on their sense of wonder, yet still manages to educate, which is often too rare in gifts these days.
More here: Moon in my Room
4. Bubble Gun
And now back to something sheer fun – bubbles. More specifically, a little gun that will produce looks of bubbles very quickly.
Kids always love stuff like this, and one of the frustrations with blowing bubbles for younger children is that it can seem a bit hard, and stuff gets spilled.
The bubble gun gets around that, making the whole experience more fun and spill-free.
More here: Bubble Gun
5. Elephant Poo in a Box
Children love animals, but even better than that, poo is funny.
Now you can bring both together, create a smile, and also let them get creative growing by getting them an Elephant Poo in a box gift.
It’s a box that contains real elephant dung, which isn’t particularly smelly or unhygienic like some types of poo can be, and it also comes with rose seeds for growing.
Normally we buy seeds for the garden to help encourage their interest, but in this case, you can add an element of laughter into it as well for the younger children.
More here: Elephant Poo in a Box
6. Mind Magician Book
Buying for older children can be really hard. They won’t play with some types of toys because they see themselves as “too old”, and their overall sense of wonder with the world can be very much diminished.
However, I’ve found that magic tricks can be a really great way to tap into a sense of wonder, allow them to feel clever, and also amuse the family when they try any of the tricks out.
This book is pretty good in that only very basic materials are required, ie, pack of cards, a penny, etc, so you don’t need to worry about losing bits of pieces.
Often a very good buy for older children.
More here: Mind Magician Book
7. Space Putty
Space Putty is so bizarre – and great for challenging children’s preconceptions about the world.
In a way like the “silly putty” that used to be available years ago, space putty will bounce, shatter, tear, stretch, and snap. You can bend it and stretch it, and then it’ll melt into itself.
It’s a nice novelty gift because it’s just so weird, and there are also a number of varieties around, namely based on their colour, so you can get different types if you have more than one child, so they all have something different and won’t argue over each others.
More here: Space Putty
8. Hologram Chamber
Another strange, challenging, and clever toy – a hologram chamber.
Rather than producing true holograms using lasers, it instead uses a clever combination of mirrors so that anything placed in the small chamber will produce a floating reflection above it.
The result is just like a hologram, but safer, and you’ve got to see your child’s expression when they try touching what looks like a solid object, only to find there is nothing actually there.
A fun novelty learning toy to challenge minds and help with learning.
More here: Hologram Chamber
9. Fossil Shark Teeth
Back to dinosaur times again, this time with fossil shark teeth.
Children always remember what sharks are once they hear about them, and once they know they can find remains of living things from dinosaur times in the form of fossils, beach combing can take on an extra dimension.
While having the actual fossil teeth cheats the finding process, it does give the children something to focus on, and again, has the excellent educational elements crossing both the natural world of today, with the prehistoric world.
More here: Fossil Shark Teeth
10. Micro Talking Dalek
I love watching Doctor Who, but as a parent I have to be careful – simply put, the kids can get scared easily by the monsters.
And few Doctor Who nasties can be as scary as the Daleks.
However, these Micro Talking Daleks are harmless and fun, and by toruning the Dalek into an enjoyable toy, means they can be hardened against being scared by Daleks on the telly.
That’s the theory, anyway – I won’t know it’s proven until after Christmas morning. Which helps give time for the Doctor Who Christmas Special later that day. :)
More here: Micro Talking Dalek