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Low-tech, low-cost gifts that kids love!

I’ve seen several “Best Gift” lists already this year, and with Christmas quickly approaching I wanted to offer you one of my own.  I worked together with my daughter to put together our own list of Top 10 gifts.  This one is a little different though.  You will not find the latest fad gift or cartoon character on my list.  You will not have to camp out at 3:00 AM or wait for backorders to arrive.

What you will find:

* No assembly required

* No batteries, cords, or wires required (therefore, no headphones needed!)

* Suitable for big or little kids – as young as 1 or as old as teenagers for many of these items

* Each gift could be purchased for $10 or less (with one exception that is $25 or less)

* Toys can be played with alone, or with friends

* Toys that encourage creativity, imagination & physical activity

* Receiving duplicates of these gifts is not a problem

Could these really be things kids would like? Not only would they like them, I dare say these are some all-time favorites of most kids! These are things that won’t just end up in the next garage sale after playing with them twice. 

I know for my 6 year old daughter, the things on this list are always winners!  We’ve had some great gifts given to her in the past, but so often they get played with a couple times and then she goes right back to her old favorites.  Sure, the new toys are great for a few hours because they are new, but soon they are forgotten or become uninteresting.  This has happened multiple times over the past couple years.  I really don’t know why we ever steer away from this list because these are the things that she will ALWAYS play with.  She doesn’t outgrow them, they don’t become unpopular, they don’t wear out or get annoying.

I love the toys on this list because they are simple, frugal, & fun.  I like toys that will last and be played with again and again. 

We try to keep “batteries required” items to a minimum for a few reasons – 1) It stifles their creativity when they no longer have to say “Choo-Choo!” as they push the train because it does it all for them.  2) Too many noises, buttons & lights can easily lead to over stimulation – both for her and for me!  3) I don’t like to spend money on batteries if I can avoid it. 

Let me present you with our Top 10 Best Toys Ever!

1. Balls – Huge bouncy balls or ball pit balls for the smallest kids. Tiny super bouncy balls for bigger kids.  Sports balls, light up balls, sensory balls, tennis balls, golf balls – an endless supply of choices.

2. Stuffed animals – These are good for girls or boys, and I know many kids well into their teens that still enjoy stuffed animals.  Think beyond the teddy bear! There are farm animals, ocean animals, snakes, lizards, bugs, kitties, puppies – you name it!

3. Blocks or Legos – Wooden blocks, alphabet blocks, or Mega Blocks are great for the younger kids.  Legos are awesome for preschool up to adults.  You can get small, simple kits to put together or huge sophisticated structures that take multiple days to put together.  This is the option that is more expensive, and can go up into the hundreds of dollars if desired.  However, there are many, many options available in the $25 and under range that could satisfy most kids.

4. Playdough, Silly Putty or (my favorite) Model Magic – Soft, squishy, stretchy, moldable!  Who doesn’t like pressing Silly Putty on the Sunday comics to see it transfer onto the plastic material.  If you haven’t done that lately, you should!  These choices are great sensory input as well as a creative outlet.  If you don’t like the mess of Playdough, do it outside!  Or switch to my favorite – Model Magic.  No crumbs, no mess! It’s awesome! You can let your creations air dry and keep them forever, or store the dough to reuse.

5. Crayons, paper, & stickers, or for the more sophisticated artist you could use pastels, colored pencils, or watercolor pencils and a sketch pad.   Consumable gifts are a huge favorite of mine.  We can never have too much of these things because they get used daily!  For older kids, cute colored pens & cute notebooks could substitute for the crayons.

6. Books – Board books for the babies, early readers or storybooks for the young kids, or chapter books for the experienced readers.  You will not run out of book options, even year after year.  If you don’t want to risk duplicating something they already own, go with a gift card to a bookstore and they are sure to find something they like.

7. Cars – These are better for ages 3 and up, but Hot Wheels style cars seem to be a hit for boys & girls.  We have quite the stash of them at home.  No track needed, just set a box lid with one end on the floor and the other on the sofa for an instant racing track.  Place 2 cars at the top and let go!  These travel easy in the car or a backpack and are great for playing alone or with a friend.

8. Recycleables – cardboard boxes, empty peanut butter or mayo jars, egg cartons, etc.  We keep a huge box in one room that we fill with these treasures.  We build cities, playgrounds, animal shelters, race tracks!  Add some paper, scissors, tape, and markers to create anything you can imagine, while also conserving resources.  When it breaks, or someone loses interest, there is no guilt in tossing it in the trash.

9. Sand & Garden toys – shovels, buckets, rakes, gloves.  Little ones could play for hours in the sand or digging under a tree. Older kids like to help their parents in the yard, or could take care of their own herb garden.

10. Sidewalk Chalk – a long time favorite! Can be used for handwriting practice, an impromptu game of hopscotch or tic-tac-toe, drawing huge murals on the fence, or decorating the front sidewalk for a holiday.  Easy clean up with a water hose (or rain!), travels easily to the park, and is easy to share with friends that want to join in.  We recently took some to a local parade and the kids had a blast decorating the street while waiting for the parade to start.  Young and old joined in the fun!  Sidewalk paint is also a similar option, but without the travel simplicity.

I hope you’ll consider some of these “old fashioned” toys this year for the children on your list! 

What are some of your low-tech, low-cost favorites?

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