I realize the “purpose” of any gift is because you love someone and want to give them something to enjoy, so just to clarify for this post, I used the word “purposeful” to describe things that inspire creativity or appreciation of nature, challenge the mind or body, provoke good, wholesome thoughts and ideas, are a good value for the money, and can be enjoyed long-term.
With these things in mind, I’ve compiled a list of ideas of things that fit the bill, most of which are gender neutral and don’t take up much space indoors. All of these are items we use and love (and have used long-term), or have tried and loved, or are on our wish list because we think we’d love them!
Whether you are shopping for your own kids or grandkids, or someone else’s kids, I hope this list helps provide some good ideas for you!
For Kids Who Love Nature
1. Travel watercolors – We got this brand for school and our kids love them. The water goes right in the paintbrush and it has a good clasp on the case for portability (is that a word?). Pair it with a notebook of cardstock for a fun gift that travels well and will inspire kids to notice, appreciate, and capture the sights around them.
2. Nature journal – There are a lot of nature journals to choose from but I love these from Etsy! There are different options for different ages and the journal is a good size. This would be a great gift paired with some colored pencils!
3. Canvas Colored Pencil Case – I had never seen these until they were on a list of required supplies for the kids’ school. They are so neat! It kind of seemed like one of those unnecessary items at first but really, they are very helpful for keeping pencil tips from breaking and colors from rubbing off on one another. Etsy has a ton of options in cute patterns but I’ve found the best deal on Amazon.
4. A cotton tote bag to hold all of the above. A plain design like this one is what the kids use at school and I like the size, how easy it is to grab on the go, and that it could easily be personalized.
5. We got this Kid’s Outdoor Exploration Backpack for one of our kids are are very pleased with it. It comes with everything you need to set out and explore nature (magnifying glass, compass, bug holder, binoculars, etc.).
6. These nature books (linked here and here) are long-time favorites of ours! Our kids love books with lots of details and pictures and take these on nature hikes, copy from them, and pour through them for hours.
7. We have absolutely loved watching caterpillars transform into butterflies. We’ve done this twice and each time is so beautiful. It offers a prime opportunity to talk about becoming a brand new creation in Christ or the beauty that can come out of struggle! If you have the nature book linked above there is a section on how caterpillars transform, too (prime time to get those watercolors or colored pencils out to capture the process!).
8. Never underestimate the hours of fun a good Critter Shack offers! We have had many a frog, grasshopper, walking stick, or moth visit our little shack hotel over the years and they never fail to delight our little hotel managers.
Kids in the Kitchen
9. Baking Basket – Our kids love helping in the kitchen so this was a fun gift to give. We bought our daughter an apron, some colorful kitchen utensils, muffin cups, etc. and packaged it all in a big mixing bowl with handwritten recipes, all the dry ingredients she’d need to make the recipes, and little clear baggies to gift her finished product to people (because that is normally why she bakes). We got everything at Walmart and she loved turning on an Adventures in Odyssey to listen to while she whipped up some old family favorites.
10. Kid-Safe Chopping Knives – We purchased this kid-safe knife set from Amazon for our youngest when she was a little younger and they worked great for soft foods like strawberries, mushrooms, zucchini, and hard boiled eggs. She loved putting on her apron, getting her step stool, and selecting her knife of choice to help in the kitchen (time goes by so fast – sob). For older kids who are using regular kitchen knives, these gloves are a great addition to a kitchen-themed gift (great for whittling, too)!
11. I love that these Melissa & Doug Playsets (Diner set linked here and Tossed Salad set linked here) are gender neutral and have all the pieces necessary to inspire lots of imaginative play. I tell you, we have new restaurants pop up around here almost daily, with the same prolific proprietors and similar dishes (consisting mainly of mud and wild berries and leaves). The outdoor restaurants are nice but during the winter months, I prefer the indoor restaurants and these sets can help encourage business inside!
12. Lamplighter Theatre audio dramas are fabulously done and tell stores of hope, redemption, faith, and sacrificial love. Our favorites so far are Candle in the Window, Captive, and Charlie’s Choice. Bonus: This gift takes up NO space if you download a digital copy!
13. I grew up listening to Adventures In Odyssey and it is so fun that our kids love them just as much as I did. Keep in mind, this first volume is from 1985 so while the topics are timeless, there are some references that are not (but we have fun talking about them when the kids ask). The earlier volumes like the first one I linked are more geared toward younger kids; older kids might enjoy one of the later volumes more (this one is one of our favorites!).
*A quick note on the differences between these two. Both are produced by Christian producers and hold to Biblical values of faith and family. Although you will notice some of the same voices in each audio drama collection, Adventures in Odyssey is set in a small town with a local soda shop and an old inventor who has a heart for kids as a central focus. The episodes are around 20-25 minutes each and many of them build on each other (not so much that you will be lost if you jump in in the middle but definitely enough that you grow to love certain characters and feel like you know them). Adventures in Odyssey also have sets like this one that contains episodes from a variety of volumes and focuses on a main theme. Lamplighter Audio Dramas are longer (usually around 84 minutes) and each episode is a single story. Lovers of good classic literature with rich meaning will love these!
To Inspire Creativity
14. Our kids play with these magnetic tiles for hours on end at their MiMi’s house and I’ve been amazed at how versatile they are! I checked a few different brands and based on a bunch of reviews, these seemed like some of the best quality for the price. Three kids can comfortably put together smaller creations with one box of tiles (I would get an additional box for more children or for the ability to create larger structures). They are fantastic!
15. Playdough Basket filled with Homemade Playdough (you can get the recipe here) various plasticware, toothpicks, a miniature rolling pin… the sky’s the limit! Don’t forget the disposable tablecloth (ya know, for mom).
16. Wooden People are so fun to paint or decorate with felt or fabric! You can gift them with some acrylic paints or fabric scraps and these little cotton bags for carrying around. Or, you can include some square and triangle 2×4″ sanded blocks of wood for kids to paint housefronts for their little people. *These links provide materials for multiple gifts.
Our kids’ favorite things to do outside is just imaginative play. They use tree branches to build forts, old spoons and bowls to make foods, and leaves, berries, and grass for any number of things – but they also really love to play games outside and I love that it helps them burn off more energy.
17. This Ladder Ball Set is one of our favorites! We’ve had it for almost a year and it has been a big hit with our game-loving boy and at family reunions, cookouts, and parties.
18. Outdoor Climbing Rope for pirate ships, log cabin escapes, sneaky castle entrance, and more!
19. If you have trees, check out this outdoor Slackline!
Strategy Games That Are Just FUN
20. Oversized Pick Up Sticks – So simple, SO fun! And it doesn’t take up much room (that is a bonus over here!).
21. Gobblet Gobblers – our aunt brought this to a family reunion and the kids absolutely loved it.
Books & Coloring Books
We do our best to encourage books that have a life-giving, empowering, or inspiring theme and aren’t comprised of mainly simple sentences. These are a couple of current favorites:
22. In Between is our 11 year old daughter’s favorite book right now and I have to admit, it’s actually one of mine, too. It is quirky, poignant, laugh out loud funny at times, and has a theme of redemption and family. Due mainly to an outrageous grandma character who occasionally makes semi-crude remarks and more complicated sentences, I would say this book would be best suited for ages 11 and up.
23. Our 9 year old son has loved these Prince Warrior books by Priscilla Shirer and I love that they build him up as a young man with themes such as bravery, identity, and faith.
25. This is our FAVORITE children’s storybook Bible. It is great for ALL ages because the pictures and message are simple but it is also so powerful (I cried the first time I read it). I love that it shows how every story in the Bible whispers the name of Jesus. It is a great introduction for kids to see how the old testament is tied to the new, our need for a Redeemer, and God’s heart for us and how it has never changed.
26. A Family Read Aloud Book Basket -I know this is technically a family gift but as a child, some of my very best memories are the nights we would gather around, cuddle up with a blanket and popcorn, and listen to Dad read to us from single books like Homer Price & Charlotte’s Web, and series like Ramona, Anne of Green Gables, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, or, Little House on The Prairie. Memories I will never forget! Out of all the things we could do together as a family, this continues to be one our kids’ favorites. In my experience, even the most electronic-savvy kids love to sit and listen to someone read an engaging story aloud. A basket filled with popcorn or hot cocoa mix, a classic book, and a large blanket would make such a fun gift for a family.
27. What is more classic than a coloring book? This line of Dover coloring books (linking a couple favorites here and here) are educational and detailed and great for older kids or kids who like more detail – we love to use them as supplements to whatever we are currently studying in school. Another brand we like, for landscapes especially, are these Creative Haven coloring books.
Extras Kids Love
28. Stainless steel cups with colored sleeves may not be the most fun, exciting gift for everyone but our kids love getting things that are just theirs and I love that these cups are nontoxic and won’t leach petrochemicals into their water. I’m not a fanatic about what we drink out of, but I do like the idea that the cup they use the most is safe one. These would make a fun gift filled with a package of playdough, or some fun, kid-friendly snacks!
29. Last, but not least, the gift I’m most excited to give this year is a Calico Critter’s set we got at Walmart on Black Friday. I know we are late to the game on these but I have fallen in love with how sweet and wholseome they are. The set we got isn’t on sale anymore but this one from Amazon is on our wishlist for Ro’s birthday early next year! Walmart has a selection of Calico Critters but the prices we have found so far, with the exception of the Black Friday deal, are comparable to Amazon.
That is all I’ve got this time!
Have a wonderful holiday season and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
FTC Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links to products I use and love! When you purchase from a link I’ve included, I may receive a small percentage. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog!