Awhile ago, one of my awesome readers sent along an idea that has stuck with me for many years now. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, favorite aunt or in some other way find the names of special kids on your gift list this year, I think you’ll agree that this reader’s three-gift tradition is smart, practical and especially wise.
“Drawing inspiration from the Wise Men,” she wrote, “We limit gifts to three per child. Gold starts with G so one of is a garment gift. Frankincense starts with F so we give one fun gift. Myrrh starts with M so give a gift that is mentally stimulating. Then we round out with smaller things in the kids’ stocking.”
I love this plan because it’s easy. Affordable. The G gifts are easiest of all. But choosing gifts the kids will love that just happen to be mentally stimulating (meaning they won’t land in the back of a closet never to be seen again) or downright fun, can be more than a little bit challenging.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a very good kid-mindreader. And I really hate having to guess what’s hot this year, what kids are into and what they will really, really love.
In preparation for this post, I’ve been doing a lot of research, interviewing, testing and reviewing. I feel confident in making a few solid recommendations, should this gifting idea appeal to you. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Mentally Stimulating Gifts for Toddlers to Teens
1. LEARNING ZEBRA SCOOTER. This educational grow-with-me kids’ ride-on toy converts from a baby push walker, to a sit and ride push bicycle, to ride-on push scooter; intended for children ages 1 to 3 years old. Teaches colors, animals and destinations; includes walkie-talkie, compass, flashlight, and horn buttons and more than 90 sing-along songs, melodies, fun phrases and sound effects for auditory stimulation. About $43.
2. MUSICAL RHYMES BOOK. This interactive kids book is an early education learning center to build fine motor skills, recognize melodies, sounds and phrases. It’s also a talking book featuring five colorful piano buttons that make sounds and introduce colors and instruments. Intended for little ones 6 months to 3 years. About $13.
3. SPIN AND LEARN COLOR FLASHLIGHT. Educational kids toy features exciting songs and music that teach about animals, colors and numbers; ladybug button activates sounds and interacts with child. Kids flashlight comes with over 50 sing-along songs, music, sounds and fun phrases; features 5 light colors that are not too bright. Teaches toddlers to count along and learn numbers 1, 2 and 3; great toy flashlight for boy or girl toddlers ages 1 to 3. About $12.
4. FIRST 100 WORDS BOARD BOOK. That little one on your list will quickly learn essential first words and pictures with this bright board book. There are 100 color photographs to look at and talk about, and 100 simple first words to read and learn, too. The pages are made from tough board for hours of fun reading, and the cover is softly padded for little hands to hold. About $4.
5. MIND BLOWING SCIENCE KIT. Think learning can’t be fun? Think again! This 20-piece kit allows your young scientist to explore and learn the basics of science from chemical reactions to the use of science tools. Represents STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) principles to construct, engineer, explore and experiment.
Chemicals included: Red cabbage powder, citric acid, baking soda, color tablets, crosslinked polyacrylate copolymer, vegetable oil and corn starch. As young as age 4 (with adult supervision) up to early teen. About $15.
6. STOMP ROCKET JR. GLOW KIT. This toy took the iParenting Media Award for excellent product. It took Top Toy of the Year from in the Creative Child magazine competition. And no wonder. It’s an educational toy with awesome results. Basically, you stomp on the launch pad and a blast of air propels the Stomp Rocket over 100 feet in the air. The kit comes with four glow-in-the-dark foam rockets. Age 3 (with adult supervision) and up. About $12.
7. STORY CUBES. This pocket-sized creative story generator provides hours of imaginative play for age 8 and above, for one or more players. Reinforces artistic expression. Very innovative! About $8.
8. LEARN TO SOLDER KIT. Great for older kids and teens ages 10 to 15. Includes solder, a soldering iron and wire cutters. Useful for all electronics soldering needs. What’s more, it’s an amazing mini-science kit with which to recycle your own soda can into a powerful solar Can Motor Robot. About $17.
9. THE EARTH PUZZLEBALL. I would love to see under the tree with my name on it, that’s how cool it is. It’s a jigsaw puzzle with 540 perfectly crafted, curved puzzle-pieces that when put together makes a beautiful, authentic and reliable world globe. Can be easily assembled together to form a solid, smooth ball—no glue required. Once assembled it spins on the metal rotation stand. Just beautiful! For kids and teens ages 10 and above, which includes me! About $30.
10. TEENS COOK BOOK. Teens like what they like and they’ll only eat what they like, too. With Teens Cook, your teen can learn to cook those foods he or she likes to eat. What a concept. With more than 75 recipes for what kids like including breakfast, snacks, sides, dinners and desserts—this is the perfect cookbook to inspire young adults to take interest in their diets by giving them a tasty hobby! About $15.
11. KINDLE PAPERWHITE. If you want to encourage your young adult, here’s the ticket—an elegant, state-of-the-art electronic book reader. This reader has a beautiful 6-inch high-resolution display with built-in light and Wi-Fi. A single battery charge lasts weeks, not hours. Gives access to a massive selection of books with lowest prices—over a million titles at $2.99 or less. Lighter than a paperback, holds thousands of books. About $120.
12. ROBOTIKITS. Oh man just bring on the awesomeness! This solar robot building kit is perfect for the curious, smart youngster on your list. Both the beginner builder as well as experienced robot builder will be equally engaged. Fits well into a home-schooling curriculum. This solar-powered robot can be transformed into 14 different robot modes. (Instructions may require the help of an adult.) What a great opportunity for a parent to interact with a child or teen in a building project! Age 10 (with adult help) and up. About $40.
13. SNAP CIRCUITS DISCOVERY KIT. Awarded the National Parenting Center-Seal of Approval, this kit contains over 60 Snap-together parts with which to build over 300 exciting projects—including a radio, doorbell, burglar alarm and more. No tools required. Ages 8 to 16. About $43.
Gifts full of FUN for Toddlers to Teens
14. BUCKET OF FUNFUSION. This bucket of 6,000 Perler Beads and a number of peg boards offers so much FUN, the kids won’t realize they’re developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, too. For ages 5 and up. About $9.
15. DELUXE SKETCHING ARTIST BOX SET. What a great way to encourage that young artist in your life. This deluxe set includes pencils, graphite sticks, charcoal, pastel pencils, drawing pads, mannequin, sanding block and so much more—all in a beautiful wooden storage box. About $33.
16. FRISBEE RING 2-PACK. Activ Flyers are the world’s easiest frisbees to throw and catch. Even the little ones will love playing with these because they will become expert quickly. These frisbees fly straight and don’t hurt little hands and fingers when caught. With their 9.5″ diameter and 1.5″ ring width, these are the perfect size for young boys, girls—players of all ages and skill levels.
17. MINI JAWBONE JAMBOX. It’s a wireless speaker small enough to make it pocket size, that works with any Bluetooth music player or smartphone. Built-in speakerphone lets you take calls on the go. It’s what’s hip and cool and totally fun for today’s teen. About $100.
18. REMOTE-CONTROLLED HELICOPTER. The Syma RC Helicopter with Gyro is a remote-controlled helicopter with infrared transmitter is easy to fly making it great for beginners. So much fun! For indoors only. CAUTION: Exercise extreme caution because it’s so much fun Dad might try to steal it. Age 10 and up. About $38.
19. TEEN VOGUE HANDBOOK. This every teen girl’s dream book—a truly creative book filled with tips on the stylish life from the top people in the industry. A great introduction to the fashion industry. The book is filled with beautiful pictures, career advice and profiles of who’s who in the fashion industry. Age 12 and up. About $18.
20. KIDOOZIE FOAM POGO JUMPER. Remember that Pogo Stick you could never quite conquer (maybe I’m the only one)? That’s because you didn’t get in at the entry level of Pogo! This is it, and boy is it cute. Tykes as young as 3 years up to age 10 will quickly learn the important skill of jumping and have a ball doing it! About $13.
21. KIDIZOOM SMARTWATCH. It doesn’t get much cuter than this. (Eat your heart out Apple Watch.) The bright colorful touch screen entertains and teaches kids age 4 to 7. Includes a 0.3 megapixel camera (can you even imagine?) and voice recorder. Comes loaded with four learning games. And so much more. Choose from a variety of colors. About $45.
22. KAHOOTZ-FASHION PLATES DELUXE KIT. What fun for youngsters drawn to fashion to create their own unique fashions with this mix and match drawing set! Kit contains 15 fashion plates, 20 sheets of papers, 8 colored pencils, 2 rubbing crayons, a crayon holder and drawing tablet. Includes fashion carrying case and fashion folio idea guide. Age 6 and up. About $25.
23. SHAKE DOGS HARDCOVER. This is the book that will delight any young dog lovers on your gift list. Original, amusing, and brilliantly documented, Shake is a heartwarming collection of sixty-one beguiling dogs caught in the most candid of moments: mid-shake, caught in contortion with hair wild, eyes darting, ears and jowls flopping every which way. All ages. About $12.
24. FASHION HEADBANDS. This kit includes everything that girls ages 5 to 9 need to make fancy headbands—rhinestones, flowers, feathers, butterfly plus yards of ribbons and more. Simple instructions are easy to follow to create up to 10 adorable accessories and hours of creative play. About $16.
25. SHAKE CATS HARDCOVER. Calling all cat lovers! Here’s the book for you, featuring adorable and hysterical color photographs of more than sixty cats caught mid-shake. You just have to see this. All ages. About $10
26. FIRE HD 6 TABLET. Face it: Today’s teens are all about the electronics. It’s their fun, that’s what they want! This tablet is perfect for that cunning youngster. It has a beautiful 6-inch HD display with access to more than 33 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, Android apps and games. The fast quad-core processor allows for quick app launches and fluid graphics. You simply cannot beat this device for the money. Age 10 and up. About $80.
BONUS ROUND: You can make sure that everyone you love has a White Christmas this year!
27. SNOWTIME ANYTIME! Enjoy hours of fun with an indoor snowball fight. Safe anywhere for kids and adults, too. Feels like snow, but no mess, no slush. Snowballs so soft they won’t break anything. Quite amazing. About $40.