The Ten Things I'm Glad My Kids Got for Christmas

I've already written about how we are planning a more simple and a more toy-free Christmas than we've had in the past. Not because we are AGAINST toys but because we have reached the natural conclusion of a few years of more mindful toy-buying, more discerning toy-keeping, and the fact that we have a LOT of kids.

We're kind of set in the toy department.

But maybe you're not. Maybe your family Christmas traditions are just starting. Maybe you're trying to build a toy collection your kids will love and you won't hate. I've spent a couple of years now really trying to pay attention to which toys are working in our family, which are being neglected, and which are causing unhappiness and disarray. We've done clean out after clean out (and are due for another). And, for our family of four boys and three girls aged one to twelve, these are the toys that are consistently loved and played with, year after year, kid after kid.

I've had a lot of toy-buying regrets over the years, but these are the things we all enjoy.

Maybe your kids will like them too.

All links are Affiliate Links, thanks for clicking through!


No duh, right? But GOOD books. They don't all have to be great literature, but they have to have something to love about them. They have to be smart, or touching, or funny, or beautiful.

We are going to do the Wrap Up Books for Advent thing this year, for the first time. So I've just ordered a new book for each of the kids . . .

Jack (12)

Last year he got:

Betty (10)

And our favorite read aloud chapter books for Advent.


We have a big trunk of dress up clothes, for boys and girls. We've got saint robes, and princess dresses, and animal costumes, and superhero capes, and Hulk Foam Fists .

My aunt, who doesn't have kids herself, but picks the best presents EVER, gave these fists to Jack ten years ago, and they are still going strong, thousands of punches later.

My little kids love the dress up box, and it's always really popular with visiting kids as well.

Pro tip: My kids are only allowed to put dress up clothes on over the top of their existing clothes. That keeps them from ending up mostly naked and with NO IDEA where their clothes are when we need to leave for the dentist -- right now.


We have a lot of board games, and we try to make a point of having a family game night at least every month, hopefully more often.

Our favorites for the whole family but especially little kids are:

Hisss Card Game: This game is so simple, but really fun. Two year olds to adults can enjoy it.

Chutes and Ladders: Consequences! We have an older version with stuff like skating on thin ice and pulling a cat's tail. I'm hoping those are still in this new version.

Candy Land: Pro Tip . . . Put the picture cards in the deck in order from worst to best to avoid kids getting sent back to the beginning and therefore making the game take FOREVER.

Our favorites for the whole family but especially grade schoolers are:

Clue The Classic Edition: The kids get super into this game, and take their detective work really seriously.

Apples to Apples Party Box - The Game of Crazy Combinations (Family Edition) : This is the version we have, and our kids eight and up enjoy it. But I did have to take out a whole bunch of cards that were people my kids didn't know, or were just wildly inappropriate. Apparently there is a Junior Edition, and a Bible Edition that are aimed at younger audiences, but it was easy enough to tidy up the regular version.

Our favorites for the whole family but especially middle schoolers are:

Monopoly - The Classic Edition: Math practice + fun + cutthroat landlording

Risk Game : This game takes a LONG time, like Monopoly, and it's complex. But once everyone figures it out, it's pretty cool.

Stratego Original Game : It's like minesweeper, but in board game form.


I love art supplies and craft kits that the kids can do by themselves.

In the past, I've given the kids a selection of things like sketch pads, oil pastels, pipe cleaners, glitter glue, googly eyes, etc, whatever is age appropriate. Or packaged craft kits. My kids are old enough and understand our family rules enough that they can be trusted to have access to arts and crafts supplies unsupervised, during nap time for little kids.

But THIS year, my kids are getting Kiwi Crate, a monthly subscription service that delivers a box of arts and crafts to the house each month. And I don't have to organize any of it. Yay!


We have -- and use -- a Hockey Goal Set , boxing gloves, and a basketball hoop. But the MOST popular thing in our sports equipment collection right now is . . . a Playground Ball .

My kids use sidewalk chalk to draw a foursquare court in the cul-de-sac, or they play in the segments of our driveway. Four square is awesome.

But ANYTHING that keeps them occupied and outside gets a thumbs up from me.


Speaking of that, we've also had great success with a tree house, and a playhouse, and a Trampoline . My parents almost always give the kids a group gift of something big for the backyard every year. And whatever it is always makes the kids excited to go outside, and you can't put a price on that. But we ARE starting to run out of room.


My girls love dolls. Betty has, and takes excellent care of, two American Girl dolls, that have been gifts. Anita still loves baby dolls. And even Lulu, at only one, adores baby dolls.

This is the Boy Baby Doll Anita got for Christmas the year Frankie was born. It's from France and smells like baby powder and is anatomically correct.

We have a couple of strollers, we have some extra outfits, we've got some food. But I try to avoid having lots of furniture and accessories for our dolls. We need the room inside our house for furniture and accessories for our kids.


My girls throw the cutest tea parties. And sometimes I let them use real tea and everything, and sometimes even cookies. And that makes the boys willing to attend. They are not that interested in the idea of tea parties, but they are very interested in the actual tea and cookies of tea parties.

Plus, I really think a breakable tea set is an excellent way to learn about consequences and responsibility.


Rolling things are very popular with both boys and girls at my house. We've had wooden train sets, and Hot Wheels tracks, and a driving rug and all have been enjoyed immensely. We ended up passing along the train set, because it took up a lot of room. And the Hot Wheels tracks are really fun for a while, but don't last very well for us. The rug lived outside for a while, and then dissolved.

Our favorite vehicle set right now is this Richard Scarry Busytown Deluxe Town Hall Playset that Frankie got for Christmas from my sister last year.

Frankie, as you may have heard, is cranky. He was particularly cranky last Christmas morning. Then he opened this present, and we didn't hear from him again the rest of the day. Busy Town saved Christmas.

10. Legos

LEGO Bricks . They are expensive and very tempting for little kids to try to eat. They get everywhere and it hurts a LOT when you step on them.

But they are overall the most popular toy with all kids of all age groups in my house. Frankie can build with Duplo blocks, and Lulu loves banging them together.

The older kids love to get and build kits, but then they just throw all the pieces from all the sets together and come up with their own creations, and those are always WAY better.

The only issue we've had with Legos, is that little kids tend to smash up creations that bigger kids are working on. That is obviously super frustrating. But we don't ever let big kids shut little kids out of the playroom. We always say that people are more important than things. So if you can't play with that thing around these people, then you need to not play with that thing right now. So, mostly they play with Legos up on the dining room table or during nap time.

But SOMETIMES they'll sit there making towers for Frankie and Lulu to smash, and that's fun for everyone.

This is how I attempt to keep them organized.


And that's that. Those are all our favorites. Almost everything else in this house could go and the kids might not even notice. Or at least that's my hypothesis, we'll see if I'm right.

I'm sure your favorites are a little different than ours.

What is a Christmas present you are glad to have given your kids? Or that someone else gave them?


We're off today with our little birthday girl Lulu and all the rest on our Thanksgiving camping adventure, so I will have only limited internet access until next Monday.

But once we're back in town, I'll recap her lovely (small) little birthday party, and she has some of her favorite things to give away to some lucky readers!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, and a peaceful start to Advent.