Last week I took the kids with me to wander around Stone's Education & Toys
store -- it's a beautiful, environmentally-friendly, sunlit space at the border of Raleigh and Cary near I-40. I wanted to get an idea of what they'd like for Christmas beyond their usual requests of LEGOs and an American Girl doll. There's nothing wrong with either of those -- it's just that we already have 8,473,922 plastic bricks and I simply can't bring myself to spend that much money on a doll that will wind up shoved in a closet.
While in the store, I could barely keep up trying to follow the kids around to get their recommendations. Amazingly Junius only glanced at the LEGOs and Pippi didn't even notice the Frozen display at the entrance. They were too busy checking out everything from teacher-supply-sized packs of writing paper to sample sets of magnetic building toys.
Not surprisingly, they wanted one of everything.
When it comes to making Christmas wish lists, it turns out I'm no better than my kids at keeping it short. Particularly when I've spent an hour (or two, who's counting?) at Stone's
, it's nearly impossible to pick just few favorites. But in case you're looking for gift ideas for elementary-school-aged kids, I'm sharing my top five lists in four different categories. (Yes, I realize that's actually 20 items. Shhhhhh...)
For the record, all prices listed are rounded to the nearest penny to make them easier to read.
Junius's Top 5
Junius is 9 and in 4th grade. His room is littered with the aforementioned LEGOs, Snap Circuits, robot parts, biographies and hockey gear.
- Snap Circuits Motion or Snap Circuits Light ($80 each, or $35 for the starter set of Snap Circuits Jr) -- Just look how excited he is in this photo! But seriously, he has the Snap Circuits Jr set plus an add-on set and he can't get enough.
- Youth Football Goal Post Set ($40) -- I'm envisioning Charlie Brown, but all he sees is his future NFL career. Either way, he's outside burning energy.
- MicroPro Microscope Set ($40) -- When I asked him why he wanted a microscope, he replied, "So I can study all the things in my room and see what they're really made of." I'm wondering if he'll start with the funk growing in his hockey bag.
- Crystal Growing Experimental Kit ($20) -- He got a taste (not literally) of this project at science camp during the summer and he loved it.
- Ultimate Dino Dig ($16) -- After a few science museum visits, I think he fancies himself an archaeologist. This seems cheaper and less messy than digging up the back yard looking for fossils.
Pippi's Top 5
Pippi is 6 (and-a-half) and in 1st grade. Her bedroom walls are covered in her artwork while the floor is strewn with clothes, stuffed animals, books and still more LEGOs.
- Color a Dog House ($35 - link is to Color a House, but they have the dog house in the store) -- That face says "Mommy, I know you won't get me a puppy, but will you please love me enough to get me a cardboard dog and doghouse that I can color?" I don't know how she'll fit it in her room, but at least it won't shed or pee on the carpet.
- Young Artist Essentials Gift Set ($50) -- She's almost 7, so I think she's finally ready to ditch all the broken crayons and nubby pencils for something nicer.
- PlushCraft Pillows ($18 each) -- She wants the fox, of course. Another mom who happened to be in the store commented that her daughter had made one of the pillows and absolutely loved it -- it's become their favorite birthday gift for friends this year.
- Fuzzy Wuzzy Knitting ($25) -- She's fascinated by the scarf that Nanna has been knitting during her visits. Maybe this way they can knit together without Pippi trying to take over Nanna's needles.
- Goldie Blox and The Movie Machine ($30) or Goldie Blox and The Builder's Survival Kit ($60) -- She got the first Goldie Blox set last year after the Rube Goldberg video won me over. She still plays with it some, but she needs more parts to try out new ideas.
Shared Top 5
I'm a big fan of giving Christmas gifts that lead to fun family time. And by that I mean things that will entertain my kids at the same time so that I can actually sit down for a few minutes. These are the items that both kids wanted -- and all are things they could play with together (although we'd have to get two stunt cars to reduce whining).
- Sands Alive! Sunken Castle Discovery ($40) -- Craziest feeling stuff you'll ever play with and shockingly not messy.
- Turbo Twister RC Stunt Car ($28) -- Finally a remote control car that can break dance and doesn't get stuck on its back.
- Doink-it Darts ($30) -- Magnetic dart board, so no sharp ends to poke an eye out with.
- Squeeze Popper and Sticky Target ($20) -- Silly, competitive fun and the most satisfying popping sound ever.
- Roller Racers or the EzyRoller ($100) -- Could not get them off the test racers they were driving all over the store.
Stocking Stuffer Top 5
How do you get small gifts for friends or stocking stuffers for the kids that don't involve a) candy or b) crap that you'll just want to throw away? Try these gifts.
- MadLibs, coloring books and "Who Was" series -- Fun for days, alone or together.
- Tapeffiti Caddy Set ($14) -- Last year we gave Pippi a roll of scotch tape and it was almost her favorite gift. Colorful tape is almost too much awesome to bear.
- Toob ($.60-.90 per figurine) -- Anything you can think of in a tiny figurine, from the Arc de Triomphe to hippos.
- Thinking Putty ($11) -- Impossible to put down.
- Tornado Tube ($2.50) -- Junius recognized this from school and pronounced it "very cool."
Okay, I'm going to stop now. Back away slowly from the wish list. But if you're heading over to Stone's, be sure to pick up their catalog and get the coupon on the back -- $10 off $50 purchase or $20 off $100 purchase through November.
Full Disclosure: I was invited to visit Stone's to write a post about my top 5 or 10 Christmas gifts. (Yes, again, I know there are 20 here. Shhhhh.) They gave me a catalog, a $50 gift card and the same lovely customer service they offer to everyone. They did not attempt to sway me or my crazy children into selecting certain toys or influence the writing of this post.