The holiday season is here! At least here at Frugal in Virginia! Have you noticed the little Santa hat at the top of the page yet? I look forward to Christmas-time throughout the entire year leading up, and when November hits, I’m more than ready to begin the holiday festivities.
If you haven’t yet started your Christmas shopping- or at least making your list- I imagine many of you will begin this month. To lend you a hand, I want to take some time this holiday season to suggest some gifts that either from my own experience or that of friends, have been real winners! These are high-value, high-play gifts (in my opinion!). We all know it’s important to buy gifts that children will actually enjoy and use for longer than just a few weeks after Christmas. I hope my guide serves as a helpful resource as you try to navigate the toy catalogues and crowded store aisles.
The gift guide below is directed toward young children. (This is part 1. Part 2 will be posted next week.) Look for a gift guide for the adults on your list in the coming weeks too!
1. Tonka Chuck & Friends- Chuck My Talking Truck
Hasbro recently sent my family this toy to try out. We thought it was so fun! The trucks says over 40 phrases and actually responds to your voice using sound recognition technology. I’m not a young boy, but even I thought this was pretty neat. Not only does Chuck talk, but he rolls about the room and tilts his truck bed to deliver his load too. From a mom’s perspective, my favorite feature of this toy is the soft rubber fender and bumper. Since Chuck does a lot of moving about, I appreciate that a fender bender with my baseboards doesn’t cause any damage. It’s a win-win.
The suggested retail of our new friend Tonka Chuck is $34.99, but Amazon does have it priced for less at $28.68.
2. Vtech Kidizoom Digital Camera
I know what you might be thinking. I thought it too when I first heard of this toy. “Why in the world would a child need a digital camera?” But hear me out! My toddler daughter absolutely loves our digital camera. For obvious reasons though, she’s not allowed to play with it. But we were at a playgroup recently when my daughter discovered this toy in her friend’s playroom. She was hooked. I’ve never seen our attention-span-of-a-flea child play with something for so long. After talking with the other moms that day, I learned that it’s not just my kid that loves this camera.
The Vtech Kidizoom a real winner among other children and parents too. It’s durable with a plastic and rubber-like casing, and it has a long battery life. It can hold about 200 pictures, and the camera itself can be hooked up to your TV or computer to view the pictures. The camera, with built in photo-editting options, also comes with computer software that includes three games. No wonder my daughter and her friends love this toy so much! This might just be the gift my husband and I get for her this Christmas.
It’s currently priced at $59.99 at Toys R Us, but I imagine you’ll be able to find it on sale in the coming weeks.
3. Playskool Busy Ball Popper
Playskool sent my family a Busy Ball Popper several weeks ago to try. I knew this classic toy would be a winner before it even got here. While the toy that was sent was meant for my baby son, my 2-year old daughter started squealing when she saw the box. The Busy Ball Popper really has lasting play-value. She has loved this toy at friends’ houses since before she could crawl and even now still enjoys it.
The Ball Popper uses air to push balls up and out of a tube and down chutes, all the while playing eight different songs. It’s a really bright and upbeat toy, and since balls are popping up and rolling around, it encourages hand-eye coordination development as well. After talking with some other moms who have this toy, I learned that this is a toy with a long lifespan, as it holds up nicely from child to child using it.
4. Dress Up Clothes
If you have a little girl, you may have already discovered how much she loves to dress up. We got a trunk of dress up generic princess clothes for my daughter, Sadie, last year for Christmas, and she has played with them hundreds of times already. I’ve noticed these are very popular when we host playgroups as well, as nearly all the little girls love dressing up as princesses. And I have a feeling Sadie will play with these for years to come.
My daughter has fun getting dressed in these outfits, and I enjoy how it encourages her imagination. She often has me help her get the dress, jewelry, or tiara on, and then she runs off to tell her dolls that she’s a princess and would like to have them for tea! And the dresses have become must-haves for twirling around the family room. The dress-up set we bought last year came with a storage trunk, which has turned out to be a great feature too.
While I have seen dress-up sets priced for literally hundreds of dollars, there’s no need to spend that much. We bought Sadie’s 3-outfit set at Sam’s Club last year for less than $30. (This is a generic princess set, so no Disney characters.) Amazon currently has a 4-outfit Disney princess trunk set priced at $39.99, and JCPenney has the new Princess and the Frog dress up set for $29.99.
I’m not sure whether my daughter loves this toy the most in our house, or if I do. (I think our reasons for loving it are very different though!) When Jack was born back in June, he “gave” Sadie an Aquadoodle as a
peace-offering “So Happy To Be Your Little Brother” gift. Sadie has adored her Aquadoodle since.
The Aquadoodle is a pretty simple concept. While it comes in more variations than most preschoolers can count (like a travel size, wall mat, or jumbo), each Aquadoodle includes a fabric mat. Children can draw on this mat using pens that write with water. The water makes their writing show up as blue “ink” on the mat. The water quickly dries, giving a clean slate to play with next time.
My daughter loves the Aquadoodle because she can draw anytime she wants, without having to sit at the kitchen table like when she colors with crayons. And I love it because the potential for messes is nearly zero. This has been a real winner in our house, getting played with at least a couple times a day. We also have fun with as a family, as my daughter loves to have us draw together with her.
We have the Aquadoodle Zip Bin (pictured above), which nicely allows Sadie to take it on trips filled with some other toys. Amazon has the Zip Bin marked down for just $10 right now. (I’m sorry to say we paid significantly more than that for ours!)
Note: Just so you know, the toy states it’s for ages 3 and up. Sadie isn’t quite there, but we let her play with it anyway. Yes, I know. I won’t win any Safe Parent of the Year awards now. But since I’m guessing many of you care about age standards, I just thought I should throw that out there to alleviate any confusion.
I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the toys shared above!
Stay tuned soon for Part 2 of the 2009 Children’s Gift Guide.