I’m pretty strict with our 3 gift rule. It helps us reinforce why we’re celebrating the holiday and stick to the tradition of Christmas. My rules for stockings, though, are the complete opposite.
I love stocking gifts! I love choosing fun things I know the kids will love.
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Here are some things I look for when buying stocking stuffers:
- They should be inexpensive.
Once in a while, I’ll put something in a stocking which costs more. This happens if I’ve already reached the maximum of our regular gifts and if I think it’s a great gift. For example, one year I found a great deal on the Little Box of Lego projects (it was similar to this space one). It was the perfect addition to our engineer’s stocking.
- They should be easy to play with.
I want stocking gifts that don’t require the parents to help a ton or spend a long time explaining how it’s used. I want it to be something the kids can take and use immediately so they can have fun.
- They shouldn’t have a ton of small pieces.
Small gifts that have a ton of small pieces just mean those small pieces will eventually be all over the floor and get lost. I have a few exceptions to this, and one is Perler beads. We actually dump any small sets of Perler beads into larger containers of Perler beads so I know they’ll have a safer place to be stored.
- They have to be relatively quiet.
I don’t mind toys that make noise, like harmonicas, but I prefer if they get used outdoors.
- They have to be something I won’t want to throw out by December 27th.
I like stocking stuffers to keep the kids’ interests. If they don’t, I feel like it’s a waste of our money, no matter how much it cost. I know they won’t want to play with every item immediately, but if they have no interest in it after a few days, then I know it wasn’t a good toy for them. Keepsakes such as these peacock themed gifts from GiftUnicorn are always a popular choice.
Here are the best stocking stuffers we’ve given the girls at various ages.
1. Road Tape
This tape is so much fun! Stick it to your floor (carpet, hardwood, or linoleum) and create your own roadways for your Matchbox cars. You can also purchase the curved sections so you can make a neighborhood or town.
2. Booklight Set
We love these book lights. Each girl has one in their room. Keeping their bedroom light on while they’re reading at bedtime actually stimulates them because it’s so bright. These lights allow them to still see their books without straining their eyes. They also keep one in the car. Now that it’s dark out earlier, they use it to see while they draw, read, or even play Uno when we’re on the road.
Slinky is such a classic toy. If you’re weary of the metal one becoming a tangled mess, you could always buy the plastic version. If you purchase this toy, please be sure to teach your kids how to make it go down the stairs. It’ll cut down on the amount of time it takes for them to figure out.
4. Balloon Animal Kit
This kit is something the whole family can enjoy. This is for school-age kids but if parents want to make these for their younger kids, they certainly can.
5. IQ Twist
IQ Twist is one of our favorite games. It’s played independently and is a great brain stretcher. As a matter of fact, we love pretty much all of Smart Games’ products and games.
6. Simon Micro Series
Simon is a fun game for families and this smaller version makes it easier for kids to play alone. This game is great for helping kids work on their memory and hand-eye coordination.
7. Bop It! Micro Series
A few years ago, our family had some major Bop It! competitions. The girls got frustrated, though, because their hands were too small to handle the regular size Bop It! This smaller version is perfect for them.
8. Foam Finger Flyers
Matt thought I was crazy last year when I bought these. Until Christmas morning when he and the girls had a battle with them. They’re made out of foam so no one was hurt but everyone had fun.
9. Mini Flashlights
These mini flashlights have saved me more than once when the power went out. I keep one inside my nightstand and one in my car’s glove compartment. We were really surprised at how bright they are. The girls love to use them to make shadow figures, play flashlight tag, and they also use them to look for lost things under their bed.
10. Joke Books
Each of the girls got a joke book in their stocking last year. They are still reading and telling jokes from them almost a year later. The jokes are actually funny and aren’t too far over the kids’ heads like most joke books. The author, Rob Elliot, has a whole collection of them.
11. Erasable Markers
The kids thought I was using magic when I first showed them how to erase with these markers. They were blown away that their “mistakes” could disappear. This may be one of the few sets of markers that they’ve never lost because they’re that much fun.
12. Word Fill-in Puzzle Book for Kids
I love puzzles. The girls often see me working on a Fill-in Puzzle or a Sudoku book. I had trouble finding one geared for kids and was thrilled that I found not just one but two. These books really make the kids stretch their minds and work on their logic skills.
13. Rory’s Story Cubes
Story Cubes are something I used in my classroom when I was a teacher. It helps kids construct a story determined on the elements chose when they roll the die. It helps them be creative and allows for funny or serious story expression.
14. Peg Game
If you’ve ever eaten at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, you’ve seen a peg board game. This game can keep a child busy for a long time while they try to “win” the game. Make sure you have a plastic bag handy (the kind with the zipper, for little hands) so the pieces can all be stored easily. If you use a quart size bag, the game board and the pieces will fit.
15. Wikki Stix
Wikki stix are great for little hands. When I taught first grade, I used them to help kids form letters and numbers. When I taught third grade, I used them to allow kids to fidget their hands during a lesson and also get creative with making pictures and objects. They stick to tables and desks but don’t cause any damage.
16. My First Hidden Picture Books
These books were always a huge hit when the kids were little. They’re specially made for smaller kids. It’s recommended for ages 4-6, but with some help, I think a 3-year-old could do it.
17. Mad Libs
My elementary school years were filled with doing Mad Libs. I remember my friend Kathy and I laughing hysterically at the sentences we’d helped make.
18. Bicycle Bell
When we bought these bells for the girls, they couldn’t all even ride a bike. We put them on their scooters which they rode around wildly. Now they have a bell on their scooters AND on their bikes. The noise isn’t too annoying but is loud enough to keep people safe as the girls warn them when they are coming through.
19. Stress Relief Balls
I originally bought these stress balls for myself. It didn’t take long until the girls confiscated them all and use them when they need to fidget. Caroline, especially, loves that she can’t pick it apart like regular balls – at least not yet!
20. Earphone clamshell
This may seem like an odd addition to a stocking stuffer list. I assure you, it’s not. The girls use these to keep their earbuds in but they’ve also used them to store little trinkets. They’re currently attached to their backpacks.
Yo-yos are the classic toy. Beyond using it the traditional way, we watched a ton of videos on YouTube Kids to learn how to do tricks like Walk the Dog and Around the World. You may want to grab a yo-yo for yourself so you don’t have to share with your child!
These are one of our favorite art supplies, that isn’t made by Crayola. Smencils are colored pencils that smell. Orange is my favorite but watermelon and bubble gum smell great too.
23. Finger Flashlights
I don’t know what it is about finger flashlights but I swear these little things can keep kids entertained for a long time. They easily slide on a finger and are fun to use to point to things around the room or to see in a fort. We like using these when we play I-Spy.
24. Little Hands Playing Card Holder
Starting at a young age, the girls always wanted to play cards with us. They loved playing Uno with us and were able to understand the concept and rules quickly. The hard part, however, was their hands couldn’t hold all the cards. These card holders were a game changer for us and made it possible for the kids to easily play card games. You can also add some Go Fish cards to their stocking to play with.
25. Black Light Science Experiment Kit
I was nervous about this black light science experiment kit. I was afraid what it would show me in our house. The girls love science and this was a fun way to show them germs and dirt, along with doing the science experiments included.
26. Scratch Art Doodle Pad
Our kids love these even though they don’t make designs on them. They’re obsessed with scratching off every little bit they can. I like this book because it’s wire bound. If you’d like smaller pages, they also sell this version.
27. Popping Half Balls
These half balls can be a lot of fun (in smaller doses!). You stick them and shortly after they pop and fly through the air. We like to do them on the kitchen floor but have done them on the sliding glass door too.
28. Punch Balls
These punch balls are made better by the fact that they’re superhero themed. You may need to set some ground rules like, “No hitting other people with your punch ball.” It takes a few minutes for kids to get the hang of, but they are great for hand-eye coordination and are a lot of fun.
29. Melting Snowman
I bought this melting snowman a few years ago at a teacher store. It was on display near the cash register and was a total impulse buy. However, it is still played with regularly. It’s the one winter item that never gets put away. At first glance, it looks like Play-doh or Model Magic but it feels more like a shiny clay. You build the snowman, adding his accessories, and then watch as he slowly melts.
30. Pocket Volcano
A little baking soda and vinegar make this a fun (and small) science experiment. Just make sure you place it on a plate or outdoors so the “lava” doesn’t get everywhere. (You can probably guess how I figured that out!)
31. Paper Trax
These paper trax are so neat and I wish we would have had them when the girls were younger so we would have had more use out of them. They stick to the wall so your child can make a race track that goes around the room. You may want to grab more than one set!
32. Instant Insanity Game
I’ve heard this game has been around forever but I had never heard of it until recently. This puzzle can be super tricky but is great for kids who like puzzles and logic games. Take a photo of it just out of the package before anyone plays with it. You’re going to want to know what it looks like when it’s put together correctly in case it’s too hard. We also used the photo to give the girls hints on pieces so they could get the hang of it at first.
Did you have a sticker book as a kid? I did and I loved it. Peaceable Kingdom makes stickers and sticker books that are themed. As a matter of fact, the girls are getting another set in their stocking again this year. Shhh! Don’t tell them!
34. Suspend Game
Suspend is a fun game which requires a steady hand. I don’t recommend having your child play this game where a toddler or preschooler can get to it only because if they knock it down (and it doesn’t take a lot to knock it down), your child will be upset.
35. 15 Puzzle
This was always a fun, and sometimes frustrating, game. I can’t count the amount of 15 puzzles I had a kid. Our kids love them as much as I did and they’re an easy game for them to play alone.
36. Pick Up Sticks
Pick up sticks is a classic game and maybe one you played as a kid. I especially love that this set comes in a nice box to keep it all in.
37. Stencils Drawing Kit
As a kid, I loved stencils and now our kids love them too. They’re especially great for kids who aren’t artistic but like to draw.
38. Flying Gliders
Flying gliders are an old toy. They’re simple for kids to assemble by themselves. You can race them or see how far they can fly on their own.
39. Multi-color Pen
Multi-color pens are a big hit in the first grade right now, or so Rebecca says. The girls love this pen and love writing lists, stories, and letters in different colors.
40. Travel Checkers
This travel checkers game is always in our car in or in one of the kids’ travel bags. The pieces are magnetic so it’s easy to play while we’re driving somewhere, out of the house, or just sitting at home. There are a bunch of other Take ‘n’ Play games available too.
41. Mini Gumball Machine
What kid wouldn’t love to have their own gumball machine? This small one is a fun addition to their stocking!
42. Christmas Bulb Necklace
These necklaces are festive. Kids love wearing them to family events and activities.
What stocking stuffers have been a great success in your home?
Learn how to help your child with gift giving disappointment before, during, and after the holidays
Read about how and why we do the 3 gift rule
Read how we slow down Christmas morning
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I’ve been stumped on stocking stuffers this year, in years past I did fun outdoor things like binoculars and bike accessories — but now I have a ton of ideas, this list is great! Thanks Kristina!
I’m so glad, Ashley! Let me know how these work out.
Ashley, those are some great ideas! We tend to do those things when we do our Welcome Summer Scavenger Hunt. https://thrivingparents.net/welcome-summer-summer-scavenger-hunt/
Lisa @ The Meaning of Me says
Brilliant ideas here – a few took me back to my own childhood. Love these!
Christine Gill says
Megan has a gift exchange for school. Gifts must be $10.00. I bought the bop it. Mary Elizabeth got one at a gift exchange and loved it.
It’s so funny you say this, Christine. Just yesterday Rebecca saw the big Bop It in our game closet and asked what it was. She’s used to the mini one!
Gina Badalaty says
Great ideas!! Nothing makes my youngest smile more than bubbles, so they are one of our go-to items. At 99 cents a bottle, or $5 with some kind of bubble shooter, you can’t go wrong! My kids adore the $3 bins at Target too, so I’ll be shopping there. Mini flashlights/glow sticks is one of my fav of your recommendations too.! A big hit during our last power outage.