Mel’s Mini Gift Guide: The Best Toys/Activities for Kids

featured image kid gift guide

I’m always on the lookout for the best toys/games/activities for my kids that won’t end up in the declutter-and-donate pile weeks after buying. I shared a few of our main loves a while ago on a Snapshot Saturday but with another gift-giving holiday season approaching, I decided to ask my kids what they love best right now and share them with you. So consider this a stand-in replacement for the usual Snapshot Saturdays I post every now and then.

Great gift recommendations are worth their weight in gold! Here are the ones my boys were very quick to recommend and get my 100% stamp of approval.

{Nothing sponsored, just simply our favorite recommendations to share. Feel free to shop around online, the Amazon links are affiliate if I’ve bought the item there, but many of these products are available elsewhere also.}

1 2 3
1. Origami, Baby! This origami book is simple for kids and although it isn’t in color and there aren’t any bells and whistles, my boys have had so much fun folding and folding and folding (everyone from my 6-year old to my 9-year old). We also have this one, it’s a bit pricier but comes with some pretty origami paper. And I’m not going to lie, I have as much fun as the kids origami-ing.

2. Battleship. I know this game is, like, so 1980’s but whenever my 8- and 9-year old are missing, I can usually count on finding them in the loft, each of them squashed into a beanbag chair, involved in a cutthroat game of battleship. The only downfall are the tiny pieces we have to keep out of Cam’s way.

3. Snap Circuits. My 9-year old is obssessed with these and when he pulls them out, the little vultures (i.e. brothers) gather. Just yesterday he wired his own radio and went around the house beebopping to the static radio music playing from the snap circuit set sitting on his shoulder like an old school boombox. We can thank grandma for this set during last year’s Christmas. It’s still getting played with a ton a year later.

4 5 6
4. Double Shot B-ball Hoop. The dinging of this basketball hoop runs nonstop when my boys are home. Santa brought it two years ago for all the boys and it has provided hours and hours of fun for them. In fact, they’ve gotten so good at it, they love to challenge any adult that comes to our house. “Care to play a game of double shot?” And then they proceed to decimate that adult’s ego.

5. Ticket to Ride. Another favorite game, it’s actually one Brian and I had long before we had kids. The boys just discovered it buried in the depths of our game closet and my 8- and 9-year old are constantly requesting this as their “extra” activity (each boy has a specific night of the week they get to stay up 20-30 minutes “extra” to do something one-on-one with me or Brian).

6. Snowball Maker. We have several of these thanks to a work party from several years ago and the boys still dig them out of the garage and pile up thousands of snowballs in order to stage the most epic snowball fight of all time. Every afternoon after school. If you live in a snowy climate, these are kind of a no-brainer.

7 8 9
7. Slide. My older boys would be embarrassed if they knew I was publicly outing them for playing with this slide just as much as their younger siblings. It resides in our messy basement and provides so much fun. Admittedly, the big boys are using it more for matchbox car catapults and obstacle courses, but overall, it’s a winner. Plus, even little Cam who is 19 months can safely climb up the back and slide down. Which she does about 86 times in a row before breakfast every morning. The slide folds up for better (but not super slim) storage which is a bonus.

8. Marble Run. Although this does require a bit of parental help to set up especially with younger kids, it’s a mesmerizing toy that occupies my younger set (4-7 years old, I’d say) for long periods of time.

9. Felt Playhouse. This one is a bit out of the box since it’s isn’t available on Amazon but if you have the hankering, the best thing I ever did was make a felt playhouse (that slides over a square card table) a couple years ago for Christmas. Except, at that time I didn’t think it was the best thing because I’m pretty sure if my memory serves correctly, I pulled at least three all-nighters to finish this baby. I keep it stored away so it doesn’t become just another toy, and it is all the more exciting when we dig it out and set it up. I’m talking day after day of fun before it’s folded up and put away again. I got the initial idea from here and modified it to fit what I wanted on a playhouse.

10 11 12
10. Marshmallow Shooters. No words needed really except for Epic Mini Marshmallow Fights.

11. Dangerous Book for Boys. This is a constant resource for my two older boys. I am always finding them hunkered down over this book together trying to figure out the best way to make a treehouse, shoot a rubberband, or just research why girls have cooties (I’m not sure that is actually in there but if you know, my boys would love to get the 411 on that highly valuable info). It’s a fabulous book that has provided them hours of collaboration on the best way to live life as a boy (and from what I hear, there is a version for girls, too).

12. Busytown Game. Board games for younger kids are hard to find. I mean, how many versions of Chutes and Ladders and Candyland can we fit in the game closet? Conversely, I’m morally against any game that makes noise louder than my own children (Lucky Ducks, I’m talking to you!). Anyway, this Busytown game is straight up awesome. It’s clever and different and encourages us to work together instead of cut each other’s throats to win. We play it as a family all the time – fun enough for all of us but simple enough for the littles to get right in there and play, too.

Ok, now it’s your turn…leave any of your own great recommendations in the comments!