Hi, my name is Emily, and I’m one of those people who is equal parts obsessed with and terrified by the sheer amount of stuff that accompanies the holiday season — especially when it comes to kid stuff. We’re pretty conservative with the amount of things we buy Lana over the course of the year — if you saw my posts Gifts for the The Guy Who Has Already Bought Himself Everything He Wants and 13 Gift Ideas for the Ultra-Picky Guy, you know this is a pretty practical household — and yet somehow Lana’s still got more of everything than she’ll ever need. (Fortunately, she’s also got a decent sense of what it means to share those things with people who have less, but in the name of reducing consumerism in general, we could probably do without much of it in the first place.)
So when the time for gift-giving comes around and my in-laws or friends ask for gift ideas for the little, I’m not gonna lie: I’m kind of a stick in the mud. “Honestly, guys. She doesn’t need a thing.” But ultimately, they press me for ideas — and in the name of not being a total Scrooge-a-roonie, here we are.
Something They Want, Something They Need, Something To Wear, Something To Read: Kids’ Edition
This gift guide (now updated for 2021!) might be some of my finest work, friends. I scoured the internet (and Lana’s own collection of pretty tightly edited belongings) to bring you plenty of Want/Need/Wear/Read gift ideas for the young kiddos in your life — let’s say 7-ish and under — all of which promise to offer their money’s worth in terms of either play or practicality (or both!).
As far as stuff goes, you could do a whole lot worse.
And hey — when you’re done here, head over to our full page of 2022 holiday gift guides for more seriously cool gift ideas for all your loved ones (or whoever).
WANT: 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10
NEED: 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10
WEAR: 01 (or my next choice) | 02 | 03 | 04 (similar) | 05 | 06 (similar) | 07 (or similar) | 08 (similar) | 09 | 10
READ: 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10
1) KidKraft Modern Wooden Dollhouse // This has been one of Lana’s biggest asks: a “big” dollhouse that can fit her 12″ (think Disney Princess and Barbie) dolls. This one is actually surprisingly good looking, which is important since it’s not at all discreet. The wheels, too, seem like a really smart addition. Not only does it allow for play from all sides, but you can easily move it out of the way or to another area for play.
2) Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty // Putty, not slime. I repeat: not slime. Crazy Aaron’s makes the best putty. It’s mesmerizing to look at for both kids and adults (I linked to my favorite color here, but there are literally dozens), and it’s not particularly messy. Perfect little thing to pull out when I need 15 mins to finish dinner. Stocking stuffer A+.
3) Ikea Felt Veggies // Our very favorite play food all comes from IKEA, including these veggies, this fruit basket, these cinnamon buns — and, as of this Christmas, this pizza set. (Shipping rates for many small goods on IKEA can actually be really reasonable, too — totally worth avoiding the crowds.)
4) LEGO Technic WHACK! Vehicle // I will always endorse LEGOs, and I love that this build results in a car that is actually robust enough to play with — and even crash. A little destructive, maybe, but loads of value for the amount of play.
5) Smoko Haru Tuna Sushi Ambient Light // Lana’s been asking us to turn her beloved egg light up a bit at night, so I know she’d adore the idea of having the company of this little cutie while she sleeps. Adorable.
6) Fujifilm Instax Mini // A friend introduced me to this idea: gift them the camera, and then provide a budget of one pack of film a month. Love it. A little lesson in patience and budgeting, and I cannot wait to see what Lana deems photo-worthy. I can only imagine.
7) Commencal Ramones Bike // Chris is what you could call an expert on all things wheeled, and this is the exact bike we got Lana when she went to two wheels. Since then, half a dozen of her friends have sprung for the same one. It’s a splurge item, to be sure, but if it’s seeming like your kiddo’s passion is bikes, everything about this one will set them up for success. The geometry is specific to a child’s proportions, and it’s got hand brakes and all-terrain tires. The whole deal. Available in several sizes, too.
8) LEGO Classic Creative Suitcase // Again, I’ll never say no to LEGOs. I love the Classic sets that let you build a collection without a specific theme, and the suitcase is super ideal for traveling. Chris and I both still have our LEGOs suitcases from childhood and remember packing them up for trips to Disney and the like. They’re called Classic for a reason.
9) Kinetic Sand Bake Shoppe Playset // I was totally on the fence about this stuff before we received some as a gift, and now I can attest that it’s pretty freaking slick. If you can handle Play Doh, you can handle Kinetic Sand. We gifted this Bake Shoppe to a friend earlier this month (supplemented with a little extra sand) and it’s received rave reviews. (Tip: we always use ours on a rimmed baking sheet, and cleanup is super easy.) Update: this ice cream set is now on request in this house. Still comes with a pound of sand, and the little waffles, in particular, look super fun to mold.
10) Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone // Lana’s friend has this at his house, and it’s so effing fun. It syncs with your phone, and you (I mean, um, your kids) can sing along to anything from your playlist, with various effects. Available in tons of fun colors, too.
1) Hydroflask Kids’ Insulated Water Bottle // This is Lana’s favorite water bottle (she really likes “fresh” (read: cold, icy) water, like her dad) and having a second one on hand will help tremendously when the other is in the dishwasher. The updated design is even available in a 20-ounce size that would be perfect for her longer school days.
2) Totes Kids’ Bubble Umbrella // Lana asked for an umbrella for her birthday last year, and this is one we went with. Cute and playful, but best of all the deep bubble shape keeps her truly dry while the clear plastic allows her to keep track of where she’s going. Also easy for little hands to open and close on their own.
3) Away Kids’ Carry-On Luggage // We need a suitcase for Lana, and this one is truly child-sized. Love the quality, the ejectable battery that can charge multiple devices at a time (pretty much the only time Lana uses a “device” is when we travel, so this is super handy), an included leather luggage tag and a hidden laundry bag.
4) Not Your Ordinary Crayons // These received great reviews, and we are in the market for new, high-quality crayons that deliver a lot of color payoff without a lot of pressure. (So. Many. Broken. Crayons.) Sounds like these fit the bill, and they work as pastels or watercolors, too. For the price (under $10), they’re a perfect stocking stuffer.
5) REI Kindercone 25 Sleeping Bag // The exact sleeping bag we have, and it’s perfect for three-season camping at a reasonable price, but also gonna be really handy as we approach slumber party age.
6) Travel BINGO Cards // We have a few of these in the car, and they are game-changing for road trips. Sometimes we play BINGO, sometimes we just challenge Lana to find as many of the items as she can before we reach the destination. (In the simplest version of the game, if she gets more than 20/25, she gets a small treat — and you better believe she takes the hunt very seriously!) Totally key if you’re looking to pass the time in the car sans screens.
7) Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Markers // We’re in the market to upgrade our pens, too, and I remember how much I adored my first set of Prismacolor pens. They’re so high-quality, super-blendable and just REALLY fun to color with. The perfect incentive for me to slow down and spend a little time coloring with the wee one.
8) Chalk-O-Rama Chalk Crayons // I consider these a “need” because ever since we’ve been using them to color on our sliding glass doors, Lana’s temptation to color on things she’s not supposed to has actually decreased. Guess drawing on the glass is satisfying enough? When we host playdates, other kiddos are also always drawn to the window art, too. (They also work on paper, but glass is majorly novel!)
9) Lush Rainbow Fun Moldable Soap // Not gonna lie: it’s not 100% clear to me what this is, but it seems like a combination soap/shampoo bar that functions much like modeling clay. And who doesn’t need soap? Seems pretty friggin’ cool to me.
10) Opinel Le Petit Chef Complete Box Set // Our current kiddo knives are still great for soft foods, but Lana is becoming increasingly interested in cutting more advanced foods, and for that she needs a more advanced knife. This is a bit of a splurge considering, but I love the idea of the red markings and the finger guard for practicing proper form. The reviews are great.
1) REI Tarn 12 Pack // This little pack is just the right size for Lana, has a little sleeve compartment that could be used for either a hydration pack or a tablet, a couple of little organizer pockets, and the water bottle pockets on the side fit her Hydroflask. For bigger kids, the Tarn 18 is the same thing pumped up in scale. Note: The Tarn packs sell out quickly and haven’t been reliably restocked (I fear they’re discontinued?!), so our second choice would be one of the Deuter Junior packs. The Deuter Junior 8L is perfect for preschoolers and small kiddos; the Deuter Junior 18L is probably the next pack we’ll get Lana (she’s 6.5 years now). They both are the same great quality as Deuter’s adult packs (I have one of the women’s versions) and are fun and colorful for kids while still being performance-oriented and well-priced for the quality.
2) Hanna Andersson Pajamas // Can’t go wrong with cute and classic Hanna Andersson pjs. Well made, classic prints and often on sale.
3) Williams Sonoma Kids’ Aprons // These are so well-designed, charming as all heck and practical. Not quite sure how I’d choose between the available designs/themes — they’re all so good. (Update: the Frozen apron pictured is out of stock, but I just found this handmade version on Etsy that is arguably cooler – and yay for small biz!)
4) Old Navy Water Resistant Puffer Jacket // These jackets are clutch — well-priced, lotsa pockets, and they pack down pretty small. Stash one in the car so you’re always prepared if you end up staying out later than planned or a breeze picks up. Love the camo pattern (and it’s one of Lana’s fave neutrals, too).
5) J.Crew Plaid Flannel Nightgown // Lana is having a moment with nightgowns, and this one is so sweet. True flannel, so none of that weird, snaggy flame-retardant stuff. So classic.
7) Kids’ Shark Slippers // Personally, I think the idea of the shark chomping your kid’s feet off is strangely entertaining, but these shark slippers are probably more conventional (and a better price for something they’ll likely outgrow quickly).
8) Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Berkshire Sneakers // Admittedly, I like the version pictured above from last year a little better (it’s the all-black — just so cool!), but the utilitarian features of these boots are probably superior, and I love the butterscotch logo. Super classic. Water-resistant, too, which is perfect for the number of puddles we find ourselves tromping in this time of year.
9) Little Adventures Dress-Up Clothes // Little Adventures dress-up clothes are all SO GOOD, and they’ve got it all: princesses, knights, superhero capes, dragon wings — tons. They’re not itchy, they’re machine washable, and there is zero shitting of glitter over all the things. Lana has had this Anna dress since she was two and this Elsa dress since she was five and both been washed more times than I can count. Would definitely turn to this brand again for costumes or dress-up wear that stands the test of time.
10) The North Face Toddler Zippered Mitten // These smartly designed mittens are cozy and SUPER-easy to put on thanks to a zipper that makes the opening large enough that they can navigate their hands right in. Worth every penny for that feature, alone.
Yes, I know this says Read but we interpret this category to include educational, activity-driven gifts, too, so…
1) The Forest Feast For Kids // Not only was this book authored right here in my neck of the woods, it’s drop-dead gorgeous. Simple (albeit rather “foodie”) recipes accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations. (Bonus: it’s adapted from the original The Forest Feast cookbook, which is equally stunning, and Erin Gleeson just published The Forest Feast Mediterranean, too, which is goals upon goals. You know, if you still happen to be shopping for yourself all the while.)
2) Rush Hour Junior Traffic Jam Logic Game // This is the younger version of the super-popular Rush Hour logic game — perfect for taking along to restaurants (even very young kiddos will enjoy playing with the cars, at the very least) or keeping idle hands and minds busy at home.
3) Sofia Valdez, Future Prez // We love all the books in The Questioneers series, so you can bet I ordered this one as soon as possible. It doesn’t disappoint. We also just picked up the latest book, Aaron Slater, Illustrator. The whole series is just so clever and inspiring.
4) Harry Potter Illustrated Series // This is possibly the best gift Lana has received in the past two years. We ripped through Books 1-3, which are in this set…and then the more recently released Book 4 (also at Target), and then we were so immersed in the series that we graduated to the non-illustrated versions for Books 5-7. And now, we’ve been through the entire series two times over. (To be clear, these are unabridged versions of the Harry Potter books, studded with beautiful and sometimes eerie illustrations every few pages. Phenomenal.)
5) Reading Bug Subscription Box // We’re lucky to frequent the actual Reading Bug bookstore that puts together this box (and has since become a bit famous for its excellent, immersive storytelling podcast, which I can’t recommend enough). Each subscription is tailored to your child’s and age and interests, so literally no two subscriptions are alike.
6) LCD Writing Tablet // Easy little inexpensive electronic writing tablet that can be used over and over again — perfect for road trips or restaurants. Easily among the top kid items we’ve owned.
7) Foodstirs Baking Subscription Boxes // Foodstirs makes the most clever baking kits for every season — polar bear cupcakes, flower pot cakes with dirt and worms, galactic donuts — and every ingredient is organic and glyphosate residue (Roundup) free. They also boast chemical-free colors, fair-trade chocolate and biodynamic cane sugar. And, truth be told, everything is super delicious. Subscription boxes ship every other month.
8) Knock Knock Jokes for Kids // The reviews on this pretty much sum it up: you will hate how much your kids love this book. But Lana seriously needs some new material in the knock knock department, so I’m sorely tempted…
9) Fingerprint Activities // This is such a fun activity book that Lana can do more or less on her own (so long as we keep a baby wipe or two handy), and the resulting doodles are so cute.
10) Melissa & Doug Make-a-Meal Sticker Pad // This is the simplest concept in the world — pages that look like table settings and food stickers you can apply at free will to create meals — and yet we’re already moving onto our third because she can’t get enough of this activity. Crazy good deal, too (especially packaged in a bundle with a couple of other hit sticker activities), so it’s the perfect kinda thing to stash in a few places as needed (home, car, grandma’s house).
Good luck wrapping up the rest of that shopping, friends — and, if you’re anything like me, keeping your house relatively crap-free in the process. 🙂
Guys! Follow me on Instagram for more peeks into our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!