The Gifts I’m ACTUALLY Getting My Kids For The Holidays


We’ve had a lot of you write in wanting to know what we are ACTUALLY buying for our kids for the holidays. TME readers, you are now the first to know that I’ve actually decided to use my entire holiday budget to keep all 11 pairs of snow boots that I reviewed for TME…I have my speech ready for when the kids find 11 boxes of size 7.5 women’s snow boots waiting for them under the tree — “Kids, Santa’s magic works in mysterious ways.” 

In all seriousness, the question of what we’re giving our kids is tricky for me. Every year, I think to myself, “I really should only do experiential gifts or just make a donation instead of gifts completely.” I recognize that we are extremely fortunate, and there’s not much that my kids actually need. I have to be honest, though…I’m a shopper and I absolutely LOVE buying my children gifts for the holidays…I love sitting down and really thinking about what they’re into this year, I love scouring the internet for new toys or classics that they haven’t enjoyed yet, I love anticipating the look on their faces when they open certain gifts, and I even love thinking about the practical things that they won’t be thrilled with, but are still fun to buy. AND, of course…there’s the whole “my kids do like getting gifts” thing. 

It is what it is. I’ve decided to try my hardest to balance all the getting (for my kids) with a lot of giving too, and try to be thoughtful about buying things that will be used well. I try to buy things the kids will enjoy TOGETHER, things that we as a family will all use TOGETHER, and/or gifts that are good enough quality to be passed down or donated when we’ve outgrown them (relieves a bit of my guilt). I also try hard to limit the “junk” toys (those they are ecstatic to receive, but then only play with for 10 minutes and forget). 

For suggestions of insanely good toys that we have bought our kids in the PAST, check out The Ultimate Toy Gift Guide. It’s a list of toys for all age groups that Shana and I have personally gifted, owned, and loved. But back to answering readers’ initial question…here’s what my kiddos, age 5 and 10, (with some grandparent involvement) are getting THIS YEAR spread out over three different holidays — we have three different religions represented in our families, so there’s a lot of celebrating this time of year.  

My kids' holiday presents represent a fun mix of wants & needs ranging from art supplies & puzzles to tech toys & more. THESE are the gifts I'm giving.

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The Big Gift – A Double Reading Nook  

1/ Neck Hugger Book Light: Love that this goes around the neck. Gets great reviews, is rechargeable and reasonably priced right now.

2/ & 3/ Boxcar Children | The Penderwicks: I’m always on the hunt for good book series for my older son —Boxcar Children is from the 1940’s, so we’ll see if he still finds it relatable. I have heard really good things, though, about the Penderwicks — it will be a hit for sure.

4/ Bean Bags: People love their FatBoy bean bags — they can lay flat, be propped up, turned on their sides, and offer more flexibility with positioning than regular bean bags (they are also super-durable.) They come in junior or regular size, and I anticipate the kids will find all sorts of play options for these together (besides just reading). The material is vinyl and not as soft as I had hoped, but I’m confident it will soften with use.

5/ Magic Tree House Series: My younger son desperately wants to read chapter books like his big brother, so we got him the Magic Tree House Series (my older son loved these when he was little; they’re a great starter series for younger ones.)

6/ Fuzzy Blanket: My mom found a less expensive faux fur throw at one of her local bargain basements, but this is what it looks like. My kids are obsessed with anything soft and fuzzy.

7/ Shaggy Rug: The back of our kitchen (where the reading nook is going) has tile flooring and is COLD. This fuzzy, cozy rug will definitely warm it up and make for a good cuddle spot.

8/ & 9/ Magnetic Shelf and Clear Plastic Bin for Book Storage: One magnetic shelf to attach to the wall and one slim plastic bin next to each bean bag. I’m hoping the book lights will also “live” here so they don’t get lost.

New Art Supplies

10/ & 12/ Makedo Cardboard Construction Toolkit and Expansion Materials: Saws, screwdrivers, and screws made specifically for cardboard and specifically for kids! So cool, right? I got two sets of each, so they don’t have to fight over the favorite tools. As I write this, I am literally watching the two of them build a fort, and struggle with kid scissors and masking tape with the bean bag boxes — can’t wait to see what they create once they have these extra tools!

11/ 13/ & 14  Drawing Travel Case: We have this drawing case already, but my little one REALLY wants one of his own. I’m going to craft up some type of label for the outside with his name on it. I’m including our favorite Prismacolor Colored Pencils, and these really cool silver ones too.

A Few Tech Things

15/ Nintendo Switch Smash Brothers Game: This game was at the top on my older son’s list — I have a whole big explanation on why I like the Switch over other gaming systems here (short explanation: more family friendly).

16/ Puro Headphones: We’re hoping these hit the perfect spot between the cheapie headphones and the crazy expensive Beats.


17/ & 18/  Perplexors Books: My older son loved the Bedtime Math Series when he was little, so I have high hopes that he might “geek out” over these too. Fun to figure out as a family, too.

19/ Perplexus Maze Game: My older son has been eyeing this in all the toy catalogs covering my house right now. Might not be a forever toy, but good enough quality to pass along when it has run its course.

20/  Kanoodle Junior: My younger son plays with his brother’s regular Kanoodle, but he can only get “so far”. Hoping this one will give him more confidence, and they can both play their Kanoodles at the same time.

21/ Little Red Riding Hood Deluxe Brainteaser: My 5-year-old played this at a friend’s — so cute, so clever. I love these kinds of puzzlers for independent and sibling play.

Stuff They Actually Need

22/ & 23/  See-Thru Umbrella and Polka Dot Umbrella: These are GREAT kid umbrellas. We borrowed them from a friend, and they instantly went in my Amazon cart. So so cute — and they work well too!

24/ Sonicare Kids Toothbrush: Not the most exciting gift ever, but my older son lost his (how does this happen?), and he will be thrilled he doesn’t have to replace it with his own money.

25/ LL Bean Snow Boots: We stick with LL Bean boots for the kids year after year. We love the shorter ones, but we’re trying out the tall ones this year for my big guy. Solid construction and not horribly pricey since LL Bean usually has some sort of deal going on.

26/ Pajamas: Hanna Andersson PJ’s are the best!  Matching sets for all the cousins (courtesy of grandma) — even better!

27/ Kid Friendly Knives: This is really more for me. I need help in the kitchen, and I have high hopes for these.

A New Playdate Activity

28/  Ribbon Ninja: My kids are going to totally flip over this. They’ve been playing their own homemade version of this with socks tucked in to waistbands, so this is going to be a very nice upgrade…I bought two so it can be played with more kids too.

For Family Game Night

29/ Castle Panic: Shana’s family and many other friends LOVE this. Can’t wait to try it out.

30/  Pencil Nose: Every year we introduce a new silly family game at the family gathering. Years past it has been Pie Face and Watch Ya’ Mouth, but Pencil Nose looks like a ton of fun, and one we may still play after the holidays too.

And Then There’s This

31/  Robot Grabber Claw: Did I really say I try not to buy junk toys? Well…my younger son saw this in the Road Trip Toy Post and has been talking about it ever since. It’s the only thing he is actually asking for. Going to take it on our Christmas/New Year’s road trip and see if it actually works the way we hope it will.

Shop All The Gifts & Toys I’m Giving Here:

What gifts are you guys getting for your kids that you’re most excited about?? Has anyone successfully moved to experiential gifts? Would love to hear. Always looking for new ideas!

P.S. Head over to our new-for-2022 holiday gift guides for more seriously cool gift ideas for all your loved ones (or whomever).


  1. My 9 year old loves both the Perplexor books and the Penderwicks. I think you will really like both.

    I’m off to add that sharpener to our Amazon cart right now!

  2. This is awesome, thank you! We do two half-hearted gift-giving holidays a year too, plus there’s a birthday in between, and I hate shopping. It’s really useful for me to have a list of big-kid gifts in hand, since big-kid-ness seems to spring on us faster than an errant Lego ends up in your bedroom slippers.

  3. I just finished reading The Penderwicks series to my kids (5 and 8). I enjoyed all of them, though the final one was a bit over their heads (I think written for the kids who grew up reading the other books as they came out). Great books.

  4. Thank you for this! It was really helpful in getting some good ideas for my crew. I’m excited about the games and the perplexor books.

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