Read this before you Christmas shop!

Admittedly, there is one thing about Christmas I dread…figuring out how to assimilate all the new additions to our household which come in the form of toys for my girls. I feel guilty to be so humbug but seriously, too many toys gets flat out overwhelming. And while Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, this year I want to focus on making sure their gifts last longer than just the thrill of unwrapping the package.

So how do we, as parents (or grandparents) get the most bang for our Christmas buck? Rather than running out and getting the must have gift of the year, instead ask yourself what your goal is for your child in 2018.

If you’re looking for gifts to entertain your child while you’re busy, shop for:


  • Books, books & more books
  • Bins for storage, a comfy chair for reading, or even a child sized table and chair and use it to set up a creative space with materials for arts, crafts, or inspirations which are organized & labeled.
  • Playdough with tools and cookie cutters for creating.
  • Legos, Lincoln Logs, Kinetix…
  • Puzzles
  • Educational interactive electronic games (limit use)
  • Cardboard boxes (you would be amazed what they can become)
  • Crayons, scrap paper, tape, glue, scissors (when age appropriate, ribbon scraps, buttons (size based on age appropriateness), stickers…


If you’re looking to enhance your child’s learning with activities you can enjoy together, shop for or create:

  • Books, books & more books – read to and with your child, ask questions about what happened & what they think will happen-make a chart designating time spent together.
  • Matching games (shapes, letters, words, math equations with same answer… can be store bought or just a pile of index cards- lots of sizes and colors available for fun combinations).
  • Create lists of words beginning with same letter, same root words, similar meaning, opposites…(a chalkboard or white board makes this really fun).
  • Scavenger hunt cards around the house with the above categories (store bought or homemade cards).
  • Create a job list and check it off daily (Cute board to hang, calendar or simply a weekly chart with stickers).
  • Have a spelling (or math, shape, whatever) where they test you and you test them (use the same group of cards).
  • Write cards to friends, relatives… help however needed (fun stationary and fancy markers).

If you’re looking to get your child outdoors:

  • Install some equipment such as a swing, tire swing, monkey bars, parallel bars, chinning bars, balance beam, soccer goal, basketball hoop.
  • Set up an obstacle course using pool noodles, hula hoops and cones; vary it regularly.
  • Take care of garden by watering, weeding and measuring growth (watering bucket, gloves, ruler & chart).

If you’re looking for to provide family interactions:

  • Gift card for picnic in the park (wrap in a picnic basket-play style or real)
  • Gift card for ice or roller skating (attach to a hat, leggings, or skates?)
  • Gift card for family trip to the zoo (attach to a stuffed animal)
  • Back yard kick ball game (kickball)
  • Hang a piñata in the back yard (store bought piñata or materials to make one)
  • Plant a garden, veggies and/or flowers- learn about each, make a photo album (wrap with gloves, tools, seeds & photo album)
  • Regular trip to library for reading and checking out books (very own library card with several books checked out)
  • Plan a scavenger hunt with silly prizes for the one who finds…(collection of things to hunt)

The real message here is, give your child the gift of your time and activities that stimulate the development of a logical mind. Give them an appreciation for being able to figure things out and a love of learning. Teach them it is fun to be physically active. Take all that time, energy and money you would spend on toys that will just clutter the room and create memories for your children.

Merry Christmas!


Connect with me at or follow my book Smart Cookie, Recipes for Raising a Genius  on Facebook @SmartCookieRecipes, or Instagram @SmartCookieRecipes.


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