Inside: Have kids on your shopping list and you don’t know what to buy them for the holidays? Here are more than 50 holiday gift ideas that will inspire kids to be more creative and use their imaginations in building, dramatic play, art and music.
Ouch. I stepped on another lego.
And there are papers, markers, tape, and scissors all over my dining room table.
I found wooden blocks piled up into a castle-like shape in the bathroom.
And my very nice grown-up bathtub is filled with teacups and teapots from the last bubble bath tea party my daughters had.
My house is almost always a disaster with craft supplies and half-built buildings spread out.
But since play is work for children, I want to give my kids the right tools for the job. I want their imaginations to flourish and I want them to be inspired.
I want my kids to be creative. I want them to feel like they can use their imaginations as they play…no matter how messy it gets.
So any toys that foster creativity are welcome in my house. Even the loud and messy ones.
Creative toys are my absolute favorite toys to give my kids (and to get for other kids) because they serve at least two purposes. They are fun to play with and they encourage my children’s imaginations to grow and thrive.
If you want to encourage the children on your shopping list to be more creative, I’ve compiled the ultimate list of items that will inspire kids to use their imaginations as they play.
Here are my absolute favorite creative toys that should be on every shopper’s holiday list to help kids design, create, build, pretend and problem solve.
Building Toys to Foster Creativity:
MegaBlocks: All three of my kids loved these and they’re perfect for beginner builders.
Magna-Tiles– I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these…they are so incredibly versatile and can be played with at any age. The neighborhood kids come over and often head straight for our Magna-Tile bin. And more importantly, I love to build with them too, so when I get asked to play, I can heartly say “yes.” They are a we-will-never-get-rid-of-them toys.
*Side note- I almost gagged when I first heard how expensive Magna-Tiles were. But they are a perfect gift for grandparents to give to all of your kids as a group gift. Or you can purchase smaller sets and slowly build your collection. They are worth every penny.
Magformers– Not quite as cool as the Magna Tiles in my opinion, but we have added these to our magnet building collection.
Wooden blocks- Plain and simple, but these are a staple in our house. We’ve used them to build castles, cities, and even forests.
Wooden castle set– We’ve added this set to our wooden blocks and my kids are sold. I often wake up to castles crashing down because their newest design just had to built at 6:30am.
Plus Plus Building Sets– Two plus signs, a hashtag or a pound sign, whatever you call them, my kids love them. They come in skinny tubes with directions to build something specific and larger sets to make your own creations. These are not suitable for families with little ones who put things in their mouths!
Lego Duplo sets: My family has an obscene collection of Lego Duplos that started back when I was teaching Kindergarten…and honestly, my ten year old still sometimes prefers to build with them over the original Lego sets! (And so do I.)
Lego sets– I’m not going to beat around the bush. We are a Lego family. We drank the Lego Kool-Aid and our kids get Legos from almost every family member for almost every gift giving holiday, Valentine’s Day included. We have quite the collection…my family could open our own mini Legoland. Here are our favorites:
Lego books– Don’t know what to do with all of those Lego pieces after the sets break apart? Become a “master builder” with the help of these incredible books.
My son is obsessed with stop action videos with his Stik Bots so he is going to LOVE this book! And this is time using a screen that I 100% do not count as screen time since he is being so darn creative to make his movies.
Dramatic Play Toys to Foster Creativity:
Playhouse– Hands down, this was one of my kids’ most favorite outside toys to play with. At one point it was a store, a post office, and a castle. I served them their lunches in this house, attended cupcake parties, and crawled in myself once or twice to play Ninja Turtles.
Play Kitchen– Our kitchen is still my kids’ most played with toy. We keep one kitchen outside and one inside, they play with it so often. I can not tell you how often I eat cupcakes for breakfast and waffles with broccoli.
This kitchen is one that grows with your child. My eldest had it on the lowest level until she was ready to reach and we expanded it to fit her height. Toys that grow with your child and their creativity get double bonus points!
Food Truck– This is beyond hilarious and my kids would have absolutely loved this. Little entrepreneurs love to serve and sell their food…why not do it from a trendy food truck?
Diner and Kitchen Set– Oh, my kids would have flipped for this one…in fact my youngest saw it and just begged for it. There’s even a kitchen on the back side of it!
BBQ Set- My little man especially loved to bbq alongside us, serving up hamburgers and hot dogs and grilled pizza.
Store front– My kids love serving food and cooking food, but what they’re really obsessed with is selling food. Inside, outside, and on street corners, they love to make money or make “money.” Turns out 3 rocks can buy me some pretty awesome plastic fruit. My daughter’s current hussle is selling mud that comes in different flavors.
Cash Register– How can you operate a successful mud business without a cash register? I stuff these with empty gift cards from local stores and restaurants that my kids use as credit cards.
Play Food- I’m kind of obsessed with play food and I can’t lie…we have a ridiculous amount of food for them to cook with. You need a lot of options when you have a restaurant, a bakery, and a sushi joint in your home. Here are just a few of my kids’ personal faves.
Tea Set for the Bathtub: We tend to have tea outside with water play when it’s warm, or inside during bath time. Bath time tea parties have become such a huge hit that we have a dedicated plastic set we keep in the bathroom now. We throw some glow sticks into the tub and we’ve got a really special party that’s invite only.
Dress Up– My kids love to dress up…some costumes are homemade like our Ninja Turtle masks and some are left over Halloween costumes. But many were bought to simply foster their creativity… to literally try on what they want to be when they grow up. Here are a few of our family’s absolute go tos:
I gave them an apron and a chef’s hat with some take-out menus from local restaurants and an order booklet so they can take my food and coffee order.
School Set– As soon as my kids come home from school, they’re dying to play school! They all want a turn to be the teacher. My eldest makes me take spelling tests in cursive and multiplication fact timed tests.
Library Set- This is perfect for older kiddos who love books and love libraries. My daughter checks out books to her siblings and to us, but the fines for overdue library books are pretty steep.
Tool Set-Both my son and youngest daughter love to fix things and use tools just like Mommy and Daddy. When they’re old enough, and you’re comfortable enough, you can buy them real, but kid-sized tools with building sets.
Arts and Crafts Gifts to Foster Creativity:
Dot Art Stampers– My kids loved creating art with dots…they wrote their names in dots, traced lines in dots, and created some pretty awesome Pointillism art with them.
Melissa and Doug Sticker Sets-This is by far one of the least messy ways to let your kids get creative with arts and crafts. And these are our go to gifts for all birthday parties and holiday gifts.
3D Drawing Pen– This looks like the coolest thing ever…drawing but in 3D? My kids would go nuts for this!
MagnaDoodle– A little bit lower tech than the 3D pen, but my kids spent hours drawing and erasing on this thing! Perfect for road trips, restaurants and not using up every last piece of paper we own to doodle.
Craft Project Sets– I love it when my kids get craft projects sets because we pull them out on their “I’m so bored!” days. They have made lamps, decorated their own umbrella, made umpteen beaded necklaces and these beauties:
Open Ended Art Projects– My kids love to create art…so we have a well stocked supply cabinet of crayons, markers, water color paints, tempra paints, scissors, glue sticks and glue, sidewalk chalk, rolls of paper, and painters tape (so when they want to showcase their art, they can hang it on any wall without ripping off your paint).
Ed Emberly Drawing Books– Do you remember these from when we were kids? I pulled my old copy out and my son is obsessed! No more saying he couldn’t draw. These simple step by step drawings of adding shapes gave him the confidence he needed to draw anything now!
Stamp Art Sets– These are perfect for little fingers to tell stories, create art, practice patterning with math and just have fun with. Stamping can get pretty messy though…keep the baby wipes nearby!
Playdoh with Accessories– Playdoh is not for the faint of heart. It’s a mess. Always. Colors get mixed and Playdoh will be on your floor. Some families choose to do it outside, others save it for Grandma’s house. But my eldest played with Playdoh almost every day, making “cookies” with cookie cutters, a dollar store garlic press and “real” knives.
Perler Beads/Fusion Beads– these are definitely not for the faint of heart…or for homes with kids who put tiny things in their mouths. But since I’m the only mom on my block who has them in her house, the neighborhood kids gather here to make “power up shields” for a game they created: The kids traipse in, make a shield, wait for me to iron it and then run out the door to use it. My floor is a mess, but the creativity is off the charts.
Music Gifts to Foster Creativity:
Musical Instruments– My kids have loved making music since they were babies. And while the noise of their music wasn’t exactly music to my ears then, it has paid off. The part of your brain that starts firing when listening to and playing music is a powerful part of your brain.
Music Cube– My babies, toddlers, and preschoolers all loved this music cube because they were in control of the type of music they got to hear.
Xylophone for the Bathtub– All of my kids love making music, but they especially love making it in the tub. Older kids can follow the water proof notes while younger kids can just jam away. This was a staple in our baths!
Microphone– We’ve had singing competitions and a play and even a 5 costume change fashion show using our family’s microphone. Somehow when they amplify their voice their creativity tends to amplify as well.
Floor Piano- What’s more fun than playing piano with your feet???
Happy shopping, Happy creativity, and Happy Holidays!
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