Ask the Readers: What Are the Best Gifts for Kids?

By Ashley Jacobs on 16 October 2012 (Updated 24 October 2012) 56 comments
Photo: DVIDSHUB

Congratulations to Nancy B from Many LA, Rachel, and Step for winning this week's contest!

Editor's Note: For the next few weeks, we will be doing a gift giving series on Ask the Readers and will focus on the best gifts for certain demographics! Ask the Readers: What are the Best Gifts for Kids? is part three of our series!

Shopping for kids for their birthday or the holidays can be a blast! Heading to a toy store and walking up and down the aisle to find the perfect gift is fun! But when the latest and greatest toy is sold out everywhere, sometimes you have to get creative.

What are the best gifts for kids? The latest toy? Sporting equipment? Something more practical like clothes? Or something a little less traditional like opening a college savings account?

Tell us what you think the best gifts for kids are and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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We're doing three giveaways — here's how you can win!

Mandatory Entry: 

  • Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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    • Contest ends Monday, October 22nd at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after October 22nd on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
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Guest's picture
Rachael Woodstuff

The absolute best gift for kids is time. Our tradition is to give our 5 year-old one gift that she can open for each occasion and then give another gift of special time together. For Christmas last year, she went to the zoo for the first time and loved it. The best part is that if she is ever in a situation where she has more gifts, she'll begin to give them away so that others can have gifts to open. 'Things' just don't last for her. Any new toy she is given is neglected over playing pretend with one of us or going to a playground. They just want your time.

Guest's picture
Debi

I like to give experience gifts - gift certificates for classes (art, pottery, sewing) or tickets for an event - museum, sporting event, concert, movie passes. They don't add to clutter and tend to have a longer impact.

Guest's picture
Guest

Toys that fire the imagination!
Costume box: shop post halloween clearance and fill a big box!
Art box: scraps of fabric, cool paper, pens, markers, glitter and glue - journals and pens for older kids, sketch books and pencils
Legos if they're into that and K'nex are great for manipulation and imagination and for older kids too

Guest's picture
Nancy B from Many LA

Kids love toys, I would suggest a toy that uses imagination - Legos, things you build, but always give them a real book also!

Guest's picture
KF

You can't go wrong with books (or a kindle + books). Entertainment and learning in one.

Guest's picture
Nancy

For my grandchildren, I save a little every month in a 529 college plan. This is a gift but it can't really be counted as a gift by the children because they don't see, feel, touch it. The kids I give to are toddlers. My criteria for gifts are (1) they encourage imaginative play (play dishes, tools, dress-up clothes and hats, vehicles, and animal and people figures); (2) they encourage creative expression (crayons, fingerpaint, musical instruments, music CDs); (3) they encourage intellectual development (books, magnetic alphabets, toys for sorting and stacking, kits that they put together; (4) they encourage good life habits such as money earmarked for saving and spending; card games and board games; (5) encourage phyiscal fitness and group play (bats and balls). I vow never to give movies or video games.

Guest's picture
Brenda Faulkner

Savings Bonds are the best!

Guest's picture
Patty

Art supplies make great gifts for kids. They are open-ended and fit all sizes and ages. Anyone can tap into their inner artist...even those who say they aren't "artistic". just let the creativity flow and have fun and encourage children to express themselves with crayons, paint, paper, craft supplies and so on.

Guest's picture
Susan Crawford

I think some of the best kids' gifts are those that spark curiosity and creativity. Art & craft supplies are great. Books of all kinds are always appropriate and can start a lifetime habit of reading that is always a plus! :)

Guest's picture

I think the best gift for kids would be something to stimulate their creativity and their imagination. Buy them watercolor, building games, puzzles, board games, supplies to build a mini green house that they can tend, books, something to teach them about nature and the world around them.

But please, please stay away from all the plastic junk and dust-collecting furry things that so easily pass as toys nowadays.

Guest's picture
Cheri Scott

One of our son's all time favorite gifts was a small tool box loaded with small size but good quality tools (hammer, screwdrivers, metal tape measure, hand saw, vise grips), glue, nails, screws and a carpenters pencil. We gave it to him for Christmas when he was 7 and he still has most of those tools at 35!

Guest's picture
Dante Fichera

xBOX

Guest's picture
Roxanne

Books, books, more books. I only buy toys if I have to (i.e. the parent asks me to buy a toy) and even then I'm partial to educational toys like Leapfrog and GoldieBlox (http://www.goldieblox.com/).

Guest's picture
Olivia

It really depends on the kid's age and how much advertising they're exposed to. Both boys prefered the big cardboard boxes the gifts came in to gifts on their first Christmases. Stuffed animals came next. Then Duplos were a front runner, until Legos made the scene. Artist's sketch pads, books related to their interests, and capes and head gear for play acting were a close second. One child asked for thin cardboard and masking tape one year (about the time he learned to use scissors). These he worked into Rube Goldberg type contraptions. Now that they're older, they like music downloads or CD's.

Guest's picture
NJJ

I think the best gifts for children are depending on the child's age are gifts they are interested in like toys and games related to movies or books or sports Clothes can be okay if the child like to shop or pick out their own clothes

Guest's picture
David

Probably depends on the kids but both my boys love anything Lego. They are available at a variety of price points and themes.

Guest's picture

puzzles and such to keep their little hands busy. also, books. I always give friends' kids books.

Guest's picture
Betty

It depends on the kid. I like to give books if the kid is into it. If not, a favorite hobby or craft

Guest's picture
Lori P

Gifts where they can be creative, books and money to help pay for sports or other after school activities.

Guest's picture
Carmen

I think the best purchased gifts are one that help to develop their creativity and imagination and ability to think and learn. In other words, I'm not a big fan of electronic toys where all they do is press a button to listen or watch something. There's a reason why "classic" toys like blocks have lasted the test of time.

Guest's picture
Andrea B

The best gift I have given my three nephews and three nieces was a simple fleece blanket that I made myself. I picked a different pattern for each niece/nephew so they were completely different. My oldest nephew is 11 and he still has his (even though he doesn't tote it around anymore). It keeps them warm and they know their loving aunt made it for them specifically so it's memorable.

Guest's picture
Christie

The best gifts for kids? Time with them, things that encourage an interest they have, and passes to something they can do as a family. In the past, we bought my nieces and nephew passes to the Children's Museum for Christmas and the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens other times. Great family outings, they felt like they could just go for an hour or so instead of getting every last minute out of a single day pass. It was the gift that lasted all year long!

Guest's picture
Kate

I think that educational toys are some of the best (and most fun!) toys for kids. I remember spending hours with volcano kits, dinosaur construction toys, etc. and I loved them!

Guest's picture
Karen

The gift of an "experience" - going to the Basketball Hall of Fame, Children's Science Museum, trip to a city. Something that will create a memory. Not just another item they will play with for a day or two and then it collects dust.

Guest's picture
Gina

Books. A love of reading is the best gift you can give to anyone.

Guest's picture
Andrea

When I was a kid the best gifts I received were those my parents gave me to encourage my hobbies. I loved to bake, so they often gave me kitchen items. Once I became an adult, I didn't have to spend any money outfitting my own kitchen. Now at 29 my kitchen is still filled with my childhood gifts (my marble rolling pin and pastry board and my favorites)! The only downside was that when I left for college, my mother was surprised that I owned most of our cooking gear.

Guest's picture
Diane

It depends on the age and interests of the child. I love to give books, whenever possible. I also like classic toys, such as Legos, which provide a chance for open ended play. I like to give toys that provide exercise, and outdoor experiences, such as a scooter or bike or soccer ball.

Guest's picture
Kim

The best gifts for kids is to encourage them in whatever they are interested in at the moment. For my son, that meant baking cupcakes all summer in an effort to start his own baking company. My daughter loves to read, so I encouraged her to write a book. There is nothing more exciting than the gift of being a dreamer and with that, the knowledge that you can do anything.

Guest's picture
Ann Cooper

I think a great gift for a kid is a board game. My son and his friends get bored with their video games and always like to play board games like Sorry with my husband and me. I also think arts and craft projects are great gifts that bring out creativity.

Guest's picture
Anne Marie

Unique experiences such as trips to the zoo! Contributions to a college fund are wonderful too, with the cost of college increasing & so many easy ways to save such as 529 plans.

Guest's picture
Therese

I think the best gifts for kids are experiences. They love to spend time doing things with people they love.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

Books, creative toys or hobby materials, and unique items are the best for kids. Giving them your full, undivided, loving attention is always the best, though (for any age really!).

Guest's picture
DeeDee

Gift cards or cash

Guest's picture
cwaltz

As a child I'd say Legos are one of the most universally loved toys my kids have received. They were something that everyone from age 8 to 18 enjoyed playing with whether male or female.

Guest's picture
Marybeth

As a teacher, I see kids lacking imagination. I love to see kid gifts that challenge them to discover. Building kits, arts n crafts, science kits, anything that will get them out in nature, and of course books are some favorites. I also love gift sets that reinforce family... Games, puzzles, or fun pasta and an apron to cook with mom or dad. A book or two with a reading light, fun pillow or blanket, and hot cocoa is great too

Guest's picture
Lynda

a toy (can be new or used), books, or something related to the kid's interest is best.

Guest's picture
Monica

I like to give experience gifts- like a zoo membership or trip to the skating rink. They aren't as fun to open but a candy bar attached is :) and pictures for younger kids that can't read yet.

Guest's picture
Happy Love

I agree that gifts of time and experiences are the most important for children, even though they may not be the most appreciated at the time when they are received.

Guest's picture
steph

passes to a local zoo or aquarium!

Guest's picture
Karl

For my kids who are a little older gift certificates for experiences work well. Going rollerskating or to a movie are great!

Guest's picture
Hollie

Experience gifts are always something to look forward to and offer quality time together. If that isn't appropriate or wanted by the parent, I like to give more open ended toys like blocks. They can be played with by a toddler (stacking) to elaborate, imaginative creations for older kids. Plus, various brands can be put together and you don't have to buy a specific type.

Guest's picture

Experiences, like guitar lessons, a trip together, a certificate to go to the local indoor climbing place. My kids don't need more junk. They want more time with family to build memories.

Guest's picture
Neva

Every year for Christmas I get my nieces and nephews magazine subscriptions. I have done this for several years. I try and find magazines with no advertisements in them. Highlights, Jack and Jill, American Girl. They are a little more than the others but the quality of the magazines is so much better! The boys really like sports so when they turned 10 I got the Sports Illustrated for Kids. This entertains them as well as getting them to read, cook, do projects etc. What kid doesn't like to get stuff in the mail? Just choose age appropriate, advertisement free magazines and you can't go wrong. The kids love this.

Guest's picture
Holly

My girls love puzzles. Melissa and Doug make great puzzles.

Guest's picture
Guest

I know kids love electronic gizmos like xboxes and so on, but I like to make presents of good age-appropriate books that are fun to read. Too many kids today don't seem to read much because of so many distractions, like TV and xboxes.

A gift of a book can help introduce a child to a whole wonderful world of reading for enjoyment and to learn new things about people and places.

Guest's picture
Elena

I think that books are the best gifts for kids

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Maureen G.

For younger children that won't know the difference since they are usually overwhelmed with toys, I would aim for savings bonds or some other aspect of putting $$ away for when they are older. I have always put any birthday or Christmas money in a savings acct for my boys since they get so many toys and don't even notice. For older kids, I think anything that stimulates creativity or physical activity is great, just try to steer clear of the video games, etc.

Guest's picture

I like to give gifts that encourage kids to spend time outdoors--slack lines, nature guides, sleds. We all spend way too much time in front of screens.

Guest's picture
Mel

I follow this rule: 1 item you need (clothing, backpack, etc...); 1 item you want (toy, movie, etc...); 1 hobby-based item (sports, avid-reader, crafts); and 1 experience item (museum passes, movie tickets, concert - so long as it is with the parent/s)

Guest's picture
Emily

I agree with all those who say that the best gift to our children is our time. Quality time together, experiencing new *or* well-loved things / places / people / foods / etc.

Guest's picture

We like to get things that we know each specific child will enjoy as to ensure them playing with/using it. We also hold back a good amount of what we have budgeted for them as they get so much from their grandparents. By doing that we can get them things throughout the year.

Guest's picture
gwennypoo

I think any gift that gives a child a chance to use his imagination and brain are good. Books, puzzles, legos ,duplos, anything from the Smithsonian collection, craft kits, art supplies, musical instruments etc. Stay away from electronics that just dull the brain and stifle imagination. In my work in school I am dismayed by the inability of children to be creative in any fashion because they have never had any experience at it. They have no patience and can only relate to computer games. People are so concerned about being about being able to afford the latest electronics for their children. What they really need to be concerned about is developing their brain and intelligence.

Guest's picture
KelR1

The best gift would be a contribution to their savings or college account, and then a small tangible item for them if they're still very young, like a book or a toy.

Guest's picture
Scoutmaster

I asked my kids what were their fav. gifts growing up and this is what they replied;
"I loved my new kids cookbook with your coupons for 6 cooking lessons inside!"

"I loved the new pocketknife and gift certificate to go camping...just us alone"

"I loved the HUGE BOX of legos (the box was over 3 ft by 3 ft) you bought at a yard sale and then you gave it to me for no special reason...i played & played with those"

"I loved my 1st diamond necklace (It was a small charm I put on a chain)when i turned 16 along with the letter you wrote on how special I was in your life"

My all time favorite gift was the box of handmade barbie clothes my grandmother made for me!

Guest's picture
Lisa

Unless you know what the child's interests are and what they already own, you're better off sticking with the tried and true...cash. For younger children your gift could be coins inside a new piggy bank.

Guest's picture
Cassandra Tucker

Books because books can let you travel in the comfort of your own home.