Here’s something nobody really talks about before you have kids: Not only will you spend a chunk of most weekends of your early parenting years attending other children’s birthday parties, but you will ALSO spend significant time three days before each party frantically scrolling Amazon for gifts you can Prime over in time to give to the birthday boy/girl. OR … you do the smart thing now and just buy a bunch of awesome, kid-pleasing, safe presents to give now, shove ’em in a closet, and have them ready for the next soiree you go to. (Which will probably be Saturday.) Here, our list of excellent go-to toys (not books — books ALWAYS make for good presents, but that’s another post) to stock up on — toys that work for boys and girls alike, and that are not overly messy, not weapon-related (no swords, sabers, guns, or anything a parent might potentially have issues with), and not more than $20.
Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty.
A super-fun, kid-pleasing favorite — fun to pull, twist, snap, sculpt, bounce, and so forth. It’s made locally, it comes in a billion varieties, and it’s also sold in local toy stores, so you can buy a bunch next time you’re at Momo’s or Tildie’s or Nest or Cloth or Please Touch Museum. A somewhat related favorite of our is the melting snowman (or unicorn, or shark), which is a putty that magically melts before your eyes. Good for kids three and up.
This Melissa and Doug bowling set has provided hours — hours and hours!! — of fun in our house since we got it almost three years ago. It’s perfect for two- and three-year-olds (though our four-year-old still plays with it sometimes, too), and it’s great because it’s a semi-active, easy indoor toy.
What kid doesn’t get psyched about walkie-talkies?
Like walkie-talkies, these things are all over Amazon, and range wildly in price. But a simple version for a little bitty one — or a cooler one for older kids — provides endless entertainment inside, outside, solo, together … it’s such a great toy to own/give.
Tweemade Sidewalk Chalk
Sidewalk chalk that looks like donuts? Or gemstones? Or sushi? Or the alphabet? Absolutely adorable. And special. And creative. (And easy to wrap!) This is another one that’s locally made, so you can find it in local toy stores (not to mention Nordstrom) or on the site!
Fairy house or birdhouse paint kits.
Any gift that also provides a rainy day activity is a good one, in my book. Kids can decorate these things, then put them outside to display. Another version of this? I’ve given a plain wooden “trinket” boxes (Target sells them!) with a set of washable markers for decorating — kids can personalize a box and then use it to stash prized possessions.
Battat Take-Apart Toys
A battery-powered, kid-friendly drill can assemble and disassemble any number of vehicles — a plane, crane, roadster, truck and more. They’re adorable and (probably) great for fine-motor skills, and it’s cool to put together a toy and then play with it.