happy non-electronic holidays to you!…gift ideas for kids, birth-twelve

Once again, coinciding with Black Friday, I’m posting a blog encouraging those of you shopping for kids to strongly consider purchasing non-electronic gifts.

Imagination, creativity, problem solving, discovery, wonderment, conversation, fitness, refreshment, cooperation — there are so many benefits to turning off the gadgets that keep children sitting still and focusing on a screen!  Take a step towards healthier minds, bodies and souls for the children in your life — reduce their electronic entertainment in 2013.

Please — I’m not encouraging excessive shopping. I’m just offering a few ideas  my family has enjoyed through the years.  You can find more by following the links from last year’s blogs at the bottom of the post.  Please do comment and tell us your favorite non-electronic toys/gifts as well.

Birth to 2 years:

Keep the toys simple, looking for those with lots of potential for imaginative use.  These tried-and-true stacking rings are fine for stacking up in proper order on the post…I guess…but they’re also great to stack up in any ol’ order, use as doughnuts, roll across the floor, float in the kiddie pool, wear as crowns, and on and on and on.
Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack

Water is one of the best toys ever.  For tub, puddle, or pool, a boat is dandy.  This one’s a beefy size, has a deck to carry Lego guys or plastic animals, and a spout on the bow so you can scoop and pour water.  Besides, these Green Toys are made from recycled milk jugs so they’re environmentally-friendly.
Green Toys My First Tugboat, Yellow

2 to 5 years:

I wish I could find some of the great floor puzzles my kids and their babysitting charges have gone bonkers over for the past 20 years.  There are others out there, though.  This old-style farm looks jolly.  Big pieces mean more large motor skills are used than in the small table-top variety — great project for preschoolers.

Melissa & Doug Farm Friends 32 pc Floor Puzzle

Here’s a game we played about a million times with our kids.  Try to guess the identity of a secret person by asking questions– “Does your person have a moustache?”  Flipping down all the pictures that don’t fit the description eventually leaves just one person standing. Older siblings can try deducing 2 secret identities at the same time.
Guess Who? Board Game

Not much to say here.  Playdoh’s been around since the 1950s and still has the power to occupy bunches of kids for long rainy days.  Get some cheap plastic placemats from the local thrift store to make clean up easier, that’s my motto. Collect dolly dishes, old garlic presses, objects that make interesting impressions…gobs of possibilities.
Case of Colors

5-8 years

These pencils are a little pricey, but we bought a set when our kids were about this age and found they last for years and have been a great favorite.  Beautiful for shading and blending, so many gorgeous colors to choose from.  We enjoyed using them for nature-sketching , so I’m adding a link for a nice little sketchbook as well.

Sanford Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencil Set, 48/Tin
Darice 5-1/2-Inch-by-8-1/2-Inch Hardbound Sketch Book, 100-Sheets

Kids can create amazing things in the kitchen.  This is a cookbook I like because the recipes respect kids’ true abilities — delicious, no mixes, everything from omelets to homemade ice cream sandwiches, with directions for a responsible cook.  Easier recipes for the beginners are marked; many recipes are included that are quite challenging.

Williams-Sonoma The Kid’s Cookbook: A great book for kids who love to cook (Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles)

8-12 years

Connect-the-dots are taken to a whole new level in this outstanding series.  There is no way to look at the page and have any clue what it’s going to be.  These are seriously complex, with well over 500 dots in the designs, two-page designs, and multiple variations. Great for sick days, car rides, waiting rooms.  Great favorites in my household.
The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Super Challenge Book 5 (Greatest Dot to Dot! Super Challenge!)

Binoculars are a great gift for an older child.  Search for birds, watch a lunar eclipse, spy on the squirrel building a nest or the tapir lounging in the zoo, take them whale-watching, to the ball park, to a raptor release… I am not an expert, but these look like a decent pair for a starter.
Bushnell Falcon 10×50 Wide Angle Binoculars (Black)

Labyrinth is a game we’ve enjoyed a lot over the years  It requires strategic thinking, but the youngest player can also win the game if they’re a bit lucky.  Each person reconfigures the maze to open pathways to the treasure items they are seeking, so your planning has to continually be revised.  Best for ages 8 or 9 and up.
Ravensburger Labyrinth

Last year’s suggestions are also available by clicking on these links:

Birth to two years

Three to six years

Six to nine years