Since I became a parent, I’ve found it interesting to see which toys are still around from when I was a kid. While many of the so-called “must have” toys from Christmases past are nowhere to be found (Furbys, anyone?), my children love playing with some of the same toys I enjoyed. As I think about which toys have withstood the test of time, they usually have a few things in common – they are entertaining to more than one age of child, they are durable, and they are open-ended. These toys allow children to shape the way the toy is used rather than the toy doing all the work for the child.
In a few weeks, I’ll post my ideas for timeless gifts for younger kids, but for this week’s installment of “Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget,” I have some ideas for frugal gifts (and a few splurges) that get kids moving:
Parachute – Whenever my gym teacher brought out the parachute for gym class, we were all super excited! Beach Girl and I pretend her towel is a parachute now. We put balls on it and make them “pop” like popcorn, play ring-around-the-rosy with it, and more. So, I’m getting her a parachute for Christmas this year. I found this parachute on Amazon that is only 6′ in diameter and has 6 handles for only $15. It wouldn’t work well for a very large group of kids, but I think she’ll love playing with it outside with me and a couple friends!
Bases – This set of 5 throw-down bases ($21) would make a kickball or softball game even more fun.
Soccer ball and goal – This is a fun way to introduce your toddler to soccer or to give your older children a chance to practice their skills. We have this pop-up junior goal (It folds up flat! – $31) and this soccer ball ($15) and I look forward to when our soccer games become a bit more competitive. Embarrassing fact: When I was in 7th grade, my AIM screen name was sokerluvr (yes, that is pronounced “Soccer Lover”).
Frisbee – For older kids, a gift certificate to a local disc golf course would also be fun!
Cones – I had a set of cones growing up and we used them for an endless number of games. They allowed us to set up soccer drills and obstacle courses and marked the goals/boundaries for soccer, football, ultimate frisbee, and capture the flag games. When we were younger, my mom used them at the end of the driveway to mark how far we were allowed to go up the driveway. Amazon has this set of 8 cones from Melissa and Doug for $12.
Gymnastics mat – This is probably the least frugal item on my list, but I had to include it because I got one for my 10th birthday and it’s one of my favorite toys ever. In fact, I held onto my old gymnastics mat (which is still in perfect condition) and even moved it 8 times (why do we move so much?!) and finally, my kids are old enough to use it. We love tumbling on it and it makes my at-home workouts much more comfortable as I struggle through sit-ups and push-ups. This Everlast 2’x6′ folding mat seems like a good value for $50 with great reviews on Amazon.
Hula hoop – I think you’ll find the best value for this in a brick-and-mortar store. You can use these for regular hula hooping or as part of an obstacle course.
Tunnel – This Melissa & Doug tunnel welcomes imagination – you could explore a cave, work on a space-station, dive in a submarine, or include the tunnel in an obstacle course. Best of all, it collapses to be flat (and isn’t that the feature moms really care about?). $21.
Bean bags – Children can use them to play bean bag toss or catch or can practice gross motor skills like walking while balancing a bean bag on the back of your hand or on top of your head. This set of 6 bean bags is $10 or you could easily sew your own if you’re handy like that. I’m planning to sew my own for Operation Christmas Child; I’ll let you know how it goes!
Unicycle – My parents got me a unicycle for Christmas one year and my neighbors and I had so much fun figuring out how to ride it. And, you’ll win the prize for most unique gift ever!
Rody Inflatable Hopping Horse – My sister and her family got my girls this “hopping donkey” for Christmas last year and we all love it. It’s incredibly durable and sturdy enough to support adults riding it too… and, um, it’s really super fun. We also have this base that turns it into a rocking horse so the toy is fun for babies through adults.
Flashlight – This might seem like a funny inclusion on a gift of “active” toys, but my neighbors and I loved playing flashlight tag and hide-and-go-seek in the dark.
Bike/scooter accessories – Obviously, a bike or scooter would be a fun gift, but if your recipient already has those, you could consider accessories like handlebar streamers, bike spoke beads that look colorful and make a fun sound, a horn, or a bike lock (u-shaped ones are the most secure).
Classic Outdoor Games - This booklet has rules for games including Sardines, Statues, and 4 varieties of Tag. I got it when I was in elementary school and my neighborhood friends and I enjoyed many games based off the ideas in this little booklet. I’ve also used it for ideas when I’ve led summer camps, youth group activities, and even my own little ones. The ideas in the booklet are for children aged 3 and up and for 2 people or large groups.
Play silks - Play silks are really fun for pretend play – they can work as dress-up clothes, dancing accessories, gift wrap, a fort and more. But, at $10 a silk from Amazon, we’ve never gotten them, so I was excited to see this tutorial for DIY dyed playsilks from Life Your Way.
Wheelie bugs – Beach Baby got this Little Tikes Pillow Racer for her birthday from her aunt and uncle. Unfortunately, I’m too tall to ride it myself (trust me, I’ve tried!) but both my girls love going for rides. Beach Baby can’t reach the ground with her feet yet, but that hasn’t stopped her from squealing with delight as we send her soaring across the carpet and there’s plenty of room for Beach Girl to grow and still be able to use it. I love this as a way to get energy out while inside! $35.
Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper - This is another of my favorite ways to get energy out while we’re inside. We got it for Beach Girl for her birthday and it has provided us with hours of fun. This works like a pogo stick, but has a thicker base that makes it much easier for younger kids to use and it has a bungee-like cord that stretches to be tall enough for adults. And, as you jump, it squeaks… which could get annoying over time, but I see it as a good way to keep them jumping! Beach Dad and I have fun doing it too! $13.
[Note: I included prices for some of these items, but they're subject to change. If you purchase through my amazon affiliate links, you'll be helping to support stayatbeachmom.com. Thanks!]
Do you have any other ideas for gifts that kids would love? I’d love to hear them in the comments!