Today I’m handing over to my lovely friend Victoria (follow her on IG @justordinaryfolk, and she’ll hopefully have an awesome new blog up and running in the new year), because I know she’s full of absolutely brilliant ideas for imaginative gifts for creative kids that will stand the test of time. Victoria has four gorgeous children, ranging in age from eight (nearly) to one, so she knows what works and what doesn’t in terms of keeping kids happy and entertained. She’s also very creative herself, and she finds great ways to engage and encourage her kids’ imaginations. I’m kicking myself for being organised and finishing our Christmas shopping early this year, but I’ve already bookmarked loads of these ideas for the twins’ next birthday. Here are Victoria’s top gift ideas for creative kids…
It’s easy to get caught up with the Christmas shopping frenzy, but if there’s one thing I’ve discovered it’s the most simple ideas are often the most loved. A few years ago we had a lifestyle shift and gave away most of our possessions, including a lot of toys. When we want something new to us, it’s a really considered decision and we opt for quality, ethical and eco friendly options. This is all very well, but with an 8, 6, 4 and 17 month old to entertain, the most important thing is they need to pass the play test (and you can always rely on a child to be honest!). I’ve gathered together a few of our favourite play-time winners and hope they inspire you with some great gift ideas.
I admit I did think, ‘am I splashing out on what is essentially a square of fabric?’, but these light-as-air silks have the perfect amount of waftyness and come in a magical array of colours. We have the rainbow one and it’s used in every game. It’s a cape, a veil, a den, a flag, the sea, a waterfall, wings, a blanky – you name it, it’s been it. If it’s down to cost per use, this is a bargain!
For babies and toddlers, anything wooden and in rainbow colours is a winner. It’s important to buy FSC approved wood and brands like Grimms use safe dyes rather than paint (so no chips) and are worth the extra pennies. This rainbow stacker is the only toy that lives downstairs because it looks so good on the shelf! This year we’ve gone for a traditional abacus because little fingers love counting and moving the beads. Another great counting game is this set of acorns. It comes with a scoop and tweezers and helps with colour recognition, counting and fine motor skills. The acorns are small so it’s better for over 3s.
Lego is a bit of a no brainer, right? But instead of getting yet more packs, how about a couple of different sized bases and a book of ideas to inspire some creative and imaginative play. The Lego Awesome Ideas book has a really cool 3d cover.
Kids love owning something that has a proper job to do. Yes, they make bedtime wild as they run around flashing their lights, but they also use them as a night light for reading, when venturing outside after dark or when we go camping. We often take our torches to the woods so the kids can shine them looking for bugs or fairies. Mine also have a head torch each with the option of blue or red night vision and they are obsessed! Why not throw in a compass too, and you’ve got yourself a search and navigate kit?
This is something I spend a bit of money on because through trial and error I’ve realised good quality arty bits really make a difference. To eliminate the endless bits of paper, each child has their own sketching pad. A big one with thick paper so both sides can be used and the paint colours look strong. Plus they are easy for us to store. A decent paint tin each is another must. I opt for watercolours as they are so fluid and easy to use. The Natural Watercolour paint tin by Okonorm contains 12 paints made from natural plant and vegetable dyes. The pigment is strong and they don’t seem to go yucky when they inevitably mix up the colours. Consciouscraft.co.uk is a brilliant site for eco friendly art supplies as well as felting, weaving and other crafty bits.
My soon-to-be 8 year old has a scrap book which she uses to document special moments in her life – her birthday, events, days out. She uses tickets, pictures, treasures she has found and sticks them in her book using washi tape, glittery corners, ribbons and 3D pads. A trip to Poundland, who has an excellent selection for scrap art, will get you a decent pile of bits for less than £10.
Dressing up box
Forget your polyester princess dresses and pirate costumes, this is about proper dressing up. We’ve got a trundle under the bed packed full of charity shop finds and our old clothes that have interesting details and fabrics – hats, waistcoats, bow ties, bridesmaid dresses. I love seeing what they are going to be – today my 4 yo teamed a white petticoat with a white tutu on her head and announced she was a cloud! If you are crafty, make a few extra bits such as animal masks or a super hero cape using felt. A selection of these bring their imagination play to life and well-made accessories will be used time after time for events such as World Book Day, festivals, friends fancy dress parties, school theme days etc etc
This is good option for Grandparents. We’ve asked for a half term’s worth of music lessons and I’ve made up a book of tokens the kids can pay their teachers with. The same can be done for theatre or cinema tickets or even just trips to the cafe in the park. I have a friend who does spa days with her son where she’ll run him a super bubbly bath and they have ice cream by candlelight – a great lesson in never underestimating the power of just being in your company!
The gift that keeps on giving. We love the RSPB membership and are excited about the launch of Atlas Girl, to inspire young female explorers. There’s also Whizz Pop Bang for science-lovers.
You can buy a children’s sized sling but a basic Mai Tai is really simple to make. All three of my older kids love carrying their dolls plus they are easier than a push along pram that takes more to manufacture and you inevitably end up carrying round the park yourself!
Have you watched the recent children’s version of Bake Off? It’s pretty impressive viewing and has inspired me to put the kids together a hamper with a small wooden spoon, whisk and rolling pin and the ingredients they need to make their own cakes. [Try the bake range at Hedgehog for a fab selection of no-nonsense kids’ baking tools – Heather].
Bug kit and binoculars
Give a kid a magnifying glass and they’ll be occupied for hours. Team it with a book on bugs and you have the next David Attenborough. We are upping the stakes this year and getting binoculars and a bird book.
Small enough to handle and with only four strings, a uke is quick and easy to learn and a brilliant first foray into proper music.
Present a child with a box of pipecleaners, pom poms, bits of glittery card, foam sheets, stickers, glue, sticky tape, googly eyes, beads, balls of string and they see a world of messy making opportunity. We are constantly replenishing ours with household waste – one person’s rubbish is a child’s construction kit!
We are big library goers, but this Christmas I’m pretty excited about the new Walk-in-Books. They are books that have been pulled apart to allow your child to tell the story. You get a series of beginnings, a map of an imaginary world, a lead character and a mask to help them get into the role. Then its up to the kids to become authors of their own stories.
When we had a new kitchen installed we used the old sink and a few wooden pallets to build a simple structured mud kitchen. Get some old pots and pans from a charity shop and give them permission to get messy! Without fail though, the best toy we’ve ever given our kids is an old skateboard tied to a tree with some rope. The best swing in town! And my friend got her daughters a slackline – how cool!
All images from Victoria Riedl @justordinaryfolk unless otherwise stated