Holiday Shopping Guide for All Ages

I know some of you already have ALL your holiday shopping done, and if that statement applies to you, you just SHUSH. I mean, good job. But SHUSH.

This is for the rest of us. The rest of us who TRY to get our shopping done ahead of time and, well, fail. The rest of us who pick up a thing here or a thing there. The rest of us who realize on December 20th or 21st or 23rd we never did manage to do all the Christmas shopping we’d intended. The meticulous shopping. The organized shopping. The shop-local shopping. The shop-small-businesses shopping. The thinking-about-what’s-perfect-for-everyone-on-my-list shopping. And, most importantly, the cheap-GET-THE-BEST-DEALS shoppingbecause five kids is a lot of kids all the time, but five kids at Christmas? Sheesh.

Now, it’s only November, so it’s WAY TOO EARLY for Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa shopping for the Rest of Us, but I AM ON THE BALL this year, friends. I am FIRED UP. Because I realized I tanked on shopping well last Christmas, when it caught me completely off guard that there were only 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and the birth of Baby Jesus. I was woefully unprepared. I spent more money than I wanted to spend. I wasn’t as mindful about gifts as I wanted to be. I stressed myself out far more than necessary. And I was, quite honestly, embarrassed at how much of my last-minute Christmas attention was on oh my gosh, what am I going to BUY and not so much on my family or my faith.

This year will be different.

Here’s my general problem, though: I am the WORST shopper in the history of shopping, and I have no idea what I’m doing because I just HATE it. I want – rather desperately – for someone to just tell me what to buy or what to assemble or what to do and be done.

So I turned to you and asked for help, and, as always, you were there for me.

As a result, even though it’s only early November, here is the OFFICIAL 

hand5 Kids Is A Lot Of Kids Holiday Shopping Guide for All Ages
Exactly the Same as Oprah’s Favorite Things!™*
*except totally different and probably cheaper

Before you get started, please note:

  1. This list is divided into age categories as much as possible. Some things are listed for all ages; some for specific age ranges.
  2. Nothing is divided by gender because I don’t see what our boy and girl parts have to do with building or nurturing or drawing or reading. I’m sure there are lots of Boy Gift Lists and Girl Gift Lists on the internets. This just isn’t one of them.
  3. I really (really, really) care about cost. In case you do, too, I’ve added a cost key to as many items as possible. 

$ = $0-10
$$ = $11-20
$$$ = $21-30
$$$$ = $31-40
$$$$$ = $41 and Up

OK, ready?

Here we go. 


Activities and Experiences for All Ages, $$$-$$$$$: In recent years, as our volume of STUFF has increased and, subsequently, become increasingly challenging to contain, gifts of experiences have been my very favorite things for my family, both to give and to receive. Consider these fun ideas.

  1. TicketsZoo Passes
  2. Aquarium Passes
  3. Movie Tickets
  4. Play Tickets
  5. Pool Passes
  6. Museum Membership
  7. Amusement or Water Park Tickets
  8. A Night Away — my kids ADORE a night in a hotel with a swimming pool!
  9. Restaurant Gift Certificates – Meghan writes, “One year my kids got Dominos gift certificates so they could buy pizza and drinks for themselves. They LOVED being in control of their dinner choice and overruling what I wanted them to eat. And I didn’t have to cook – WIN/WIN!” 


Active Play Kits for Kids Ages 3-10, $ – $$: Many of you suggested these build-your-own kits. I have to say, my kids would adore this kind of thing and it’s the kind of gift you can both personalize and make for very little money. I’m in!

  1. FlashlightBuild-a-Fort Kit, ages 3-10 – I LOVE this idea, and I plan to make some for my nieces and nephews this year. The idea comes from Armommy, and it’s very simple. Assemble flat sheets, a battery-operated lantern or flashlight, clothespins, and perhaps a book or two. Consider sewing ribbon ties on the corners of the sheets. Put all items inside a pillowcase. Voila! Instant fort-building supplies without tearing apart the linen closet or the beds. Love, love, love!
  2. Building Kit, ages 6-10: Debbie writes, “Assemble a moving box of scrap lumber salvaged from a job site (with permission of course), a hammer, a box of nails, a small hand saw [if you’re brave], measuring tape, work gloves, and eye protection glasses.” Someone added… and bandaids. 😉 Agreed!
  3. Jeans with Sewing UtensilsSewing Kit, ages 6-10: Melanie writes, “I had my own sewing box full of brightly coloured threads, needles and buttons. I still remember the shirt that I sewed about 50 buttons onto that my Grandfather actually wore to church one Father’s Day.” 
  4. Duct Tape Kit, ages 3-10: We gave our 4 youngest kids duct tape for Christmas last year. (Told you I like CHEAP.) And so did their grandparents. You’d think that would be duct tape overload, but NOPE; they had a wonderful time making things out of multi-colored tape and cardboard boxes. The tape is long gone, but they’ve been spending their own money to replenish the duct tape supply. Guess what they’re getting again this year??
  5. Career Kits, ages 3-10: Imagine:Play from McMinnville, Oregon writes, “Make a post office kit in a plastic box with real envelopes, tape, a stapler and stickers — all those things parents won’t let them play with and waste! Or a play restaurant kit with aprons, table cover, menus, personalized signs and order pads from a bulk grocery store like Cash N Carry.” The options for career kits are as endless as your imagination. I’d love to see a Safari Kit or a Pilot Kit or a Teacher Kit. 


Cool Toys for Little Kids, ages 3-8, $$-$$$$$: Like I said above, we have veered far from traditional toy buying in recent years, simply because TOO MUCH STUFF. But there’s still something special about opening that One Cool Toy on Christmas morning. Here are some reader favorites:

  1. PuttyBattat Take Apart Toys, ages 3-6
  2. Magformers Building Sets, ages 3-5
  3. Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, ages 3 and Up
  4. Music Maker Zither, ages 6 and Up – “Anyone can play–just slide a songsheet under the strings and follow the notes in connect-the-dots fashion.” 
  5. Kiwi Crate, ages 4-8 – Boxes that come once or every month with craft and science projects. Everything you need is included. You can use Stephanie’s referral link here to get $10 off your order.


Cool Things for Bigger Kids, ages 8-16, $$$-$$$$$

  1. Make Your Own CandyTinkerCrate from Mindware, ages 8 and Up – make candy, learn chemistry. What’s not to love?
  2. Tinker Crate, ages 9-14 – Like Kiwi Crate above, these are boxes that come once or every month. Unlike Kiwi Crate, these are designed for the 9-14 year old set interested in science, techology and engineering.
  3. Doodle Crateages 9-16 – Like Kiwi Crate and Tinker Crate, except these boxes are for the 9-16 year old artist and crafter.


Stuff to Read for Kids of All Ages

  1. Magazine Subscriptions
    • My kids love Zoobooks for ages 6-12 (there’s also Zookies for ages 0-3 and Zootles for ages 3-6).
    • Cindy writes, “The  folks who do Cricket have cool kids magazines for all levels, focusing in science, Crickethistory or literature.” You can find all the Cricket magazine options, from age 1-14, here.
    • Cindy also says, “If you don’t mind the gross and irreverent factor, MAD magazine. My 12 year old boy voluntarily gives up computer time to read it when it arrives. Laughs and laughs and laughs.” 
    • For the geek in your life, I highly (highly) recommend Wired magazine. Truly an excellent publication.
    • And, for the cook you love, Cooking Light has a new editor, new philosophy and new look. This is one of my personal favorites… although I tend to add extra butter and cheese.
  2. Gift Certificate to a Local Bookstore: this is a consistent favorite for my kids. They’re all ecstatic when they get Chapters gift certificates, although, granted, my 16 year old uses hers in their coffee shop. 🙂
  3. And, of course, BOOKS. For specific book suggestions, check out the 5 books I hope my kids will read and then scroll through the AWESOME comments you left with myriad more ideas. 


For Tweens and Teens: Depending on how you look at it, tweens and teens can either be much easier or much harder to buy gifts for than little ones. While it’s not nearly as fun to wrap a gift card (although I try with big boxes!) as it is a truck or a doll or a game, it is fun to watch my tweens’ and teens’ eyes light up when they realize they get the freedom to spend a little money however they choose. Here are some of our kids’ favorite, go-to gift cards and a couple actual physical items to consider.

  1. iTunes Gift Cards
  2. Coffee Gift Cards
  3. Cash for Sports or Other Classes: Nikki writes, “I’ve decided on envelopes of money saying ‘this chairis for soccer’ attached to a soccer ball and ‘this is for gymnastics’ attached to a leotard since it always seems that during the year sign-ups happen when we are running short. This year, I can say, ‘Go get your Christmas envelope!’” 
  4. Hanging Rope Swing Chair – My friend Erinn put this is her 9-year-old daughter’s room. It was a HUGE hit. Now her other daughter wants one, too. I’m kind of afraid to let my kids see this.
  5. Gamewright Card Games – Loot, Ratatatcat, and Zeus on the Loose are favorites
  6. Boot Cuffs – I’m buying at least one set of boot cuffs for my oldest daughter this year. These, by Hooked by Hanna, are adorable.


For Grown-Ups

  1. TeaHouseDesignsConsider something handcrafted like these cutting or cheese boards from Swamp Otter Designs, these Tree of Life necklaces from JW Arts and Crafts, or my latest find, from an Oregon Coast art gallery, these fun earrings from Tea House Designs (pictured right), $$-$$$$.
  2. If you’re in Oregon or Washington, check out Black Tie Tours‘ Holiday Wine Tour Special – an afternoon (3 hr) wine tour for $150. I can personally recommend Black Tie Tours – they are AWESOME. You can be a TOTAL wine idiot and they will help you. They also cater to people who actually know wine, too.
  3. Oregon White Truffle Oil, $$-$$$$ – Holy cow! Drizzle some on pasta, grate some KonduriKoffeeParmesan, and this stuff is HEAVEN. I keep some in my cupboard all the time. 
  4. Direct Trade Coffee at Konduri Koffee, $$-$$$
  5. An Unforgettable Experience, $$$$$. Susan writes, “My son is now 26 and really hard to buy for. He was in the Army for 5 years and is now back living at home. He is in school getting his degree. He always tells me, ‘I don’t want or need anything.’ Last year I went on Groupon & got him Sky Diving….. I was elevated to Super Star status!”


Other Cool Places to Shop Online for All Ages

  1. Think GeekThinkGeek – This is my go-to site for when I need a gift for Greg. TOTALLY geeky, awesome merchandise. I usually go for a shirt like Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock
  2. If you like Think Geek, also check out Celtic Dragonfly at Etsy for some awesome felt character dolls from Doctor Who, Dr. Horrible, Firefly, The Walking Dead and more, and September Embroidery for embroidery with a geeky/nerdy twist.
  3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store
  4. Mindware


You can find more ideas on the original post over here at the 5 Kids Facebook page.

And we need your ideas, too! If you have other great options (including your own businesses), please share them in the comments section.


“Tickets Sign” image credit artur84 via
“Flashlight” image credit Gualberto107 via
“Jeans With Sewing Utensils” image credit Mister GC via
“Empty White Wall with Gift Box” image credit Master isolated images via

All other images are not mine; they belong to the stores or businesses listed in this post, and I’m assuming people are OK with me using them to promote their work. Here’s hoping.
P.S. I was not compensated for the promotion of any of these products/services. I just thought you might like some ideas.

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16 responses to “Holiday Shopping Guide for All Ages”

  1. Oh thank you thank you….from a grandmother that loves giving to her grandchildren but hates what is available in the stores these days. Although most of the Christmas shopping has been done for my little ones this year, your ideas are so fabulous and I am keeping them for future reference and sharing them with my daughters…I love creative moms….you keep using those “mad skills” God gave you to bless your children…..and my grandchildren it appears!

  2. I’m not affiliated with hit, but is my FAVORITE site of all time. It’s a mom that goes through circulars and sales and matches up coupons for you. Her crew is always finding great deals on everything for kids/family and I’ve raked in deals for my kids for xmas throughout the year thanks to her…check it out!

  3. I LOVE this list especially the active play kit ideas. I may make a fort kit for my soon to be 2 year old twins. I just bought myself nearly ten minutes in the bathroom by handing my son 4 paper Dixie cups from my in-law’s medicine cabinet. They are definitely getting a sleeve of those and maybe some colorful pipe cleaners (duct tape next year) this Christmas morning. Thanks for helping me think outside the box and feel a little less badly about our very tight budget.

    • Fort kit idea- my favorite fort for my toddlers is the fan fort. I found it on Pinterest. I use a duvet cover and a fan at the opening. They love playing inside of it as well as throwing things on top of it from the outside. You could wrap up a fan and a duvet cover for the kit.

  4. *shameless plug* I have a etsy shop that I sew and crochet items for. I’m taking orders for Christmas now and do custom orders as well. my best seller is cloth menstrual pads but I also make dryer balls, crochet infant sets for pictures, reusable swifter pads, tea cup cozies, toddler backpacks, and am working on Fox cowls right now. 🙂

  5. Also my daughter has asked several times for a small white board and pen like they use to practice spelling at school. she goes on and on about all the things she is going to write and draw on it. That probably costs about five bucks. Done deal kid.

  6. My parents had six kids and every single year my dad would buy us each a six pack of coke in the glass bottle (cause those were so much specialer then just cans.) And a five dollar gift certificate to mcdonalds. It was gold. Even though those were both things we did regularly all year long to have our very own to use was awesome. we would hide the coke in our rooms so our siblings wouldn’t steal them. Even into adulthood my dad has done this. A couple years ago he decided we were to adult now and didn’t do it. THERE WAS OUTRAGE AND MUTINY AND HE WILL NEVER MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN. Anyway don’t underestimate the power of a simple gift.

  7. I am just getting started, but everything is homemade by a stay at home mom at and all $20 or less. I’m working on building an inventory. I also can take requests. All orders right now are made through messaging me on the Facebook page or emailing me at . I’ve got a stack of felt boards sitting here that I just need to load pictures of. So far I’ve launched a holiday decorating “kit” and soon to release a snowman and santa mix and match “kit”. I have lots more ideas up my sleeve that I just haven’t started yet (or started but aren’t close enough to finish since I make several at a time during nap for the kids). I also have colorful sensory rice for the little ones. No bells or whistles, no batteries required!!! Just good QUIET fun!! Stop on by and maybe click like if nothing else to watch as I roll more out more!

  8. You’ll be relieved to know that I’m not done assembling my gifts for the season. But I am SUPER cheap, and therefore I am only planning to buy a couple bottles of local beer for my twin cousins who just turned 21.

    I make stuff. I actually just finished sewing the last snap (of freaking 39 snaps– that’s 78 halves that each get sewn on individually, folks!) onto a fabric playset that makes an Arabian palace and a European castle with infinitely-combinable walls and towers and little figures to go with. Making stuff for adults is a bit harder, but luckily my mother loves everything I knit and my father is a sucker for a pot of homemade mustard.

    Also, and this is a super-cheap tip that anyone can use, even people who don’t sew/knit/carve/spin/felt/etc: I give my kids toys from my own childhood as gifts. That big pile of plastic frogs I accumulated when I was 10 and thought I wanted to be a herpetologist? FABULOUS stocking stuffers for preschoolers. My nearly-five-year-old will also be getting one of my old Polly Pocket compacts. FREE STUFF, folks. FREE.

  9. That’s soooooooooo funny! I didn’t even see the woman’s earlier response about want, need, wear, read!!!

  10. Want, Need, Wear, Read. Those are the best categories. For your kids, get two of each category. Start out this week saying, “this week I’ll take care of wear.” Next week, take care of read, and so on and so forth. Tackle one category a week. For all the kids. Knock all kids out at once with one category a week. Way gentler on the budget to spread it out, and it’s organized, but not too crazy organized. I’m telling you, it works!!

  11. Great suggestions!

    Last year, we permanently adopted the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” approach of gift-giving within the household. “Read” is a stack of used books from because they have a good literacy + recycling program. In addition, each person in our 5-unit family receives a homemade gift from each of the other family members. Even our 2yo was able to help put together simple gifts last year! This system helped us to control spending and limit the STUFF we were adding to our house…but most importantly, we each spent time pondering what to make for our family members and then had fun actually making the items. We’ll never go back to the krazy.

  12. Also, something I just signed up for is – for $15/month you can RENT Lego sets, kind of like Netflix. I’m hoping it’s a hit, because those suckers are too expensive to keep buying!

  13. Oh, these are great ideas! My son is 10 and loves to just create these elaborate contraptions. So last year I made him an Invention Box – basically, I painted his old toy box black and filled it with random stuff from the dollar store and the hardware store: duct tape, rope, zip ties, caution tape, cardboard, wires, bungee cords, pvc pipe pieces, glue, markers, pulleys, tools, etc. He loved it! And my favorite part is it’s so easy to add to it for the next occasion.

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