Clutter Free Christmas Gifts for Kids

clutterfree

If you’ve been a parent for longer than say, a week, you’ve realized just how much stuff little people can bring into the world with them. Newborn gear turns into infant toys which turns into toddler everything which then multiplies and multiplies as the kids get older until your entire house implodes under the weight of so much junk many treasures.

With each Christmas and birthday, many parents I know dread the influx of more stuff, and are looking for more creative things that take up less space.

I would rather my kids have fewer high quality toys and playthings than a lot of little toys. The reasons are two-fold. First, because I can’t stand clutter, and secondly because they appreciate things more than when there are just a lot of little things lying around.

Of course, kids are kids, and they will always be bringing little “treasures” into the house, but I try to do my part in being intentional about the things we purchase for them, and don’t fall into the “buying for the sake of buying” trap that many parents fall into around December.

Here are some of my favorite gifts for kids:

1. Outdoor Toys
I love outdoor toys because they don’t clutter up my house, and they get the kids out of the house to exercise or use their imaginations. Win-win!

-Sandboxes
-Water Tables
-Scooters (Such as this one)
-Wagons
-Bikes
-Outdoor playhouses
-Sports equipment

2. Books
Books have this horrible reputation for being “boring”, but there are SO many types of books out there, that you can find something for everyone.

-Favorite character books
-Coloring Books
-How-to Books (Like this sewing book I purchased for my daughter for Christmas this year).
-Other great “How-to” books include Drawing books, Lego design books, and Coding books.
-Activity Books
-FUN Reference Books. I say fun, because I’m not talking about Dictionaries and Thesauruses, haha. But, you can find some really neat coffee table quality reference books for any and all interests. Costco has beautifully photographed and fun-to-read reference books that cover Legos, American Girl Dolls, Movies, Animals, the Human Body, and Space that my kids really enjoy looking at.
-Magazine subscriptions…this is the gift that keeps giving all year long. And since kids adore getting mail, it’s like opening a new gift every month.

3. Learning Toys
So, when I said “clutter free”, you probably thought I was gonna go all anti-toy. Not at all. Like I said before, I would prefer my kids have fewer high-quality toys. Good quality learning toys fit that bill perfectly. But learning toys don’t have to be boring. Some of my all-time favorite toys are:

-Magformers
-LEGOs
-Wooden Blocks
-Puzzles
-Logic games
-Pattern Blocks

4. Experience Gifts
This is pretty self-explanatory, but here are some ideas:

-Movie tickets
-Gift cards to the ice cream store
-Museum passes
-Zoo tickets
-Tickets to see a special performance (one year we took my daughter to see Disney on Ice as one of her presents)
-Amusement park passes
-A coupon for an outing to go bowling/trampoline park/rock climbing/mini golf/laser tag, etc.
-Lessons for something they want to do…such as horseback riding lessons, ice skating lessons, karate, etc.

5. Consumables
Consumables are considered anything that stays in my house for a limited amount of time. Examples of this include:
-Art Supplies
-Favorite snacks
-Science Experiment Kits (my sister is putting together an awesome box for Tater this year with a bunch of printed out science experiments, all the directions, and all the supplies needed to complete it. She’s going to love it!)

6. Fun Clothes
Clothes don’t have to be boring. My kids love getting shirts or pajamas with a favorite character on them. This year, I purchased new warm pajamas and slippers for my kids because we’re going on a trip to the snow next month.

Hopefully these are some ideas to help you keep your Christmas stress and clutter free!

*this post contains affiliate links, but all suggestions are my own based on items I have purchased myself that we just really love! I have no affiliation with any of the brands mentioned.

DIY Lego Travel Tray

Last summer’s travel lap tray idea worked relatively well on our travels, but now that Stinker is really into Legos, and after I made the Lego Pattern Travel Game last week, I began to wonder if I could travel with Legos without worrying about them getting lost or thrown all over the place. Ah ha! It can be done!! A Lego Travel Tray. It takes 2 minutes to make, and only cost about $10. Now, Stinker can build some masterpieces on our next road trip or plane ride, and I won’t have to wedge myself under the back seat searching for missing Lego pieces. Not that I’ve ever done that before. Especially not Wild Style’s hair piece. Ahem.

Anyway, the shopping list is pretty straight-forward. You’ll need:

  • Cookie Sheet (I get mine at the Dollar Store. They cost $1, and are about 9″x12″.)
  • Lego Plate (This was the most expensive piece. I found one for $5.99, and it’s a 10″x10″.)
  • Magnetic Spice Containers (Michaels had these for $1.50 each, but I had a 15% off coupon)
  • Box Cutter (not pictured)
  • Super Glue or Hot Glue Gun (Not Pictured)

1. First, if you have a 9″x12″ cookie sheet, you’ll need to cut the Lego plate to fit the cookie sheet. Using a box cutter, apply firm pressure in a straight line, to cut off about 3 rows of raised dots. I actually cut off four, but start with three. Note: You’ll want to run the box cutter through two or three times. The plastic will actually break off where the cut was, creating a nice, even cut. My amazing grampa did the cutting for me. Because he’s handy like that. And because I can’t cut a straight line to save my life.

2. Next, use Super Glue or a hot glue gun to attach the Lego plate to the edge of the cookie sheet. You’ll want to leave room for the magnetic containers on the side. Allow to dry.

3. Fill magnetic containers with Legos, and place on the edge of the tray. Apparently I turned my tray between pictures. It was a Monday night after a very long Monday. I have no explanation.

4. Now you can enjoy Legos while traveling, and not have to wonder how Wild Style’s hair piece could have possibly jumped out of the car because you scoured every square inch of the backseat and found nothing save french fries that may be older than your youngest child. Again, not that I’ve ever done that, but just a helpful reminder. Because I care. 

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What We’ve Been Up To…

Okay, how is October halfway over already?!
If you were to ask me, I’d swear it was still August. And, not just because it was 90 degrees yesterday.

With homeschooling Stinker every day, including one full day of classroom time per week at a local church, Junior’s therapy appointments running two to three times a week, plus the sports and activities Stinker is involved in, I have two days this month with nothing on the calendar…and one of them is my birthday!

Despite the hectic schedule, I think I’ve been really productive. Here are some updates and some fun homeschooling ideas! (The above picture is how I organized supplies for our school room. I love that I can put all our supplies in the baskets and keep them accessible but hidden away.)

1. Junior (16 mos)
-We’re doing Auditory Verbal Therapy two to three times a week, getting him to use his cochlear implants as effectively as possible. He’s now saying “mah” (meaning either “more”, “mine”, or “mama” depending on the context), “up” (which was ironically Stinker’s first word), “hi”, and is babbling. He also understands “no”, “bye-bye”, and starts doing hand motions as soon as I start singing “The Wheels on the Bus”. It’s amazing that our child who was born deaf is learning to speak and listen, and we are so grateful for the technology!(Not familiar with Junior? Read his story starting HERE)

2. Homeschooling
-We’re thoroughly enjoying Classical Conversations. Here are a few review games we’ve done.

Lego Review. See the original Post HERE for a printable version and the rules. I found a set of these awesome make-your-own foam dice at Lakeshore, and they’ve been very useful for several review games.

Magnetic Puzzle Review.
I wrote each of the 6 review subjects on a piece of paper and taped it to the back of this magnetic puzzle we have. (Melissa & Doug Deluxe 10-Piece Magnetic Bug Catching Game). Stinker uses the attached magnetic bug catcher to pick up one of the pieces. I ask her a review question, and if she answers correctly, she gets to put the piece in the puzzle. The goal is to complete the puzzle. She likes to win, even when she’s playing by herself :)

Ping Pong Cups
I modeled this game after a well-known carnival game. You stand a few feet away, and throw the ball into a plastic or paper cup. I turn the cup over (which I’ve written the subject on the bottom), and ask Stinker a question on that subject. She gets a point when she answers correctly. 10 points and she wins! (Luckily, not a goldfish like at the fair :)

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Quick and Easy Tortellini Soup

 

 

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I’m excited to share one of our new family favorite recipes. It is an accomplishment indeed when both kids lick their plates (in this case bowls) clean!

It’s also very fast, easy, and requires pretty basic ingredients. Score, score, and score! Serve with a loaf of crusty french bread for a filling and delicious meal!

Quick and Easy Tortellini Soup (serves 4)
adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe

-1 carton (32 ounces) chicken stock
-2 bay leaves
-1/2 onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
-1 package (9 oz) fresh refrigerated tortellini (note: frozen tortellini doesn’t work well in this recipe. I purchased Trader Joes fresh cheese tortellini.)
-8 oz fresh spinach (chopped or baby)
-salt and pepper to taste
-parmesan cheese for serving

  • In a stock pot, bring the chicken stock and bay leaves to a boil. 
  • Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic in a little oil until onions are soft and translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. 
  • Add the cooked onion and garlic into boiling chicken stock, and add the tomato sauce. 
  • Dump tortellini into the stock pot, and cook until tortellini is hot and cooked through, about 5 minutes (or according to package directions.)
  • Take off heat, and stir in spinach. 
  • Remove bay leaves (which I always forget to do!) Season with salt and pepper, and finish with parmesan cheese for serving. 

Tell Me…Do you like soup for dinner? What is your favorite recipe?

 Browse our family favorite recipes here!