Your bare feet will thank you.

Did you hear that high-pitched squeal last night at 3am? It was only me, stepping on one of those razor-sharp Monopoly houses on my way to get a glass of water. What was that racket you heard coming from my yard yesterday? That was me too, going all Office Space on that POS Mousetrap game with its elusive marble choking hazard.  

Toys and games with pieces are the devil. First, the pieces get everywhere. Second, the pieces get lost. Third, just knowing they are in the house gives me a cardiac arrest every time my four-year-old so much as clears her throat.

One might say these are all my kids’ problems. They need to clean up. They need to keep better track of their things. They need to learn not eat the blue and pink people from the game of Life. But like most of my kids’ problems, these very quickly morph into my problems. (Now that we’ve lost the special dice to the Great American States Game, we can’t even PLAY it! Waaaahhh!)   

Whether I’m shopping for the holidays or birthdays, my kids or someone else’s, I’ve learned it’s best to avoid too many bells and whistles—and if there are literal bells and whistles, make sure there’s a volume button. These simple kid gift ideas show that gifting can be straightforward, fun, and not have 1,000 pieces. 

Plasma Car

Easy rider

Someone gave this bouncing ride-along toy to my daughter for her first birthday and it’s been a hot ticket in my household ever since. No matter how old they get, my kids never tire of it. In the same vein, Plasma Cars are the ultimate in parent-approved driveway fun. Everyone loves an “exhilarating but safe ride of up to 6mph.” Wheeeeee!

Fold & Go Castle

Like royalty

Even though this wooden fold-and-go castle comes bare bones, it still has some exciting self-contained extras like a working drawbridge and a dungeon. But what I really love is that kids are encouraged to use their imaginations (and the toys they already have) to make it the centerpiece of play. My daughter uses ours to play with her Peppa Pig figures and Frozen bath toys; my sons use it for their Skylanders, Lego mini figures, and more. Makes a great group gift for a family of sibs.


I spy

My ten-year-old Jetsons-watching heart went wild when I discovered these video walkie-talkies that let you see as well as hear each other. Cool bonus: they work as a hidden surveillance camera when you press the activation button and use the other walkie to watch. For more James Bond-caliber adventures, give them the roll-in spy bug with earpiece and the vision-enhancing night goggles. Just, you know, be careful. They’re watching…and listening.  

Kid Chair

A room (or chair) of one’s own

Don’t we all want a secret hideout where we can use our video walkie talkies? There are tents, teepees, and forts for every kind of budget and space, from pop-up and portable to glow-in-the-dark and outdoor-friendly. Or, give a “just for me” resting space that can sit right out in the open, like a stylish mini-recliner that parents won’t mind having in their living room.

Ninja Turtle hoodie

Everyday cosplay

Hats, hoodies, and bike helmets are the worst holiday gifts ever—unless they magically transform a child into his or her favorite licensed characters. Like a baseball cap with Ariel the Mermaid’s ponytail in the back, a Ninja Turtle Hoodie with built-in mask/visor, and a straight-up unicorn helmet.

Share your favorite one-piece gift ideas (or your stepped-on-a-Lego horror stories) in the comments below!

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