Best Toy of Christmas: Magna-Tiles

One of the big winners of this Christmas was the set of Magna-Tiles that we gave to Aiden. These magnetic building tiles are easy to use and incredibly versatile. They offer instant satisfaction to your budding builder, which is nice when alternatives such as Lego can take a lot of time to complete. The Magnatiles have been a central toy in our living room since Christmas, standing the test of time better than most toys around here!

IMG 3970

I find playing with Magna-Tiles just as fun and relaxing as Aiden does, and even Damien gets in on the action from time to time… though admittedly he’d prefer just to smash towers than to build them. He did, however, LOVE when we created our own mail system. He would “write” notes, send them in the mailbox, then Aiden would collect and deliver them. Pretty awesome.

IMG 3961

If you do invest in Magna-Tiles (they aren’t cheap), I recommend the 100 piece set. The 30 piece set doesn’t give you enough tiles to do many things. 

IMG 3979

Stocking Stuffers for a 2-Year Old

If you have a 2-year-old, you know they are right on the verge of some major developmental milestones. Between age 2 and 3, their interests completely shift and they leave behind being a “baby” or “toddler” and move right into being a “preschooler.” Their interests and capabilities can emerge very quickly! Providing them with toys and tools that are open-ended can give them hours (and years) of fun. So, when it comes to putting presents in a stocking for a 2-year-old, I focus on things that are both fun for now and for later in addition to any chocolates or candies that may sweeten the deal. 

Stocking stuffers 2

Having had a 2-year-old already, I know that these items are both fun for a 2 year old and can last for several years to come! The BEST STOCKING STUFFERS FOR A 2-YEAR OLD are:

  1. Stickers of their favourite characters! A great tip for using stickers with little ones is to remove the “background” sticker portion, which allows them to easily pull up individual stickers on their own.
  2. A book that will still grow with your child. The Pete the Cat series is fantastic right past Kindergarten. Other favourites of this age include anything Robert Munsch or non-fiction books on farming or seasons or particular interests of theirs (like trains, cars, instruments etc). Damien is getting Stick Man this year.
  3. A musical instrument like a maraca, bells, recorder, kazoo or harmonica
  4. Play-Doh tools. Our favourites are a good solid roller, scissors and a fun press. This s a great basic kit you can disassemble to put in a stocking! Dollar stores often have knock-off sets that work as well.
  5. Scissor skills begin around age 2. Get a good set of scissors with a wide finger grip, metal pieces and that are not too dull (or you will end up frustrating your child) are a great investment. Some sets come with fun crimpers and other shapes.
  6. Pocket Etch-A-Sketch makes for a great car or restaurant toy. The larger Etch-A-Sketch is a classic toy, but I love mini items!! Both my 2 and 5 year old are getting one this year.
  7. Fun art supplies like glitter glue or smelly markers (my choice this year)
  8. A bath submarine or other small bath toy – this submarine has been a favourite bath toy for both of my boys, even though we have never introduced the baking powder!
  9. Bath colours or bubble bath – we take bathing seriously! Bubble bath, colour tablets, shaving cream to paint with, bath crayons, and bubbles to blow in the the bath are all great gifts to fill stockings!

See also my Stocking Stuffers for a 5 Year OldStocking Stuffers for a 4 Year OldStocking Stuffers for a 1 Year Old, and a Guys’ Guide to Stocking Stuffers for Her.

Stocking Stuffers for a 5-Year Old

I spend the whole year thinking about and purchasing the perfect gifts, big and small, for my little family. If you’re stuck thinking beyond the standard chocolate and candy fare, or want to go a different route, I bring you a list of mostly gender-neutral stocking stuffers your 5 year old will love! These are items already stored away for my 5-year old boy, Aiden!

Stocking stuffers 5

I am one of those people who shops for Christmas all year long. I have drawers and bins stashed around the house filled with gifts and stocking stuffers for everyone. I keep track of all my ideas and purchases in an app, so I know both what I have and what I think would be good to purchase. This year I’ve filtered out my best ideas and bring you the TOP GIFTS FOR A 5-YEAR OLD! Customize these items to girl or boy and you’re set for Christmas!

  1. Pencil Sharpener – You can never have enough of these, particularly ones that catch the shavings. My son loves to sharpen his pencils and pencil crayons, so this year I got him a special train-shaped one at an antique store, but any sharpener will do!
  2. Lego Minifigures are a great way to expand the play of your Lego set, plus it’s exciting to see what you’ll end up with!
  3. Pocket Etch-A-Sketch makes for a great car or restaurant toy. The larger Etch-A-Sketch is a classic toy, but I love mini items!!
  4. Cubebot brain teaser puzzle, mini is a recent find of mine from a local toy store. My son was enamoured with the little cube that transforms to a robot and it comes in a variety of colours
  5. Calendar is great for your child’s room or the fridge. Children love to know when special events or days are coming up, plus it’s a great way to reinforce days of the week, months and reading skills.
  6. A travel size game like Qwirkle allows you to expand your gaming library without infringing on your storage space. Many travel-sized games are not actually more difficult to use, but offer the benefit of more compact and sturdy packaging (zipped pouches or tins). Qwirkle is a game I’ve wanted for a while!
  7. A wallet or coin purse is a lot of fun for your child, but also helps them learn how to manage their money. Whether they are spending their own money or you offer them a chance to pay for their own items (like a lunch or ice cream you would have usually paid for on their behalf), it’s a fun chance to learn!
  8. A kids magazine or chapter book like Flat Stanley, Geronimo Stilton or Magic Tree House. These are great introductory chapter books for parents to read or for early readers
  9. Lego Creator kits come in all sizes. The small ones like the train are great because they fit in the stocking, but can be used over and over creating the 3 different models. So much more open-ended than a single set would be!

I believe that you can give quality and useful gifts in a stocking without having to break the bank. You can find many quality art supplies at dollar stores, from stencils to glitter glue and pencil crayons, and even some games and books. If you avoid the poor quality dollar store toys and instead focus on items of use, you can create hours and days of fun for very little!

See also my Stocking Stuffers for a 4 Year Old, Stocking Stuffers for a 1 Year Old, Stocking Stuffers for a 2 Year Old and a Guys’ Guide to Stocking Stuffers for Her.

Stocking Stuffers for a 5 Year Old

By Arieanna Schweber

TOP GIFTS FOR A 5-YEAR OLD

  • Lego Creator Kit

    By Arieanna Schweber

    Small Lego Creator Kits like the train are great because they fit in the stocking, but can be used over and over creating the 3 different models. So much more open-ended than a single set would be!

  • Early Chapter Book or Magazine

    By Arieanna Schweber

    A kids magazine or chapter book like Flat Stanley, Geronimo Stilton or Magic Tree House. These are great introductory chapter books for parents to read or for early readers

  • Wallet or Coin Purse

    By Arieanna Schweber

    Both fun and great for learning about money!

  • Travel Sized Game

    By Arieanna Schweber

    A travel size game like Qwirkle allows you to expand your gaming library without infringing on your storage space.

  • Calendar

    By Arieanna Schweber

    Children love to know when special events or days are coming up, plus it’s a great way to reinforce days of the week, months and reading skills.

  • Cubebot

    By Arieanna Schweber

    My son was enamoured with the little cube that transforms to a robot and it comes in a variety of colours

  • Lego Minifigures

    By Arieanna Schweber

    Minifigs are a great way to expand the play of your Lego set, plus it’s exciting to see what you’ll end up with!

  • Pencil Sharpener

    By Arieanna Schweber

    You can never have enough of these, particularly ones that catch the shavings.

Damien Learns Board Games

It’s that time again! With a 2-and-a-half-year-old now running around our house, we are looking for some quiet ways to tame those crazy moments. You know those moments where there is so much roughhousing that someone sprains his fingers. True story. Poor Aiden. 

IMG 2196

Anyway, we recently started revisiting early board games with Damien. When Aiden was about this age, he was beyond obsessed with the Curious George Discovery Beach game. Damien will play it a little, but is honestly more interested in throwing the cards around after just a couple of turns. He has no interest in spending an hour looking for every last object. 

More to his taste are Perfection (honestly he’s so patient with it!), Uno Moo and Candyland. In all honesty, Candyland is the only game he will “play,” whereas the others he just wants to make up his own games with them. He wants to smash in the animals on Uno Moo, fill up the board on Perfection then turn it on and anxiously wait for the pop, or put together some of the other games such as putting together the hammock on Who Shook Hook, but never actually playing the game.

Damien is a much more “open ended” kid than Aiden was. Aiden has always loved the rigidity of rules and instructions. Whereas Damien will happily build his own sets using Hexacus or Mega Bloks, Aiden wants to follow the booklet or design a specific ‘thing’. Each way of thinking is so amazing, and I am endlessly fascinated with the variability in the development of our (and all) children. 

At this age, I rarely enforce ‘rules’ and would rather Damien explore materials on his own terms (as long as he’s not destroying them). When we sit down to play a more formal game like Candyland, he seems fine following the rules and waiting for his turn, even if he doesn’t yet understand exactly how to play. 

Modifying Adult Board Games for Kids

Aiden was about 26 months old when he first became obsessed with board games. His first board game was the Curious George Discovery Beach game that was all about finding shapes and colours hidden in the ‘sand’ and he played it all the time. Since that very first board game, we have been modifying game rules to suit his age. Now that Aiden is older, he still requests to play a board game almost every day, except now the games are much longer and more involved. 

I have spent far too many hours researching board games for kids and more often than not find them too stupid or not well made or boring after a few plays. Even after my research, some of the games we’ve tried have been duds. The most successful games for Aiden (who is now 4.5) have been adult games, modified to suit his ability level. I find that adult games, being longer, are more easily suited to the enjoyment of the process of playing, rather than winning vs losing

Aiden’s favourite game right now is Carcassonne. Thankfully, it’s my favourite game too, so I don’t mind playing it a few times a week. This was an extremely easy game to modify for Aiden, as it simply involved taking out whole sets of rules. For example, when we began we took out the cloister cards and didn’t build farms. Instead, we focused on cities and roads only. Since Aiden has experience playing dominoes, he found it very easy to understand this game – indeed, he won against me fair and square the first time (I rarely dumb down my abilities). I sometimes have to remind him “Do you want to claim that city / road?” if he forgets, but the placement of the cards has been very easy for him. 

10014708 10154000000730331 841000511 n

Aiden has only once been upset playing Carcassonne, because he “didn’t get to flip his card to 100”, not because he lost. He’s won a couple of times, but usually I win and he’s ok with that. We have already added in the cloisters, so only the farms are excluded from our games now.

Here is Aiden playing “the train game,” aka Ticket to Ride. This was not quite as straightforward to modify, since there are a lot of cards and rules involved. You can find ideas for modifications here, though we went further and removed the destination tickets, instead just having fun building the train segments. 

IMG 6834

The next came on my list is a children’s game specifically simplified from the adult version, Catan: Junior. Given that Aiden’s 5th birthday is coming up, we’re trying to be patient ;)