By Laura Simon

I don’t know about you, but I’ve received some pretty preposterous Christmas lists this year. My 5-year-old wants a baby unicorn, which she firmly believes can actually be obtained by venturing into the South American jungle. My 9-year-old wants a cell phone, which is totally likely since we’ve set 16 as the minimum age for having a cell phone. And my 8-year-old wants tickets to a Detroit Lions game. In Detroit, which is not at all far from North Carolina.

We’ve had a lot of conversations about how Santa has to get all presents approved by Mom, Dad and the HOA, but that leaves me in the lurch for actual gift ideas. What’s out there for the elementary age group that will engage them without rotting their brains and emptying the bank account?

I’ve been busy polling mom groups, and here are a few ideas:

Experiences: While my kids are moving past the age of children’s museums and zoo passes, that doesn’t mean that experience gifts are off the table. Annual passes to trampoline parks, sports complexes and even lessons are still cool. I knew one family that got everyone a ukulele and a package of lessons; they learned to play together. (I priced this out, and it is not exactly cheap…but cool nonetheless.) There are tons of businesses that offer evenings of crafting (painting, pottery, etc.) as well as cooking classes and coding. Click HERE for more experience ideas for all ages!

Subscriptions: This doesn’t have to be a magazine. KiwiCrate remains an extremely popular activity box with options for all ages. If you have a bookworm that has aged out of Imagination Library, Bookroo is a monthly book club subscription that can be tailored to all ages and interests. If you still want the excitement of a present under the tree, consider having the first box – or book – sent in December, intercepting it and wrapping it for Christmas morning.

Photography: The old-school instant camera is a huge hit with wannabe VSCO girls. The Fujifilm Instax is a great option that’s easy to use and offers the fun of instant pictures. One caveat: the film isn’t cheap…but you can a certain amount in the budget and let them practice saving their money if they want more. Either way, it’s a fun option for kids who aren’t old enough to have a cell phone but still want to explore their photographic talents.

Activity trackers: My own kids are deep into the activity tracking watch. They love to track their steps and their swimming, and I’ve found it very interesting to see how much they actually sleep. The FitBit Ace and the Garmin VivoFit Jr are both popular options. (I chose the Garmin because it uses a watch battery and doesn’t have to be charged…nothing ever gets charged in this house.)

Graphic novels: The elementary set loves this style of book. It gives them the confidence to attach full-blown novels, but still engages their love for visuals. Captain Underpants, Dogman, and Diary of a Whimpy Kid are perennial favorites, but there are titles geared toward boys and girls of all ages.

Legos: As much as I dislike stepping on them, I can’t deny the power of Legos. They offer hours of good, brain-building fun. If you want to think outside the box, consider the Klutz Lego Chain Reaction Kit for higher-level thinking skills. If the traditional sets aren’t offering enough of a challenge, consider the Lego Architecture line, which will challenge even you. As a bonus, your kids will get a little doses of history and culture.

STEM: The GraviTrax Starter Set Marble Run is a great way for kids to play with physics while also having loads of fun. My kids cannot resist a marble run in any form, and this one takes things up a notch.

Group fun: I still remember when my husband’s uncle got a karaoke machine for Christmas; we have a whole heap of priceless memories from that machine. A kids’ karaoke machine will be fun for the whole family, and it’ll be a hit at sleepovers, too. Try the Singing Machine on Amazon, which comes complete with microphone and disco lights.

Hopefully this helps you get started on your own lists. There are so many options outside of video games and clothing…I hope you find something that keeps your own little elves happy for months to come!

Visit the TMoM Gift Giving category for even more ideas by clicking HERE!

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