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All They Want for Christmas

All They Want For Christmas

By Amalah

My children are pretty easy to shop for. Because they want everything. You can set them loose in a toy store, pointed in just about any direction, and they’ll immediately find the One Thing They Have Wanted For Their Whole Lives, Or At Least The Last Three Minutes Of It.

(Though I admit my five-year-old did present a small challenge this year by asking Santa repeatedly for one specific discontinued Thomas the Tank Engine set. That he somehow saw on YouTube, what the hell. I found the [toddler-aged] set for sale secondhand for about a bajillion dollars, only to realize that we already own a good three dozen Thomas the Tank Engine sets that he never, ever plays with anymore, so instead of instant gratification we went with a drawn-out campaign of Redirection and Reasons You Don’t Really Want That and Oh Look At This Mind-Blowingly Awesome Toy Instead.)

Anyway. I know you’re probably completely burned out on Gift Guides and such, so we won’t call this a Gift Guide. More like a few items that my children MAY or MAY NOT actually be getting for Christmas, I will never commit either way. (I mean, YOUTUBE. HE KNOWS HOW TO FIND TOYS ON YOUTUBE.) Call it a guide to a few really amazing toys guaranteed to blow the minds of your average two- and five-year-olds.

THINGS WITH WHEELS:

1) YBIKE Balance Bike, $84.99

YBike Balance Bike

I’ve been fascinated by the many options for a toddler-friendly balance bike for ages now. Instead of a traditional tricycle or four-wheeled ride-on toy, the balance bikes actually help small children learn the fundamentals of bike riding from the start, albeit SAFELY. The results? Better balance, motor planning and bilateral coordination, plus an easier (and possible training-wheel-free) transition to a real big-kid bike later on. And all Ezra wants in the world is a big-kid bike of his very own.

2) Razor A Series Kick Scooter (various for different models)

Razor Scooter

I came to the sad realization, recently, that Noah has simply outgrown his truly fabulous Mini Kick Scooter (by Kickboard). It was a great little starter toy that gave him months and miles of fun, but he is now too tall and too heavy for it. So it will now get stashed away in a closet until Ezra’s next birthday, and Noah will also move into the world of Big Kid Things, with a junior-sized Razor. I mean, MAYBE. If he’s good. And Santa feels like it. I have nothing to do with any of this.

(Don’t forget to go up a size on the helmet and pads, too.)

THINGS TO BUILD:

3) Tegu Magnetic Blocks, $22.50 – $100, at Tegu

Tegu BlocksI first read about these blocks right here at AlphaMom, and had an immediate reaction of “holy crap, those are COOL.” Kids love blocks. Kids LOVE magnets. Parents love the socially-responsible story behind the company and the blocks and the added bonus of getting children in Honduras out of the dumps (literally) and into the school houses. Tegu sent me a set, which I immediately hid in a closet…until my kids fell asleep. Then my husband and I busted them out and got to building with them, and holy crap, these are COOL. (Update: because of the magnets, these blocks are recommended for kids aged 3+)

4) Lego Toy Story 3 Trash Compactor Escape, $34.99, at Amazon.com

Lego Trash Compactor

Aaaaaand on the other end of the educational, environmentally-friendly, small-business scale, we have…the omnipresent licensed-character Legos. Whatever. YOU try watching your preschooler sit on Santa’s lap and say that all he wants for Christmas is…”THE CLAAAAAAAWWWWW!” in a little alien voice, complete with a claw-like hand motion, and NOT buy it for him. Seriously. Try it. I totally sucked at it, because it was SOCUTEYOUGUYS.

THINGS THAT ARE JUST TOO COOL FOR WORDS:

5) KidKraft Retro Kitchen, $99, Amazon.com

Kidcraft KitchenYes, it’s true. We have so far avoided the purchase of the obligatory toy kitchen monstrosity, but no more. This is the year. Ezra’s our budding little chef and Noah wants to play “restaurant” and you know, I loved my own childhood kitchen from toddlerhood through grade school. I’ve always wanted one for my kids to love too.

Our biggest problem, as usual, was space. The toy kitchen would likely need to live in our actual kitchen, thus I refused to consider most of the plastic versions. We also didn’t want — you know — PINK. (Don’t even get me STARTED ON THAT.) Both boys (and I) feel DEEPLY in love with Pottery Barn Kids’ awesome red retro-style kitchen pieces, but oh! My God! The prices. I thought the wooden kitchen at IKEA was more our speed…until I realized that it didn’t include a refrigerator. (I won’t even lie — I saw that thing online and in-person but the fridge thing didn’t occur to me until we were practically standing in line to buy it.)

Enter our compromise: this adorable all-in-one retro kitchen from KidKraft. Winner of Creative Child Magazine’s 2010 Product of the Year award, and on sale for only 99 bucks. (It is on the small side, height wise, but given our space issue, we simply couldn’t commit to anything larger.) I’m not sure who’s more excited about Christmas morning anymore, me or my kids. Or…I don’t know. I’ve heard it might be a good one for them this year, but I certainly couldn’t say for sure.

Okay, now here’s the REALLY GOOD PART. Thanks to this column, I actually was offered a couple of my kids’ presents for free this year (a YBIKE and Tegu blocks). I still get kind of floored when this happens, and I always feel kind of awkward about it, because I can lather myself up into a nice froth of guilt over stuff like that pretty easily. Even though, DANG, who doesn’t appreciate a little help with the kid-spoiling around the holidays?

Here’s last year’s “Advice Smackdown gift guides” for babies and for preschoolers.

Discover More Holiday Toy Ideas

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Clare
Guest
Clare

I think I also have Toy Story Legos (and Duplos) in my future.  I saw those Tegu blocks here before, and they look super fun.

Kim
Guest
Kim

I totally wish I known about the YBIKE before my son’s recent 2nd birthday.  I totally would have gotten that instead of the Skuut that he’s too short to ride yet.  And the Tegu blocks look super cool!

beanss
Guest
beanss

YES!! I’m sure any of my 3 nieces who are under 5 would LOVE this. Or else as you say I could stash it for a while. 🙂

Amy
Guest
Amy

My son just turned a year, so we aren’t ready for those toys yet. I’m on the fence on buying him any toys for Christmas. He seems really happy with a Starbucks coffee collar.
On a different note, I need some ideas for gifts for older kids. I like to donate to Toys for Tots every year, and they always need toys for older kids (12+) who don’t want a Fisher Price piggy bank. For girls I go with makeup kits, but what do you buy a 13 year old boy that’s not electronic or a gun/knife/sword/etc.?

Heather Miranda
Guest
Heather Miranda

Love this list! It’s so hard to think of gifts for a little brother who already has all of big brother’s hand me downs. Not to mention said big brother’s early January birthday, leaving me at a loss for what the heck he could possibly want after he already got it all for Christmas. Our boys are similar ages, so your suggestions are always a big help when it comes to finding something original.

Kim
Guest
Kim

Wow, those are great toys! The retro kitchen is so so cute!!! And the bike- I always hated training wheels, ours were bent and it’s hard to ride a bike lopsided- it looks really cool. And who knew you could build poultry out of blocks? Awesome!
Kim

Amy J
Guest
Amy J

Those blocks look so neat!

Holly
Guest
Holly

I love reading these kinds of reviews because it totally gives me ideas for what to buy my daughter in a few years – she’s only 9 months right now!

Michelle Joiner
Guest
Michelle Joiner

I love how having kids has made me feel like a kid again! I am counting down the days until Christmas because I just can’t wait to see them light up with excitement! My boys would absolutely love the YBIKE or the Kitchen. Such fun! Merry Christmas!!!

Becki
Guest
Becki

I love these ideas! We have been searching for the perfect kitchen too. . . right now she loves mixing, stirring and pretending to feed her baby dolls. Too cute! 🙂

Becki
Guest
Becki

I love these ideas! We are searching for the right kitchen for our little one right now.

Jaida
Guest
Jaida

Loving those blocks!!

Elizabeth Hosto
Guest
Elizabeth Hosto

Thanks for the great ideas, love the blocks and the bike and I would love that kitchen, my boys are all about cooking as well. Hope you guys have a great Christmas no matter what is under the tree!

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

Those gifts looks awesome. Amy, I enjoy reading your advice, especially since I have a son with some sensory issues too. Have a great time building with those blocks and playing in the retro kitchen!

Laura Fair
Guest
Laura Fair

My daughter would love the blocks!!!

Lani B
Guest
Lani B

The giveaway is AWESOME…except for the fact: how do you choose just one from the list of awesomeness?

brenna
Guest

The tegu blocks look amazing!

Leslie
Guest

I would go with the kitchen. My boy is always playing with the fridge and trying to reach for the knobs on the oven. I think h;ed love his own set.

EB
Guest
EB

Those Tegu blocks are SO COOL!
Not sure whether I’d save them for the hypothetical child or give them to the niece.. or give them to my husband so we can play with them on Christmas morning!

cagey
Guest

We have had the KidKraft Retro Kitchen for several years now and I can report that it is truly a good quality kitchen. Another bonus is that it provides a fair amount of storage space. A word of caution, allow yourself plenty of time to put it together!

This year is the Christmas of Playmobil and Super Mario Bros. My kid has been asking for a toy Bowser from every Santa he meets, I am sure Santa and his minions are all “WTF?”

Lauren E. E.
Guest
Lauren E. E.

Those Tegu blocks are the stuff of my kid’s dreams. Please and thank you!

Jeana
Guest
Jeana

This is SUCH an amazing give away!  I would love to win the Tegu blocks for my three boys.  Or four boys if you count my husband, too 🙂

Natalie
Guest
Natalie

I LOOVE legos (having worked in a toy store all through college I am pretty good with them) but my little girl is two months behind Ezra and I just don’t think she could handle them yet…though it occurs to me now that it was probably Noah asking for the Claaawwww. I love the kitchen…we have a beat up one that was handed from my mom (it was once mine) to my aunt to my great aunt and uncle for them to use with their grandkids back to me. The thing is a piece of 25 year old fisher price… Read more »

Jenn Bo
Guest
Jenn Bo

All of the suggestions are cool! The ones I most want to play with are the kitchen & the blocks. I had a wooden kitchen that kept me entertained for years.

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

Oh man, my 2yo would go nuts for a bike like that!

Alissa
Guest
Alissa

BLOCKS!  Oh how my kid loves BLOCKS!  Thanks for the awesome advice – I see a bike in our future, too…

Kate
Guest
Kate

I think I need a bike like that for myself!

Therese
Guest
Therese

Thanks for these suggestions, they are great! My son is about 6 months younger than Ezra and I have found your recs for toys for Ezra most helpful. My son loooooves the Laugh n Learn Puppy and Ball Popper (could that music be more annoying though? 🙂 that you recommended last year. We’ve finished Christmas shopping for this year but I definitely see some of these suggestions as birthday possibilities.

Bridget
Guest

The blocks are awesome! I also am dying, dying to get my son a kitchen, but we have a major space issue. Bummer.

Kris
Guest
Kris

My son just now showed me the great escape toy, right before I read this article. Perfect timing.

Katie
Guest

Lovely suggestions!  I have a hard time between the blocks and the kitchen set, because I want them both!

Laura
Guest
Laura

I remember drooling over those blocks when they were first featured.  I would most likely pry them out of my children’s sticky fingers so I could play with them! 

aly
Guest
aly

those tegu blocks look awesome, but so does that kitchen!!!!

Sharon
Guest
Sharon

Oh my gosh, those blocks are awesome. Not that we don’t have 80 bajilion blocks in this house already, but… 

Or a bike.

Or… man, so much cool stuff! Anyway, pick me pick me pick me!

Chel
Guest
Chel

I want the bike. I really, really want the bike.

Brooke
Guest

See, these are things I never would’ve thought of. Can we go shopping together? Geez. I don’t know how to choose between those blocks or the bike though.. tough.

Elizabeth
Guest

Wow, those magnetic blocks are so cool!

Kim
Guest
Kim

I would love those magnetic blocks! They look awesome!!

Kailee
Guest
Kailee

Cute kitchen!! Growing up, I loved my little kitchen too. It was a nice gender-neutral yellow, and I cooked many a fine meal for my stuffed animals. Although, word of caution for your kitchen. I, too, got mine for Christmas. Santa decided to send me on a scavenger hunt for it since I was famous for waking up early and peeking at all of my presents! Santa put it together in our small, rarely-used half bath. The problem? When my dad tried to move it to my room, he found it too big to get through the doorway! So, it… Read more »

Karishma
Guest
Karishma

this list is AWESOME, amy. the boys are going to have an amazing christmas!

mindy
Guest

What a generous giveaway! I would love to win  the ybike! But those magnetic blocks are so cool too!

Jennifer R
Guest
Jennifer R

OMG! Those blocks! I love them so, but I can’t find an age recommendation anywhere. 
Would love to get some of those for my 16 month old, but fear they may be above his age

Becky
Guest
Becky

Those blocks are so cool (though I don’t think I’d be able to get them away from my husband to let the kiddo play with them).

Amy Taylor
Guest

I love those blocks!

Aimee
Guest
Aimee

I can’t wait until my son is old enough for a play kitchen. I have such fond memories of my pretend canned goods.

Chelsea
Guest

I haven’t had to buy gifts for kids since *I* was a kid, but my husband and I are moving soon, and will be near his niece and nephew. The little boy is 7, and I have NO CLUE what we’re getting him this year – maybe you will remove my uncertainty. 😀

Katy
Guest
Katy

These are so cool! My son is only six months, but I can’t wait until next year when he’ll be able to really play with stuff.

Jen W
Guest
Jen W

Oh I love love love that kitchen. Definitely on my wish list for my boys.

jodifur
Guest

Michael would love that Scooter. He also has a starter spiderman scooter that he has outgrown.

Lillian
Guest
Lillian

Ooooh!  Those tegu blocks look really cool.