Screen-Free Gift Guide 2021

Since having children, we've adopted a 3-gift rule at Christmas: we all receive something to read, something to wear, and something to play with. This keeps things delightfully simple. Our kids have never asked, but if you're transitioning to a "lighter" Christmas this year from what they've experienced in years past, you might remind them that Jesus was given three gifts and it's His birthday that we celebrate! We also give stockings - filled with items from our local dollar store that they've helped choose for one another - and a new pair of jammies that they open on Christmas Eve. (These jammies are our favorites!)

I want to share this list with an important reminder: The best gift you can give your children is a peaceful, joyful home... and that begins with you. I encourage you to observe your limits - your time, your finances, your emotions - and do your best to stay within them this Christmas season. Keep things simple and stay present. It will truly be the best gift you give!

So if this list is a help to you and saves time, I'm so glad! If it overwhelms you, feel free to click out of this window. All of the items on this list are either well loved in our home or on our wishlist this year. I've tried to steer clear of just "toys," but lean toward items that encourage a new skill. I also steer clear of giving screens, as it's something we try to use very judiciously in our home. 

I've used Amazon affiliate links throughout this list, and I'll make a small commission if you purchase through these links without added cost to you (thank you!). 

Let's go!

For the budding artist... 

+ Hand lettering & calligraphy book + brush lettering pens - I think this would be fun for a child and a mama to work through together!

+ Air dry clay with instructions - Air dry clay in vibrant colors is so much fun and the possibilities are endless. This comes with online instructions you can access for lots of fun ideas of what to create.

+ Arts & crafts vault - Our daughter has this set of quality craft supplies and it has lasted her nearly an entire year. 

+ My favorite travel watercolor set + watercolor journal - These are my personal favorites and are high quality, which I believe really matters, even when you're giving art supplies to children. 

For the naturalist...

+ Microscope - Our 9-year-old son has (and loves) this microscope and has been creating his own slides with things he finds in nature. Having a microscope lends itself to endless exploration.

+ Bug Bingo - Our family loves every Bingo game in this series. We have Dog Bingo and Bird Bingo and our children can name 50+ breeds of each one because of this game! Plus, it's just really fun.

+ Butterfly growing kit - I'd recommend this for warmer climates (your area needs to be 40 to 85 degrees when you order this in order to receive living caterpillars), but if you can, this is such a delightful and fascinating way to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. We try to do this every spring!

+ Make-your-own terrarium kit - Make and grow your own terrarium and transform it into a fairy garden, a bug habitat, or just a lovely plant in your home.

+ Mega fossil dig kit - This would be the perfect gift for a dinosaur-loving kid who loves to dig (we have one of those!). 

For the game lover...

+ Monopoly Deal - This game is, hands down, my very favorite to play with our kids. It's similar to Monopoly, but much faster - it only takes 15 minutes!

+ No Stress Chess - This is the perfect, stress-free way to learn chess for kids or adults. Our son learned to play chess when he was 4 years old by using this game and now plays on a regular chess board. 

+ Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza - This game is new to us, fast-paced, engaging, and so much fun. 

Outfoxed - This game is new to us, but is going under our tree this year. It's a "whodunit" game that requires you to work together to solve the mystery.

+ Ocean Bingo - See my comments above. You can't go wrong with this series of Bingo games! They are so beautifully done.

For the innovator...

+ PicassoTiles race track - This is currently our two-year-old's very favorite toy we own, and it keeps him occupied for hours while we homeschool. He needs help to build the track, but loves watching the cars race by.

4-in-1 STEM building kit - Build your own fully functioning ferris wheel, carousel model, lantern, and nightlight. This looks fun for kids and adults!

+ Build-your-own candy dispenser - Similarly, a kit that teaches woodworking and building skills and ends in a fully functional candy dispenser. 

+ Snap circuits FM radio - For the tech-loving kid, give him or her the gift of building an FM radio from scratch. 

+ PicassoTiles - PicassoTiles (or Magna-Tiles - we have both brands) are the #1 toy in our house that actually gets played with. Each of our kids (ages 2-9) play with these nearly every day, building tall towers or marble runs or even magnetizing them to our refrigerator. This is the ultimate open-ended toy for imaginative play.

For the adventurer...

+ Bow & arrow set - Our son recently received this set for his birthday and it has foam arrow tips, but otherwise, looks and feels like a real bow and arrow. 

+ 7-in-1 survival flashlight tool - Perfect for a nature walk or adventurous hike, this tool contains a flashlight, a thermometer, a compass, a whistle, and more.

+ LifeStraw - This is a personal water filter contained in a straw! Our family has had fun testing it out on nature walks in clear, flowing streams.

+ Adventure backpack - Fill this with a map, a new water bottle, and perhaps a survival tool (see above) for your adventures.

+ Hammock - I love the idea of tying this hammock up in a tree in the yard and reading for hours. 

For the athlete...

+ Portable ping-pong table set - This portable set can be attached to any table to transform it into table tennis.

Glow in the dark mini basketball hoop - Hang this on a door or attach to a wall for basketball fun, night or day!

Balance bike (for ages 18 months to 3 years) - I had to include this on the list because all four of our kids have loved their balance bikes and have transitioned to bikes without training wheels in about 30 minutes. I can't recommend this more!

Light-Up Sky Rockets - These are like stomp rockets, but with a twist. They light up! It would be so fun to see these at night.

For the musician...

+ Thumb piano - This beautiful pocket-sized instrument has a unique sound, and you can find lots of YouTube videos to learn how to play it!

+ Ukulele + ukulele instruction book - This would be a special first instrument for a child interested in playing guitar. Also lots of YouTube videos to instruct you how to play.

Harmonica - I received a harmonica when I was 7 years old and took to it immediately. This one is a perfect starter for kids to learn.

+ Piano dance mat - Does this remind you of FAO Schwarz? This would be a fun addition to any play room, and I have a feeling toddlers up to teens would enjoy trying it out.

For a group gift...

+ AirFort - This is going under our Christmas tree this year. It's a fort that blows up with a box fan in 30 seconds, and can be taken down and stored just as easily. 

+ Snow cone machine - For those who live in hot climates (we're from Texas!), a snow cone machine would be such a treat! I've never met a child who doesn't like snow cones.

+ Glow-in-the-dark Capture the Flag game - I can picture this being played with older kids, and even in cold weather! 

+ Walkie talkies (one for each child) - We have a set of walkie talkies that we've used for years, and I love having one in case a child needs me while they're exploring in the green space behind our yard. 


I hope this list has sparked some ideas for your own family's gifts. Merry Christmas, friends!