Kid-friendly gifts that won't make their parents hate you
Gifts don’t always have to be toys or games to be appreciated. They can even be a little practical without your resorting to boring presents like (ugh) socks. If a kid really likes a particular video game, you can pick up some kind of branded decoration for their room, which they’ll appreciate every time they go in there. If their game of choice is Overwatch, this adorable little mood light will look nice on a shelf next to all their Funko Pops (because every kid has Pops now) or next to their bed if they need a nightlight… even if they’d never admit it.
It’s important to read to kids. It helps their literacy skills and lets parent and child bond in the process. It’s best done with a paper book, because those are more tactile and leave less opportunities for distraction. But for those times when the allure of a device is too strong or you’re reading to a large group of children, Moonlite hits a sweet spot. You snap the small projector onto your phone, then insert a story reel containing a classic picture book like Goodnight Moon or The Little Prince. Moonlite will project the story’s vibrant illustrations onto a nearby wall while accompanying them with sound and music to create an immersive experience that might actually get the little ones excited for bedtime.
Controllers are expensive, and systems often come only come with one in the package. So families with multiple kids will always appreciate help with avoiding a fight over who gets to play next. And while an extra set of the standard Joy-Cons might be useful, the SN30 can be a nice addition to any Switch setup, thanks to its array of buttons and comfortable grip. Kids will like having more options for playing their favorite games (new or old) while parents might be moved by the retro feel of this SNES-inspired gamepad.
Robots for kids tend to come as fully assembled toys or complex kits meant to teach the basics of coding. Mattel’s Kamigami line of bug-shaped robots aims for the middle ground there, with a moderately easy-to-assemble kit that doesn’t require any tools. The bots even skitter around like real insects, making them a lot more fun to watch than a standard RC car and certainly a lot safer (and harder to lose) than a drone. And if you did want the kid to learn a bit of STEM from their new toy, there is a rudimentary coding section of the app that allows children to program movements for their bug and even train it to do a little dance that they’ll be sure to show off to all their relatives at family gatherings.
Yep, that magazine you used to read in dentist waiting rooms is still around. And yes, it still publishes Goofus and Gallant comics. Though this magazine has been in print for almost 80 years, it’s evolved over the decades, and current issues carry plenty of articles about science and technology as well as crafts, recipes and puzzles. (Oh yeah, Hidden Pictures is still a thing.) The magazine also encourages reader submissions, so it’s a great opportunity for some kids to see their work in print. And there’s no advertising -- something parents will appreciate in a consumer-driven world where their kid’s attention is increasingly monetized.
Children are naturally curious about the world around them, so why not satisfy their curiosity with a near monthly dose of knowledge, delivered straight to their mailbox? Each issue contains plenty of articles about science, technology and the natural world as well as games and other activities to keep them busy. But perhaps the greatest present of all will be the novelty of getting something physical in the mail, a rarity for a generation of children who get most of their information digitally. Print isn’t dead, and magazines like National Geographic Kids are a good way to show them why adults love paper so much.
It’s hard to get kids to do yard work, and they usually do a terrible job anyway. But asking them to do virtual yard work is a lot easier, especially when they get to compete against their siblings and friends in a no-holds-barred lawn battle where grass is mowed and rocks and fertilizer are thrown. One-on-one or two-on-two matches are available, making this great for groups of varying sizes. Sometimes you might not be able to get the kids to go outside, but at least you can get them playing in the same room together, thanks to local co-op play.
A valuable skill for kids to learn is teamwork. But they usually only get to practice it in sports or class projects. Instead, give them this cartoonish cooking game so they can learn cooperation and coordination by battling their way through a series of increasingly complicated and delightfully weird kitchens. It’s available for all the major systems, and up to four players can join in on the fun, which makes it a great purchase once you’ve picked up a few extra controllers for the kids. Or even their parents, because families should learn to work together, right?
Maybe drones are the hot thing right now, but they’re not exactly the best gift: They can wander into other people’s yards or hit other kids in the face, and in some places they’re not even legal to fly, thanks to airspace restrictions. The PowerUp Dart is still a drone, but it’s also a paper airplane. It’s small and light, and kids have to put it together themselves (with plenty of room for customization). It’s a great example of how a classic toy can be updated for the tech age. You might even get some great bonding moments as parent and child watch it do tricks the former could only dream of when they were young.
If you ever played with three-inch GI Joe figurines as a kid, the Extreme Air Boards will invoke a sense of nostalgia for you. They bear a faint resemblance to those figures but with the notable addition of two rotors on a board so the little stuntman can fly through the air. Each set comes with two modes: The stunt boarder can do cool spins and flips in the air, and attaching the paraglider lets it fly faster and farther like a more traditional drone. It’s basically two toys in one, both of which will make welcome additions to the kid’s next action figure adventure.
Kids love to decorate their bikes with things like stickers, streamers and reflectors. And parents love when their kids are riding their bikes instead of, say, running around the house driving everyone up the wall. So the Tech Will Save Us Light Racer Kit is a gift guaranteed to make both sides happy while also imparting a bit of STEM know-how. Children are tasked with building an electromagnetic light with easy-to-follow instructions that will teach them about things like coils, emitters and capacitors. In the end they’ll have a nifty light that flashes as the wheel goes round and round -- DIY bling for their ride.
Creepers in the Minecraft game can be creepy, or silly or just plain annoying. But this Creeper plush is more on the cuddly and heart-warming side. Plus it won’t explode when a kid gets too close to it. Instead, when it’s time to put down the controller or keyboard and crawl into bed, they can take this fuzzy green guy with them and dream about what they’ll build next.