Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Worthwhile Gifts that Cost Less Than $10

I'm a big believer in quality over quantity when it comes to kids' toys, and I firmly hold that a few substantial, well-made, multi-use toys are preferable to bin after bin of...well, stuff. There's just no room for small plastic thingamajigs in this house, and I'm guessing many of you feel the same way.

I'm also guessing, though, that many of you -- like me -- grew up with Christmas stockings filled with little goodies, and you'd like to provide the same to your toddler. Or perhaps you have to buy gifts for a whole bunch of nieces and nephews, or friends' kids, or kids' friends, and you want to give something high in quality without spending an arm and a leg.

This is the list for you.

Here are some great items that sell for less than $10, fit in a stocking, and are not just junk that will be tossed in a basket two days after Christmas, never to be seen again (until garage sale time, that is). Hope this is helpful for you!

As always, if you do plan to buy these or anything else on Amazon, I genuinely appreciate you shopping through the affiliate links on this page.

Under $10 and Fit in a Stocking

Not all great toys are expensive, and not all great toys are big. Here are some items that have serious staying power and develop a toddler's imagination, creativity, or motor skills for a very small sum, in a very small package.


Hape Little Vehicles. These super cute vehicles -- a helicopter, a car, a ship, a minivan, a sailboat, a plane, a dumptruck and a school bus -- are perfect for little toddler hands, and are made of solid wood by one of our favorite toy manufacturers, Hape. The helicopter has a rotor that spins, making it a favorite, and the ship and sailboat rock back and forth, so they're pretty cool too, but honestly, I think Toddler X would be happy if we had all of them. Prices right now range between $6.99 for the school bus to $12.54 for the sailboat, with almost all options being sub-$10.


Folkmanis Finger Puppets. Puppets are a wonderful inspiration for imaginative play, and finger puppets are just right for toddlers. We love Folkmanis puppets, and while their full-sized ones might be a bit over the $10 mark, the little guys range from $6-12 and would definitely nestle cozily into a stocking. We got the large hedgehog puppet when Toddler X was an infant -- we liked that it has a pouch to curl in on itself, like a real hedgehog -- and we were so vocal about our love for it that two separate friends bought Toddler X the finger puppet sized hegehogs for his 1st birthday. He loves his mama hedgehog and her two babies. Every kid has a special animal, and I guarantee you, there's a Folkmanis puppet for that -- I counted 40+ finger puppet offerings, and many more hand puppets.


Melissa and Doug Water Wow Sets. These ingenious "coloring" books allow kids to generate fun pictures on the book's five or six pages using a water-filled "paint brush" (which is a piece of cake to fill), without any real chance of mess. Toddler X loves them. We keep two in the car and anytime he starts to get wiggly, we hand one over. These were also life savers on our flights last week. Toddler X especially enjoys the ABC book, where on the last page there are open lines to practice your letters -- or, if you're Toddler X, just to soak the page with water from the brush to see the cool color spectrum appear. They'll fit in any good-sized stocking, and at under $5, they're a worthwhile buy.


Musical Instruments from Hohner Kids or Nino Percussion. You seriously can't go wrong with percussion instruments for little kids, and if you've ever taken Music Together or been to a Music and Movement program, you'll be familiar with the items in this category. Shaker eggs, maracas, claves (those wooden sticks you beat together), rainmakers and more. They fit perfectly in a stocking, and many are priced under $10. We particularly love our Hohner Kids Cage Bell and our basic Nino Percussion egg shakers, but I've got my eye on one of those rainmakers...


Melissa and Doug Sunny Patch Sand Toys. Sand toys for Christmas, you wonder? Sure, why not? We live in California, where our playgrounds are accessible about 330 days of the year, and our beaches are often delightful in January. As I shared in my Top Toddler Toys post, we are huge fans of these Sunny Patch sand toys, and we have buckets, shovels and a great sand-sifting tote to carry them in. Many, if not most, of the items are under $10, including two of our favorite bucket sets -- but that might be stretching the stocking idea a bit.


Toddler-Friendly Art Supplies. Stuff your toddler's stocking with some fingerpaints (we love these Crayola ones), paintbrushes (can't beat the jumbo ones from Melissa and Doug), crayons (these triangular ones are fantastic) or sidewalk chalk (Crayola's is the winner), and you'll have a happy (and potentially messy, depending on the item) little person.

Melissa & Doug Whittle World People and Signs. Okay, this one is technically more than $10 (it's $11.99), but I'm including it because it's a combo set of three separate small sets (People at Work, Neighbors and Traffic Signs), each of which does fall in the price range at $4.99. But at $4.99 each, or a combination of all three for $11.99, I just had to share the deal. These Whittle World figures are great to accompany a train or road set, or to use with a city map rug (that's what we do) or a train table. Toddler X is obsessed with traffic signs, so those are his favorites.


Melissa and Doug Puzzles in a Box. Toddler X has three different "puzzles in a box" sets and loves them. He's very into puzzles right now, and while he still needs a bit of help getting started, there are only 12 pieces in each, meaning only two non-edges. In other words, they're pretty easy for older toddlers (I'd say at least 2.5 or close to 3) once they get the hang of it. There are plenty of different topics to choose from, so you can go with animals or construction vehicles or fairies or whatever your toddler likes right now. You'll need a larger size stocking if you plan to actually "stuff" these. And while the standard selling price for these is $11-something, I have seen them dip under $10, so take a look and see what you can find.


Melissa and Doug Magnifying Glass. This is something we actually don't have yet, but one may just find its way into Toddler X's stocking (though I'm definitely going with the flower -- the snake freaks me out!). Toddler X had a magnifying glass from the Target dollar bin last summer and loved to walk around holding it down to look at things -- except it didn't magnify, and the plastic blurred/scratched almost immediately to the point where you could barely even see through it. According to the reviews, this one should hold up much better. Yay for exploration!


Little Finger Puppet Board Books. These would be a great stocking addition for a younger toddler, though I have to say that Toddler X occasionally pulls ours out today and they still crack him up. Our first finger puppet book was Little Crab, which our pal Toddler S gave to us when Toddler X was only 8 months old, and we've since acquired Little Puppy and Little Polar Bear. These books are hilariously simple in their wording and storyline, but that's not the focus -- your silly finger movements and goofy voice (promise me that you'll do goofy voices when you read!) are what will make your toddler crack up. Of the three we have, Little Crab is our favorite, followed by Little Puppy, but there are dozens of others, including seasonal ones about Santa Claus and a snowman.

Well, there you go -- these are the things that come to mind when I think of toys that are inexpensive and small, but have some lasting value for toddlers, whether it be creative, imaginative or developmental. I have a bunch of other stocking stuffer ideas that are small but over $10, and I'll add those tomorrow.

Hope this is helpful!

1 comment:

  1. What great suggestions! You've given me lots of ideas; thanks so much!


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