Umm... It's March. Yesterday it was Christmas, and now it's already March. Let's have a moment of silence for January and February.
March brings a lot of great things where I live. Warmer weather, flowers, extended daylight (remember to Spring forward on the 11th!), more creatures stirring, pollen, and allergies. Obviously those last two aren't actually all that great, but we have to take the good with the bad.
Something else March brings round is Easter. I know that it often falls in April, but I always start thinking about it in March. This year Easter is April 1st, and since that's practically March, I thought now would be a good time to offer some nifty Easter basket filler ideas.
On a side note, can you imagine all the awesome tricks that could be played during the egg hunts this year since it will also be April Fool's Day? My mind is churning.
At Christmas time, I wrote about some non-candy ideas for stocking stuffers. As I mentioned in that article, I'm not against candy. It just seems that every other month brings some excuse for my mother and grandmother to bestow a Wonka factory load of sugar bombs on my children. It's really bad, you guys. We are still recovering from Valentine's Day. Before that it was Christmas, then birthdays, then Halloween, then just because there's no other reason from summer to Halloween, then birthdays, and so on and so on. I am constantly regulating candy consumption like a nurse dolling out pills. I don't want to be mean mom, but I also don't want my kids to get diabetes. Life is about balance, ya know.
Since they'll be receiving so much candy from other sources, I try not to get too crazy with it in their Easter baskets. Usually, they get one small chocolate bunny (cause that's a legal requirement) and some Starburst, Jelly Belly, or Jolly Rancher jellybeans. Any other kind is just gross.
As far as toys go, I don't want to overcompensate for lack of candy. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Christmas was yesterday.
If you're like me and looking for some alternatives, I think I've got a few ideas that are entertaining AND have some educational value. Some of these items my kids have received at past Christmases or Easters and some they will be getting. In a few instances, I present a variation of something we have. Either way, everything I'm writing about is something I have experience with and can talk about with first-hand knowledge.
As a bonus, I think most of these items would also make great birthday presents for friends. They're affordable and different from the usual fare kids are bombarded with on such occasions.
Without any further ado, I present these non-toy and non-candy Easter basket filler ideas!
*This post contains affiliate links via text and pictures of the items mentioned. If you click on them and ultimately make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. This costs you nothing and helps keep this site running. You can read my full disclosure policy here.*
Doodle books are a hit with both of my children. The Boy is constantly doodling even without prompts; having a prompt merely offers new ideas. Little Mama enjoys completing the pictures presented to her. And I'm not gonna lie. Sometimes I've been tempted to complete a doodle or two myself.
There are countless doodle books on the market, but here are links to some we have and like.
Oodles of Doodles is right up The Boy's alley. I really like its simple, cartoon sketch graphics.
Doodles of Fun appeals to Little Mama.
For the budding architect try Make Buildings.
Another architect-themed doodle book that Little Mama likes is Draw Me a House.
And, naturally, The Boy's favorite doodle book is Star Wars Doodles.
At the beginning of this section, I have a link to all the doodle books available on Amazon. However, another great source for them is Usborne Books and More. My girl, Erin Stewart, is a consultant and she's where I scored Make Buildings. As of right now, there are 27 doodle books available on their site. Some are generic, some are themed, and some are even wipeable/reusable. I have never been disappointed with an Usborne book. If you need something they have, give Erin a shout. Here's a link to Erin's Facebook page. (By the way, I'm not sharing this information about Usborne or providing Erin's contact information in exchange for compensation of any sort. I simply like their stuff, and Erin is one of my favorite humans.)
At this point, I should take the time to let you know that several of the following sections of suggestions are also Usborne books. For the sake of clarity, I'll put (Usborne Books) after the description or otherwise expressly indicate that the book in question is from Usborne. The picture links I have provided all go to Amazon, but in all these instances you can alternately go through Erin's Facebook link above, if you want to order directly from the source.
Create Your Own...
These little activity books encourage the budding entrepreneur in children while encouraging them to be creative. Each book takes kids through the process of creating their own business from the ground up. They are responsible for coming up with every aspect of how their business will look and what they will offer their customers. In short, these are really fun books. (Usborne Books)
The Boy has Create Your Own Pizzeria.
Little Mama received Create Your Own Boutique.
This is Not A...
These award-winning, sneaky activity books trick your kids into putting their science and math skills to use. Well, I guess they're not that sneaky. When The Boy got these he read the titles and declared that he believed the titles to be sarcastic and that they were, in fact, science and math books. Any how, they proved to be fun, and I like that he got to see these subjects as entertaining when they are so often treated as the opposite, especially math. (Usborne Books)
This is Not a Science Book
This is Not a Math Book (As in the link image below, you may see this listed as This is Not a Maths Book. Apparently, "maths" is British thing. Americanized versions of the book use "math" instead. Either way, the content is great!)
This is Not Another Math Book. We don't have this one yet, as The Boy is still working through its predecessor.
Over 50 Secret Codes
What kid doesn't like cracking a secret code? This book offers 50 of them! Coincidentally, as I'm typing this, The Boy is working on a hieroglyphics-based code, and it's requiring him to use some logic. Yay! (Usborne Books)
The Boy received this sticker book from a friend for his birthday. It's the perfect size for Easter baskets and it has over 250 stickers.
If you have kids, you know how much children love stickers. And though it really doesn't matter what the stickers look like (I have had to stop mine from stealing the stickers off the produce at the grocery store more than once), there are a plethora of them from which to choose.
The astronaut sticker book above is from Usborne. As such, it is high quality. And Usborne has a huge selection of sticker books (at least 110 by my count) covering a broad array of topics and themes--from silly to educational.
Some of the most clever and beautiful sticker books I have ever seen were in my kids' baskets last year. The Paint By Sticker series is so neat. It works using the same concept as a paint by number project. However, rather than painting a certain space a designated color, you find and place the correct sticker upon it. Obviously, it's less messy, as all the stickers are polygons that come together to produce a cool 3D-type of picture. I think these books can really help kids see how things fit together, and they also show how shading affects art.
There's a less complicated sub-series called Paint By Sticker Kids, and those are the ones my kids have.
Little Mama got this:
While The Boy woke up Easter morning to find this in his basket:
I have considered the Paint By Stickers: Masterpieces book to accompany The Boy's art education.
I'll probably get the Paint By Stickers Kids: Under The Sea book at some point for my nephew.
Stamp and Fingerprint Activity Books
When I saw Rubber Stamp Activities from Usborne, I immediately knew it was perfect for Little Mama.
She loves to stamp, but all the stamps she has are complete figures. I appreciate that this set shows and suggests ways to put simple shapes together to create a complete picture. It requires a bit more creativity than typical stamping. With her art education this year, I've been trying to relay to Little Mama that all art, no matter how complicated, is really just a configuration of simple shapes. I think products like this help enforce that concept.
The set above is the only rubber stamping product that Usborne currently offers, but they have a few fingerprint activity books that I've had my eye on. I picked up this non-Usborne fingerprint kit for The Boy at a discount store one day:
He didn't stop working through it until he completed the entire thing. I take that as a sign that I really should grab him some of the Usborne offerings.
Finger Print Activities: Backyard seems especially appropriate for Easter.
Trace Your Hand and Draw
This is another clever, favorite of mine. Just as the title suggests, each "lesson" shows kids how to place their hand in a particular position, trace around it, and add extra elements to turn it into some sort of animal. It's like shadow puppets but with drawing.
Last Easter Little Mama received the farm animals version.
And The Boy got wild animals (though everything is open to sharing around here).
While I was tracking down links to the books above, I stumbled upon two books by the same author called Fingerprint and Draw. If they're like the others he has done, they should both be winners. I just discovered them, so I haven't actually seen them in real life. But I was excited to see they exist and wanted to share them here. If you have them or have seen them, let me know your thoughts.
There is a book for general animals and insects.
And, like the hand tracing books, there is a farm animal edition.
With both the fingerprint and hand tracing activity books I've discussed in the last two sections, we parents get the benefit of having a keepsake of our precious offspring's tiny hands and fingerprints.
Let's take a break from all the activity books for a second, shall we?
To begin, let me relay this tidbit. There are free play versions of Magnatabs that could be considered to fall within the "toy" category. I am not reviewing or suggesting those here because we don't have one, and I've read some reviews expressing some frustration with their functionality. (Here's a link to that style, if you're curious.) What I want to talk about are Magnatabs that teach the alphabet and numbers.
For Christmas we gave Tres the A to Z Magnatab by Kid O. (By the way, Kid O is a toy brand I trust. They make the Wobbles I included in both the Great Gifts for Babies and Toddlers and Stupendous Stocking Stuffers gift guides. If this list included toys, I'd suggest them here as well. Oh... I guess I just did.)
She's not quite ready for learning to write the alphabet, so I had it on my Amazon list for the future. However, I was alerted that it was a Lightening Deal, and the price was too good to pass up. I wrapped it up and put it under the tree just so she could open it, and I thought I'd put it away until she was more mature. That didn't happen.
Even though she doesn't know how to form letters, she loves playing with this thing. My older two, who are far beyond learning their letters, will use it when they find it laying around. Even my husband tried it out Christmas morning and declared that it is "pretty cool".
Under each letter are several small ball bearings. The accompanying magnetic stylus is used to trace over the letters and bring the ball bearings to the surface. When finished writing, the opposite end of the stylus can be used like and eraser to make the bearings fall back into the tablet (or you can also "erase" with your finger). There is a guide on the tab that shows how to properly form each letter.
I plan on getting the lower case tablet to complete our alphabet collection.
There is also a numbers tablet. This version is probably the perfect size for Easter baskets. The alphabet tablets might be a smidge large. I don't use baskets; I get $1 character bags from Dollar Tree or Dollar General, and those will support the larger tablets.
Lastly, if your kids are learning to write in cursive, there is an upper and lower case cursive Magnatab available. My children are learning New American Cursive, and the tablets are slightly different from that style (they're based on the cursive I learned as a child...whatever it's called). If that weren't the case, I would have already purchased this set.
Back to the activity books!
Usborne has an activity book series with which I am thoroughly impressed. I don't know if it has an official name, but I am going to refer to it as the Academy Series.
Each book (there are currently eight) is an interactive training manual of sorts for a certain profession. Just before Christmas I selected two books a piece, based on their interests, for my older children.
The Boy was to be the recipient of Architect Academy
and Engineer Academy.
I planned to give Little Mama Scientist Academy
and Vet Academy.
You may be able to tell from the wording of the previous language they didn't get these books for Christmas. Once I had them in my hands and was able to look through them, I realized these are more than mere activity books. They are a treasure trove of information that can really impart a lot of knowledge about each topic they cover.
I knew these could be valuable learning tools. Therefore, I decided to put them away and wait for some other occasion to present them. I didn't want them getting lost in the noise of Christmas. I really want my kids to be able to focus on them and reap the full benefit of having them. And Easter seems like the perfect opportunity to bring them out of hiding! I'm pretty excited.
I was so impressed with these books I ended up ordering some others.
I have Astronaut Academy, which Little Mama will get for her birthday.
I bought Doctor Academy as a birthday present for my niece (whose mother is a surgeon), and I will probably get another copy for Little Mama some time down the road.
For The Boy, I plan on getting Pilot Academy and probably Coder Academy.
I find these books to be so awesome that I'm sure I'll also get any other versions that Usborne may release in the future!
Fortune Tellers to Fold
That niece I mentioned in the last section is in that awkward age for gift giving. She's outgrown a lot of toys but still plays with some. I have struggled recently with getting gifts for her. That's why I jumped on Doctor Academy when I saw it. Another Usborne activity book that has come to my rescue for her birthday is Fortune Tellers to Fold.
You remember these from middle school, right? Pick a number, letter, word, or whatever and move your fortune teller the appropriate number of times. Through this process, you'll find out who you're going to marry or how many kids you'll have or something like that. I'm pretty sure my marriage to my now-husband was predicted using this method when I was 11. So, it's very scientific.
Any who, this tween-age friendly book shows how to assemble the fortune tellers and provides pretty paper with both preprinted fortunes and spaces to write your own-- much more sophisticated than the notebook paper kind we had.
Star Wars Origami
If you've got a bigger kid who also happens to be a Star Wars fan, I've got a great Easter basket filler idea: Star Wars Origami.
This book includes instructions on how to make 36 different Star Wars themed works of origami art, including Yoda, R2D2, the Millennium Falcon, light sabers, Jabba the Hutt and so much more. Also included in the book are 72 sheets of specially printed Star Wars paper and general origami instructions to help those new to the art understand the more complicated instructions specific to each project.
This book is truly a work of genius, hard work, and creativity. But as I said, it's really for bigger kids (and adults). The Boy has to have a lot of assistance to correctly assemble the projects, and he's otherwise pretty adept at following assembly instructions. Therefore, this would most be suitable for that tween or teenager you may have who is really too old for Easter baskets, but you just can't stop yourself (a.k.a. accept that they are no longer your little baby...which WILL be me in a few years).
It was a huge hit, and for that reason, he is getting another Mad Libs book for Easter. There are only about 1,000 from which to choose, including more Star Wars themes.
They're the perfect size for Easter baskets, kids love how silly they are, they're cheap, and I love that they solidify knowledge of the parts of speech. Everybody's a winner.
If you're considering picking up a book for your children (and they're not Star Wars fanatics), may I suggest the following:
It seems like the perfect place to start a foray into the Mad Libs franchise.
Here's another Stupendous Socking Stuffers entry that would also make an egg-cellent Easter basket filler. (See what I did there?)
In an effort to save our furniture and walls from the artist known as Tres, she was given two Melissa and Doug Water Wow! pads-- the one above and this one:
She really enjoys coloring with them, and hasn't grown bored with only having the two from which to choose. Not only do they help keep marker and crayon off my belongings, our paper supply doesn't see as much waste.
Though I think Water Wow! is intended and best suited for toddlers and preschoolers, I have often seen Little Mama and occasionally The Boy using them. I guess that speaks to their ability to keep my two-year olds interest.
Aquarelle and Aquarellum
Somewhere and sometime I can't remember, I read glowing reviews of Ravensburger's Aquarelle and SentoSphere's Aquarellum paint kits. They were touted as being an excellent resource for demonstrating how to mix watercolors. They were also praised for being kid-friendly, as the included scenes have "magic" lines that keep the paint from bleeding into unwanted areas.
Naturally, I slapped them onto my Amazon wish list. And that's where they stayed for a while. The large sets start at $20, and the small sets are around $10. I just wasn't sure if I wanted to spend that much on a water color paint set.
Before last Christmas, Timberdoodle had a great sale, and one of the items I was able to buy at a very discounted price was a Ravensburger combo set of a large and a small Aquarelle paint kit.
The specific Ravensburger set we got is no longer available. This SentoSphere Aquarellum dolphin set is the closest thing I could find.
After seeing the kids use their sets, I'm still not sure if I would pay full-price for them (I rarely pall full-price for anything). However, I can say that they are the most used and most successful paint kits my kids have used. That's why I'm including Mini Aquarellum as a suggested Easter basket filler (the large sets are really too large for an Easter basket, SentoSphere offers more small kits, and SentoSphere includes two printed pictures in their small kits whereas Reavensubrger only provides one printed picture and one blank canvas).
Here's an example of a ScentoSphere Mini Aquarellum kit. I selected the dolphins for the sake of comparing it to the larger set above. The small Ravensburger Aquarelle set we had was a parrot, but it is also no longer available.
If you have a child who loves to paint, these kits do help produce beautiful watercolor paintings from even the sloppiest of artists. This really encouraged Little Mama and led to her creating her own free-form paintings. She often doubts herself when it comes to art, because The Boy is more naturally gifted in this area. After completing the pictures in her kit she had a confidence boost, and that's worth $10, I think.
The mini sets come with two post card size pictures, water colors, a pipette for blending, a tray to hold the mixed paint, a color mixing guide, and a paint brush (which wasn't used, as we already possessed better quality brushes). There is enough paint included to have plenty left over for other projects.
I know this list is described as being non-toy, but I do have one toy on the list. Tres got an egg shaped rattle last year, and it's so cute and so perfect for Easter I couldn't pass on including it. The one we have came from a Timberdoodle sale. I checked their site, and it doesn't look like they carry it any longer. Here are some alternatives that are either really close to what we have or that I found especially appealing.
This set is most like what we have:
While not technically eggs, this set is really sweet:
If you prefer the natural look, check these out:
For a set that does more than rattle, these should fit the bill. Plus they're from one of my favorite toy and game brands, HABA.
For more Easter basket filler ideas, check out the Stupendous Stocking Stuffers article I've already referenced several times. Most, if not all, of the items listed there would also make great Easter basket goodies.
Another great way to fill those baskets is with picture and chapter books. Since taste and preferences vary, I didn't include any specific ones in this list. However, check out the Favorite Book Friday series for some ideas and reviews on some we like.
I'm curious. What sort of non-candy, non-toy fillers have you guys put in your kids' Easter baskets? Let me know in the comments!
See my Pinterest board for all gift guides and lists.