If Christmas were a cupcake, the stocking would equate to the decoration on the icing. It's not necessary and doesn't really improve the taste of the cupcake, but it adds a little extra something to an otherwise already amazing treat.
Of course my kids' stockings will have some candy (you can't have Christmas without those chocolate coins), but I try to focus more on useful little trinkets, games, or toys. I'm not anti-candy on Christmas day, but my kids inevitably will get a ton of it from my mother and grandmother. I don't try to compete with that, and I don't want so much of it around that weeks after Christmas we're still dealing with it. Halloween wasn't that long ago, ya know.
Maybe it's silly to put as much thought into stocking stuffers as I do, but I hate wasting money, and I don't want to bring junk into the house that's just going to break or get thrown away in a week or two.
With all that in mind, here's a list of successful stocking stuffers I've gotten the kids over the years (plus a few items they're getting this year). As this list is created with all my kids in mind, it covers a broad age range (baby to big kid). So, maybe it can help you out when considering what to put in your own child's cupcake decoration....I mean stocking.
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This is one of the most popular stocking stuffers around my house, and it has shown up more than once in more than one stocking. Maybe it's just my kids, specifically my girls, but they are fascinated with calculators. Little Mama does important grown up work on them and Tres likes pushing the buttons. She has just started to pretend they're phones; they do look like smart phones.
I think this will be the third, maybe fourth, year that calculators have been in my kids' stockings. Tres ripped the buttons off all the ones from last year. Important lesson: If you have a baby or toddler in your life (especially a destructive one), avoid calculators with rubber buttons that can be pulled up.
Most of the time, I get our calculators from Dollar Tree. There are usually a couple from which to choose. Should you not be able to get to the store, here's a cheap one online.
This looks just like a little calculator I keep on hand for myself. I've had it for years and don't remember where I got it, but Little Mama and Tres have frequently gotten their grubby mitts on it, and it has held up.
As a kid, you probably got this in your stocking or Easter basket or for your birthday or just because. This means you're aware how awesome this stuff is to a child.
The first time my kids played with Silly Putty, it was fun to teach them all the ways you can use it and then watch the amazement on their faces. I remember my mother doing the exact same thing with me.
By the way, I thought copying newspaper print with it was particularly exciting. What about you?
Kid O Wobbles
I love these cute little guys. We have this owl, which Tres got last year.
I've already written about these in Great Gifts for Babies and Toddlers, so check that out for more information. I will relay this very important tidbit, though. There are also an equally adorable raccoon and fox available.
Safari Ltd. Toobs
If you've read some of my other articles, you know I have a thing for Safari Ltd. Toobs. I have used them in sensory bins, and I have stuffed them in stockings.
I've purchased the Pirates TOOB three times! One was for The Boy's stocking several years ago. The second and third purchases were for sensory bins (one for us and one for my nephew's birthday coming up in a few months...stay tuned to see what I make).
At this time last year, The Boy was really into the Revolution. On Christmas morning, he found out Santa really does know all about us when he found a few Revolutionary War Toobs in his stocking. They were a big hit, and he used a little camera he also got that day to make a documentary-style video of the war. I'm not gonna hide it; I was a little proud.
One of the great things about Toobs is the variety of styles in which they come. Whatever your child's interest there is probably a Toob for it.
Hobby Lobby carries quite a few Toob styles, and using the 40% coupon makes them the most competitive with pricing that I've found. A good online source to check is Rainbow Resource. Sometimes they have some really good deals on their Toobs, though it's usually for the sets that have been discontinued.
Fandex Family Field Guides
Over the summer I stumbled upon these nifty guides. Each set consists of several long, skinny cards of information about a certain subject. The cards fan out so you can easily go through them and find any one in particular. At the top of each card is a picture of that cards specimen.
When I discovered the guides, I immediately got the tree guide. The kids have used it for school assignments or just to figure out what sort of trees we have in our yard. It's very handy.
After the tree guide was such a hit, I got online to see what other topics might be of interest to the kids. There are so many to choose from! While searching, I found a Star Wars edition.
The Boy is a Star Wars fanatic, so without hesitation I got this set for his stocking. I know he is going to love this one!
As the guides come in so many topics, you can probably find a set for whatever interests your child has. They're educational (Star Wars excluded) and fun.
Play-Doh and Tools
Who doesn't enjoy Play-Doh? A few full-size cans will fit in a stocking, but I think a bunch of those mini-tubs are extra fun. One party bag of the small tubs can cheaply fill several stockings.
Plus, if the lid gets left off one of these small containers, you don't loose a ton of dough.
Something fun to include with the dough is an assortment of tools. There are so many options, but the ones that have been the most popular around our house are a set of extruders (the exact set we have is no longer available)
and this assortment (especially the ones resembling pizza cutters):
While extruders are limited to use with Play-Doh, these cutters, rollers, scrapers, and spatulas can be used with all kinds of other dough type products (like Playfoam, Kinetic Sand, Thinking Putty, and Floof).
Speaking of dough-type products, I like to include one in the kids' stockings every year. They're awesome for improving motor skills and encouraging imaginative play. You have to have imagination to take a blob and turn it into other things.
Last year's dough product was magnetic Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty. The putty is nice, but the magnetic attraction is weak. In hindsight, I think I'd choose one of the color changing varieties instead.
I'm hoping this year's selection is a bit more successful.
I've had my eye on Mad Mattr for a while. It appears to be a cross between Kinetic Sand and Play-Doh. All my research leads me to believe it feels like the sand while holding it's shape more like dough. It seems super cool and has great reviews. I finally bought some this summer when it was on sale for Prime Day. The Boy is getting a pack in teal, and Little Mama getting some in hot pink. I'll have to let you know what I think after Christmas, but I have high hopes!
Kids love flashlights, and that's a fact. Since flashlights are cheap that's a good thing. You can get them anywhere--even Dollar Tree.
Over the years our kids have gotten some in the traditional style like these:
But the kind they seem to like best are these Energizer glow stick style flashlights. I should warn you they have whistles on the end of them.
I think they like them so much because they can be used as a flashlight or glow stick and can also be made to flash. Plus, that whistle...
The online price for the Energizer glow stick flashlights is higher than the in-store price. I recommend buying these in person or perhaps trying this alternative, which looks to be the exact same thing.
Apparently, Pop Toobs have been around since I was a kid. Though I didn't know about them then, I assume something that's endured in the world of toys that long must have something special about it.
From reading about them, I know they can expand a great deal, contract, make noise while doing both, bend in different ways when expanded, and can be connected to other Pop Toobs.
They can be purchased in sets, but Tres is just getting one, so we can see what these are all about. I also read that they wear out fairly easily with a lot of use. I didn't want to purchase a set until I see how long they last.
(Update 1/19/18: I threw out the Pop Toob last week. It was great while it lasted, and all the kids enjoyed playing with it. However, Tres stepped on its middle. Either side of the crushed midsection would still expand and contract, and she could still speak into it and alter her voice. I'm just not a fan of hanging on to damaged toys that have no hope of repair. I still think this is a great stocking stuffer, but I would advise giving it to an older and/or more careful child.)
I mentioned Pop Toobs previously in Great Gifts for Babies and Toddlers.
In more ways than one, The Boy is an old soul in a young body. Perhaps that is why he is drawn to traditional toys and games. Checkers is one of his favorite board games, and he desperately wants to learn to play chess (no worries...he's getting a set for Christmas).
It was no surprise to me then, when perusing a toy catalog we got in the mail one day, he saw a set of jacks and put them on his Christmas list. Little did he know, I had already bought him this set for his stocking:
I know that kid. Little Mama, on the other hand, is an enigma at times!
Scented Crayons and Markers
If we gathered up and counted all the coloring implements stored in various locations around here, the number would probably be shocking. If you have kids, the same it likely true for you too. But it doesn't matter if we have 600 markers, 955 crayons, and 347 colored pencils. None of them are scented. My kids have informed me that they need something scented with which to color--preferably markers. And because I'm a sucker they're getting some.
My kids love to play card games, and it just so happens they are the perfect size for stockings. There are so many choices I don't even know where to start in discussing options. Just to offer a couple of suggestions, I'm going to mention a game we have and the kids enjoy and one they are getting this Christmas.
Little Mama was given Sleeping Queens. It is such a fun, suspenseful game. Even though the cards are covered in queens, I can't tell you how many times The Boy has requested to play this. As an adult, this game even holds my interest.
All of the queens in the game have been put to sleep, and the first person to wake up a certain number of queens is the winner. The play of the game is simple, but it requires some strategy, some memory, some very basic math, and a bit of luck. A neat fact about the game is that it was created by a six-year-old! Just wow.
One of the card games the kids are getting this year is Creature Clash. Though they are getting a few card games, this is one I'm looking forward to playing.
Using math, strategy, and creativity, players use the cards to make new creatures from real-life animal parts. Points are given based on the parts used and successful attacks against opponents' creatures. I think this is going to be a big hit.
As a word of advice, I recommend some sort of card holder when young kids are playing card games. These are the ones we use.
Rory's Story Cubes
Last year, Little Mama received the Enchanted expansion set of Rory's Story Cubes. They were a stocking afterthought. I had added them to an online order because they were cheap and nudged me over the free shipping threshold.
This set contains three expansion packs. The pink side is what we have. At the time of this writing, this set of three expansion packs is about the same price as just the Enchanted set by itself.
Story Cubes are just dice wth pictures on them. They way we play is by letting each person take a turn rolling the dice and then telling a story using every picture shown. Even though we only have an expansion pack with three die (the full sets come with more), the kids have a blast with these.
Because I now know they'll use and enjoy them, The Boy is getting a full set of Batman themed Story Cubes.
Like several other things on this list, Story Cubes come in all kinds of themes to suit any kid's interests. You can also mix and match them for wackier stories.
Looking to put something a little more educational in your kid's stocking that doesn't look educational? Try Wrap-ups.
As you can see, Wrap-ups are a set of keys and a piece of string. They are available in a range of math, science, and geography topics. Each key has information on its left side that must be matched to another bit of information on the right side. The picture above, and one of the sets we have, is for states and capitals. The states are on the left, and capitals are on the right.
Each state and capital has a notch next to it, and the object is to correctly run the string from notch to notch by making appropriate matches. The back of each key has a guide for how the string should look if everything is matched correctly.
The states and capitals set was in The Boy's stocking last year, and somebody gave us a couple of the math based Wrap-ups. He didn't care for the math ones too much and preferred the geography set much more.
I'll be honest here. These are not something to put in the stocking expecting your kid to choose to play with it over other things (well, maybe yours will). I put them in The Boy's stocking purely for educational purposes, and I have to tell him to use them. Because it's more interesting than just memorizing the information from paper, he obliges without reluctance. In that sense, they serve their purpose.
All my kids use Chapstick, and it comes in handy around Christmas. Therefore, they usually end up with a tube in their stocking. Sometimes they get the original flavor, sometimes strawberry, and sometimes something special like these holiday flavors:
In fact, there are all kinds of special Christmas flavors kids would love. I haven't bought any yet, but the gingerbread is calling my name.
If you have a performer in the family, this is a simple, cheap, and entertaining stuffer.
Little Mama has gotten these a few times. They're super cheap, which is good because they either endup broken or missing. Before either of those things happen, though, we are treated to multiple concerts a day.
Little Mama realized she could use a SmartMax rod and ball to "make" her own microphone. After that I didn't replace the last echo mic. For the sake of space management, I just let her use the SmartMax pieces and her own imagination. (I've mentioned this awesome toy in Great Gifts for Babies and Toddlers and The Best Building Toys.)
But a set of SmartMax doesn't fit in stockings, and they aren't cheap. To suit those needs, these echo mics are perfect. I've seen them at Dollar General (since I was a little girl) and I think I saw them or something similar at Dollar Tree.
I don't know if it's just my kids, but children are obsessed with magnets. Several times a day I have to say, "Put that magnet back on the refrigerator!" If I allowed it, they would remove and lose them all leaving me with nothing. But I recognize their fascination, so they have a magnetic dry erase board in their room and a larger magnetic board (made from an oil drip pan) in our barn. I have also supplied them with a variety of cool magnets. Many times these have been given by way of stockings.
One of my favorite sets is this Eric Carle inspired one.
These are high-quality, wooden magnets made by a company called Mudpuppy. Their products are so cute, and I have bought from them a few times. Before online shopping was popular, you could find this brand in boutiques.
If Eric Carle isn't your thing, Mudpuppy as a ton of options for these wooden magnets (and all come in that neat milk carton style packaging).
Another good source for fun magnets is Melissa and Doug. They have a line of wooden magnets in a box and a large selection of magnetic dress-up dolls. In fact, they offer dolls that will appeal to girls...
Here are a couple tips regarding the Melissa and Doug magnets.
- The trays they come in might not fit in stockings. We've never kept the trays; without a lid they are useless to us for containing the pieces. To make the important parts fit you can just open them up and dump the pieces in.
- The base doll in the dress-up doll sets is not magnetic on the back. It's meant to be placed in the provided stand. However, I have always tossed the stand and hot glued magnets to the back of the dolls so the entire set can be contained on my kids' magnetic boards. That's just my preference; I'm sure children will enjoy them equally either way.
Almost every year my kids have received toothbrushes in their stockings. I know this doesn't sound exciting, but it is! Stocking toothbrushes are electric and themed, so they are way more fun than the boring manual toothbrushes they use the rest of the year.
Babies can even use this practical stuffer. There are all kinds of cute training toothbrushes available. I find this banana brush particularly adorable.
All of my kids enjoy drawing and coloring. Tres has gotten into it earlier and with more fervor than the other two did. I suppose that's from wanting to imitate them. But using crayons and markers at an earlier age equates to a bigger mess. That girl has to be watched like a hawk or the furniture, books, her body, and anything else will be decorated with her art. I want to encourage her creativity, but I can't always pay 100% attention when she wants to color (which is all the time).
This is where I'm hoping Water Wow! will save the day.
I first saw a friend of mine's little girl using Water Wow! and I immediately thought Tres would love it. It uses a refillable water marker to make colors appear on each page. Once the page dries the colors disappear and you can recolor again and again.
Tres is getting the wild animal pad (shown above) and the farm animal one as well (they're available in many themes). I'm excited about being able to let her color without worrying about the destruction she can do to my house.
There are other "magic reveal" or mess-free coloring type products available, but I love that this only uses water--the ultimate non-toxic chemical.
I want to let it be known that I don't intend to permanently ban Tres from using markers and crayons. I prefer free drawing on plain paper to coloring books and pre-drawn images. The former requires more creativity and imagination, but with Tres it's just not possible to safely allow her to color as much as much as she would like. (Did I mention she will also eat crayons if you don't watch her?) Water Wow! is merely intended to give me some time to get things done and keep her occupied.
You know you loved these as a kid! If you're like me, you probably still love them.
Little Mama is not quite ready for Mad Libs, but they are just right for The Boy. He has learned the parts of speech, and he loves silly stories. When I thought to put a Mad Libs book in his stocking, I didn't know what theme to choose. As I was scrolling, I found a Star Wars version; my decision was made for me.
The thing I appreciate about Mad Libs is that they are deceptively educational. Kids think they are just creating silly stories and don't realize they are solidifying their grasp of the parts of speech.
Well, that's it for this list. Let me know in the comments about your great stocking stuffer ideas!
See my Pinterest board for all gift guides and lists.