No parent is excited about giving their kids the latest pricey plastic toy that will get old after a month. No spouse gets pumped up about buying socks or spending loads of cash on a needless toy helicopter. And by buying our families worthless junk they feel entitled too, we're unknowingly robbing from their joy as well. So I beg you to go against the grain and buy your loved ones something meaningful. These are all my hand-picked favorites that I personally own and love. (And I'm not getting paid for this post! These are truly just my favorite things.)
For young children:
Elephant Pants (approx $8/pair on clearance) - My kids love how comfy these pants are, and I love that the elastic fits them no matter how big they are. Plus it's easy to find a matching pair for you! Sign up for their emails so you get notified of good deals. I'm expecting some awesome sales on Black Friday.
Miracle Maker DVD ($5-6) - This is an extremely well-made claymation story about the life of Jesus, which sounds boring and potentially irreverent, but the art is breathtaking and the script sticks to the Bible well. They even portray Christ's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. My kids reference this movie all the time when we're talking about Jesus and it's so good for all of us.
Water WOW Books ($4-5) - These are made by Melissa and Doug and the most compelling aspect for me is how reusable they are. When you paint the black-and-white thick-cardboard pages with water, they quickly come to life with color, but as they dry the color wanes and they're ready to be re-used. These are great for road trips too.
Usborne Shine-a-Light Books ($13) - I've never seen a book like this but I've bought four; watch a video demonstration here. You use a flashlight to shine through the book and it shows you hidden images. It's seriously awesome and even educational. It hurts for me to pay that much money for a children's book, but I've found that almost all Usborne books are worth the money (plus I've been able to find most of the older books used for $3.50 on Thriftbooks.)
Any resource I already recommended here.
For mid-aged kids:
The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition ($14 but I bought mine at Sam's Club for $8) - If you want to introduce your kids to Tolkien before they're ready for the full saga, this book is an amazing tool. As a graphic novel it is faithful to the original text and illustrated skillfully. Peter reads it to our kids at bedtime and they're absolutely captivated.
The Journey - This is a well-made album by Seeds Family Worship that has lyrics completely drawn from scripture. These songs---in style and in subject matter---are a little more suited towards older children than the other CD's, but I listen to all of these by myself regardless of kids.
Usborne Sticker Dressing books ($5-7+) - These are so well-made and even educational. Your child will love the illustrations and helping dress up the characters. I have the Explorers book so my kids dress up the likes of Leif Erickson and Ferdinand Magellan, and it's grand. You can buy these books from a rep or get them cheaper through AbeBooks.
Quality watercolor paints - Those Crayola paints and paintbrushes are a joke! If you buy your child (even a 4-year-old) some quality brushes and good paint, it can be surprising how much your child's creativity and self-confidence soars. You can buy a nice set like this one for $20 that includes a water brush, or buy the kind of watercolor paints that you squeeze onto a palette and let dry (this one is $10). The latter is better if you don't trust your child that much and you're afraid he or she will mix the colors.
The Wingfeather Saga Audiobook - Andrew Peterson is not only an incredibly talented singer-songwriter, but an imaginative, funny, and deep-thinking wordsmith. This fantasy series written by him is probably almost on par with LOTR or the Chronicles of Narnia. They are epic and I love them. There's some scary parts, some death, some hard things to reckon with, but it's all so good. I can't recommend these enough.
For teens and grown-ups:
GlobeIn subscription ($10/month) - I've tried a gazillion subscription boxes but I didn't keep any of them because they are so expensive and overly luxurious. But it's super fun getting a present in the mail, so I recommend this one since it's affordable and you can quit anytime. These items are made by people all over the world (and each item comes with a pretty detailed informational card) so you're enabling entrepreneurs worldwide. Plus the stuff is actually useful and awesome.
Microwavable popcorn popper ($13) - Everyone knows that microwave popcorn is bad for you, but that stovetop popcorn is inconvenient, so this little miracle-worker has been amazing for us. I literally don't need to measure anything and just pour the kernels in there, put on the lid, and pop for 2 minutes. It's so easy and yummy.
Elephant Pants (about $16 on sale) - Whether these pants are fashionable enough to wear in public is much debated (I would say definitely but my family disagrees), but what's inarguable is the level of comfort and flexibility offered with these pants. Size 0-12 is all one size (and larger sizes are available) so these pants make great gifts and they can also be helpful for pregnant ladies or people trying to lose weight. They're supposed to have some great sales on Black Friday.
A calligraphy starter set (approx $28) - Spend $5 on one of Lindsey Bugbee's printable tutorials and you'll be amazed at how quickly you learn---her whole blog (The Postman's Knock) is incredibly helpful. Though you can write in calligraphy with any regular pen, there's obviously a notable difference if you invest in an actual nib holder (such as this one for $7) and nibs (such as this 10-pack for $8) as well as some ink (sumi is recommended to start; this is $6.) You can probably get these supplies cheaper from Hobby Lobby if you went in-store.
Thy Kingdom Comics ($14) - You're probably familiar with Adam 4d, the guy behind Babylon Bee who also makes hilarious and extremely thought-provoking webcomics. This book is a collection of some of those comics and makes an excellent gift for a budding philosopher/theologian/apologist.
A Mirror Dimly by Citizens and Saints ($10) - Their sound is electric and unique and their lyrics are rich. This is my husband's favorite band and I love them too.
Hive Pocket ($20) - This game is a bit like a less stressful game of chess in that each type of piece has a different function and your goal is to surround your opponent's Queen Bee with the other honeycomb-shaped pieces. It's a great challenge and lots of fun, plus it comes in a bag so you can bring it anywhere. (Awesome airport game. Less awesome on a moving plane.)
Tons of new books you couldn't previously afford (about $3.50 each) - I recently removed 90% of the kids' toys from the playroom and replaced them with books. Unsurprisingly, we are so much happier and it's amazing to watch their little minds and souls become more enriched every day as we read fiction and non-fiction together. Plus I feel freed up to generously give away books I love since they're so inexpensive to replace. I was able to quickly gain a library spanning all kinds of excellent fiction and non-fiction for young kids by buying them used on ThriftBooks (that link should give you 15% off.) It's searchable and you can add out-of-stock books to your wishlist so you'll get an email notifying you when it becomes available. They have a reward program, coupon codes are always available from somewhere on the internet, and shipping is free after $10. I recently bought 22 awesome books for my family for $70. Totally recommended.
Disney weekday passes ($275) - As a Florida resident, a one-day ticket to Magic Kingdom in peak season is $134 after tax. Don't forget to add $20+ for parking. That is insane, especially considering that you can go to all four parks for the whole year (minus weekends and blackouts during the busiest times) for $275. As a passholder, you also get free parking every time and access to dining discounts and all kinds of other stuff. So if you go to Disney every year but you can't afford a pass, maybe you could consider skipping a year and buying a pass next time. There is so much to behold at Disney that one day will be frustrating to you. Going regularly at a leisurely pace so you can stop to smell the flowers? Yes, that is worth it. (If Disney's not up your alley, Busch Gardens is super-great and pass holders get monthly freebies and special access to stuff all the time. You get 15 months for $185 after tax.)
Wet brush ($12 for two) - This brush is such an amazing detangler and it doesn't even hurt. Absolutely changed my life.
iPhone clip-on fisheye lens ($8)- These take seriously cool-looking pictures and you literally just pinch them on and off your phone like you would a bag of chips.
Washi tape ($1-3 per roll) - My kids adore washi tape and I do too. It's essentially re-stickable masking tape that comes in an immense array of patterns and even textures. I use washi tape to embellish envelopes and stationery, but the kids like to make art with the strips and will play with it for hours. It teaches self-control (they learn quickly that they'll lose the privilege if they're wasteful with the tape) and creativity. I like buying them in 10-packs or so from Etsy or Amazon but you can get them from Target too if needed.
I hope you enjoy and you're able to guard yourself from materialism!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like lime green, Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they have holes in them...or melt.
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today