Budget life Parenting

Gifts Etc!

November 25, 2020

Laura and I are recording a BOBW episode this morning on gifts, and I have to say — I’m feeling pretty uninspired when it comes to gifts for the kids right now. Here is our tentative list for the 8 nights of Hanukkah:

(they don’t read the blog!)

(these are not affiliate links, though I may work on a more curated gift ideas pages in the future with some)

this one pains me the most but C is obsessed with it.
I do see how it might be fun for pretend play . . .

1 – G: Magnadoodle / A: Origami book / paper / C: Ford Mustang car model kit

2- Tennis rackets? (The last time I played tennis was probably at age 12 in day camp but I’m sure I could re-learn . . .)

3-  Pirate ship thing Cameron wanted from catalog, A – Ultimate Craft Library, G- bunch of sidewalk chalk and/or sticker books

4-  KiwiCo / Koala Crate boxes? (Hoping to get these from my parents!)

5-  Possibly another family gift? (Help me out, family. Lol.)

6-  Kids cookbooks and/or kids cooking supplies of some kind? Maybe a kids cookbooks plus the ingredients to make a cupcake recipe or something?

7-  3 sweaters (knit by Grandma! already here and have been waiting for this occasion which is good because the kids complain of “cold” when it dips to 70)

8-  Books or another family gift

RIGHT around Hanukkah is also G’s birthday (considering an American Girl Bitty Baby w/ a few accessories) and Josh’s birthday (gift already purchased but unlike the kids he reads this blog). My baby niece is getting Magnatiles. My older nieces/nephews will get gift cards (maybe to independent bookstores). Some of physician coworkers will be getting Papier notebooks. Staff at work & others in our life will be getting $$$.

I am pretty happy with this list, actually. It doesn’t seem TOO clutter inducing but I think the kids will still be pretty happy. Now I just have to actually work on making the purchases.

What is everyone else buying? Honestly, I wish we could eschew the 8 nights of Hanukkah (we aren’t religious in any respect) and shorten it into something more reasonable, but it’s pretty ingrained in the kids.

Oh! We do have a YNAB budget category for Holiday that I throw some $ into every month (we have multiple fun savings categories like that in addition to major savings buckets like Retirement and Emergency) so at least I feel reasonably good about it being planned and pre-allocated spending.


  • Reply Gillian November 25, 2020 at 7:01 am

    We celebrate Christmas and this year santa will bring the following:
    J (13 yo boy): Tool box with a few basic tools (so he can stop taking ours), PJs, his own coffee mug and smart wool socks to encourage outdoor time this winter
    E (10 yo girl): Birthstone necklace, PJs, washi tape, smartwool socks
    F (7 yo boy): Remote Contol Car, PJs, washi tape, smartwool socks
    C (almost 5 yo boy): Remote control car, Magnetic calendar (Melissa and Doug, He wanted a calendar like they have in school where you put up the day as you go), PJs, smartwool socks

    The little items (washi tape, socks) go in stocking and the stockings typically have a theme just to make buying easy.

    Other family members are getting them hats and mittens, magnatiles, art supplies, a membership to the museum of natural history (we live just outside NYC and this my favorite thing they get each year. We use it CONSTANTLY).

    This is probably the first Christmas in 8 years we haven’t gotten a ton of Lego, but I think we now have ALL the Lego…

  • Reply gwinne November 25, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Sarah, my Hanukkah plans generally look like yours (heavy on art supplies for both, board games/puzzles, and books). In addition to pulling family gifts into the mix, I usually do one day that I give them a blank check to a charity that they need to research along with some kind of token thing to open (really small, like lip balm). I have not done anything yet this year, and I’m a bit unsure, given how much STUFF the kids have been getting in general through the pandemic (and Tiny Boy also just had a birthday). Tiny Boy’s preordered punching bag is a Hanukkah gift, so that’s one day down…

    • Reply Sam November 25, 2020 at 8:00 am

      I love the idea of having one day that’s a blank check to a nonprofit. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Chelsea November 25, 2020 at 8:27 am

    My kids (age 8, 6 and 3) are getting fun advent calendars (Lego, Minecraft, Thomas), books, some clothes they need, and stocking stuffers like Pokemon cards, Ikea gummy vikings and Ikea house lego kits. Their “fun” gifts are (8 y/o) a Mexican Train dominos game, (6 y/o) a ninja course for the backyard, (3 y/o) some Lincoln Logs and a Paw Patrol semi (both random garage sale finds because – honestly – we already have all the toys). My parents are giving us a trip to the (all outdoor) zoo, I think. And I think we’ll take each kid to the dollar store independently to pick out gifts for their siblings.

    Do you think all your kids would like a ninja course for outside? I got this one: https://www.dickssportinggoods.com/p/american-ninja-warrior-obstacle-course-race-set-18fdaynwbstclcrsrstg/18fdaynwbstclcrsrstg?sku=19388711&camp=CSE:DSG_92700049053215529_pla_pla-506180034408&segment=&gclid=CjwKCAiAnvj9BRA4EiwAuUMDf16pwcsiQyKMkGrpaVJ0Df7sdWeQkh1qOQW6Em_Kp22tygd7tSzyPBoCRrYQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds plus a set of inflatable balls with handles they can bounce on.

    It is plastic crap, but I figure – like all outdoor toys in FL, it lasts as long as it lasts…

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 25, 2020 at 8:29 am

      oh that does look fun! our backyard is taken up mostly by our pool but i could imagine bringing this to the playground & setting up.

    • Reply KGC November 25, 2020 at 10:28 am

      My 4 year old would lose his mind over a ninja course for the backyard. I’m done with his Christmas shopping but I may buy this to hang onto for his birthday in April – we usually try to get him an outdoor toy for his big birthday gift since it’s the beginning of really nice weather (bike, scooter, etc.). Thank you! I did not know that this existed!

  • Reply CBS November 25, 2020 at 8:39 am

    We celebrate Christmas and we are doing a small list of things as I feel like we’re well stocked on toys for my 3 year ol – mostly add ons to existing toys on the list we’re sending to grandparents and uncles.

    On the list – some additions to the Brio train track, an expander pack of magnatiles, and a track for cars. I also bought a cake and coffee / tea set for the play kitchen and some jigsaw puzzles as he’s outgrown his little ones.

    • Reply CBS November 25, 2020 at 8:41 am

      Oh and the other thing – a classic turtle sandpit – for using as a construction site/play space.

      • Reply Lori C November 26, 2020 at 7:07 pm

        I love this idea!

  • Reply Amanda November 25, 2020 at 9:02 am

    #6 – I have gifted these cookbooks to a few friends’ kids this year, and the cookbooks are a huge hit with kids and parents alike: The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs and The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs by AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN.

    • Reply Kristie November 25, 2020 at 1:04 pm

      Yes! My daughter has both of those cookbooks, and the recipes are delicious. It also teaches a lot of cooking/baking technique.

  • Reply Sarah K November 25, 2020 at 9:42 am

    I try to stick with the “want, need, wear, read” categories for my kids, especially since my parents majorly spoil them with presents! My boys (ages 7 and 10) are getting Beyblades and Nerf guns for “want”, sleeping bags for “need”, Avatar t-shirts for “wear” ( they’re obsessed with the Nickelodeon series), and books are Cat Kid Comic Club for my 7yo and I think the New Kid graphic novel for my 10yo.

  • Reply Karen November 25, 2020 at 9:54 am

    We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, plus my four year old’s birthday is the first week of January. I have not done eight nights of Hanukkah yet, too overwhelming! Also try to keep Christmas low key, but it balloons pretty quickly by the time grandparents and aunties get her gifts too.

    We have also gone all in arts and crafts, good for lockdown!

  • Reply AR November 25, 2020 at 10:06 am

    We celebrate Hanukkah but don’t do gift-giving for all eight nights. Instead, we’ll plan a different activity/project for each night: making latkes one night, making donuts a different night, playing dreidels on yet a third night. We’ll usually have one or two family parties to go to as well, although clearly not this year! I find this much more manageable.

  • Reply Susan November 25, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Gotta tell you, the pirate ship is a good call. We had one when my oldest was four, and it was a pirate ship, then it was Captain John Smith’s ship when we added Pocahantas action figures, it was noah’s ark, it was a pilgrim ship in a school diarama or three, it was Francis Scott Key’s ship during a history presentation….lots of use. (son is 27 now and still thinks it was one of the best gifts ever.)

    • Reply Christen November 26, 2020 at 1:36 am

      I have to agree. My little brother had the Playmobil pirate ship when we were kids, along with a few other winners like the castle, and some kind of fort. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many hours we spent imagining worlds and stories for those things. The entirety of the 1990s, basically. Looking back, it is indeed a ton of plastic, but… I can’t bring myself to regret having it, because running home from school every day to continue where we’d left off the day before and basically squeezing every last minute of playing time out of the day is one of my most prominent (and cherished) memories fo childhood. (Also re the plastic… we lovingly put each set away and they are currently stored in the basement for future generations, so at least it will have gotten a lot of use!)

  • Reply KGC November 25, 2020 at 10:26 am

    Every year since my oldest (4.5 yo now) was a baby (and now we have a 1.5 yo in the mix), we have done a giant bag of balloons as one of his gifts. Think, like, bicycle-sized gift bag that we fill with blown up balloons of varying colors and sizes. No helium. No strings. Just balloons…and somehow this ends up being hours of entertainment over the winter. We usually open it for him (now them) by dumping it over their head. They bat them around the house, we rub them on their hair to make their hair stick up due to static, they try to sit on them and not pop them, they see if they can balance them above the air vents in the house, etc. Suuuuuper cheap, big impact factor (because the bag is so big and the gift looks impressive) and ends up being super fun. I’m sort of a grinch about not getting too much STUFF (though I’m trying to be better) and this one thing has always been a big hit! A and C might be on the edge of too old but I bet G would be beside herself with something like this…?

    • Reply Alyce November 25, 2020 at 9:01 pm

      This is an amazing idea. My husband and I are agnostic/atheist and we stopped celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah over a decade ago, and I’m pretty anti-holiday consumption (mostly the part where you get junk for people just because you have to get something – not the part where I take advantage of holiday sales on things I was already planning to buy, of course) but now that we have a kid our anti-Holiday stance just feels super Grinchy and unfun. I’ve been thinking recently about how we can celebrate the holidays without it being about religion or consumption and just about enjoying the cozy and happy home life when it’s cold and dark outside. This is such a wonderful idea that we can incorporate. Thank you for sharing!

      • Reply KGC November 25, 2020 at 9:57 pm

        We are not religious either but I LOVE so much about Christmas…just not the consumerism, which in turn makes me sort of grinchy about gifts sometimes. I am very strict with the grandparents and really try to think of experiences or very simple things that they can receive. And the balloons have always been a big hit! One of our favorite Christmas pictures is our oldest son at about 2 looking up as we dumped balloons over his head and his expression is just of pure joy 🙂 Hope your kiddo likes them, too!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 26, 2020 at 5:52 am

      OMG I’m sure G would be all over this 🙂 🙂 Such a fun idea!

  • Reply Molly November 25, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Oh my goodness I wish you had an affiliate link because I’m ordering that craft kit for my 7 year old now, that looks awesome and is on sale this weekend, thanks!

  • Reply Irene November 25, 2020 at 10:40 am

    I would definitely be interested in a full gift guide (and happy to support you through affiliate links) because I think our kids have similar interests/ages and I am also kind of nuts about not filling the house with junk. Although I have relaxed some during Covid because we don’t go anywhere. We often do a experience gift but that probably won’t happen this year…

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns November 25, 2020 at 11:03 am

    We are super minimalists when it comes to gifts – but we can be since our son is 2.5 years old so doesn’t 100% get into gifts yet, but that day is coming… My husband and I don’t exchange gifts for Christmas or birthdays – pre-covid we considered our vacation spending a gift to ourselves and would go out for a nice dinner for birthdays. I look forward to doing that again when covid is behind us! For our son, I got a firetruck made by Green Toys – best brand of toys ever IMO. They are made from recycled plastic and super durable, and there is minimal packaging that is all recycleable. Other than that, I got him a couple of board games (My First Orchard and Memory). That is kind of it, though. he will get gifts from both grandparents and from a cousin gift exchange. We have a ton of hand-me-down toys in storage so I may pull out some of them. I know that probably makes me sound cheap but I feel like the more toys we have around, the worse he plays on his own… Plus we don’t have a huge play area in our living room so I try to keep the toys there to a minimum. We do have a basement so there is room down there but I just hate the clutter of toys! Your list of gifts for your kids seems very reasonable! One thing I asked one of the grandparents to get for our son is a Highlights subscription. He has a Ranger Rick subscription and loves them – he will look at them over and over again and they do not take up much space so I think he’ll love the Highlights magazines geared to his age. I got Highlights when I was a kid and LOVED it. When Covid is behind us, I’d like to encourage the grandparents to get us memberships to the zoo and children’s museum but this is not the year for that…

    We did get an advent calendar with little drawers to pull out. He’ll get 2-3 m&ms each day and then I ordered a set of 9 matchbox cars so he’ll get one of those every couple of days. He’s super into cars and trucks so I think they will get a lot of use.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 26, 2020 at 5:52 am

      I love the idea of advent even though it’s not my tradition 🙂 That sounds like so much fun!

  • Reply Michal W November 25, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    For night 6, check out https://www.popupparenting.org/pop-up-cooking, it is guided activities for kids ages 3-8 using children’s books with cooking themes as a jumping off point. The kit comes with the books, cooking materials, and recipes and much much more.

  • Reply Rebecca November 25, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    We do Hanukkah but we’re not stressing over having gifts from us for every night for our 2.5-year-old (only kid) because his grandmother will doubtless send multiple things as well. From us, he’s getting Magnatiles, some more play food (Melissa and Doug brand) for his beloved play kitchen, toy binoculars (we’re into birdwatching), and a couple picture books.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 25, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      ooh those sounds like perfect gifts!! IKEA also makes great play food – affordable and it lasts 🙂

  • Reply Amanda November 25, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Great ideas! What do you give for teacher gifts?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 25, 2020 at 7:00 pm

      Last year I did Erin condren gift cards before the big scandal but I also usually contribute to group cash gift – easiest option and I’m always so thankful if someone organizes this!!

  • Reply Sarah November 26, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Don’t forget matching pajamas (bonus if they’re Hanukkah themed! I found some at The Children’s Place), a classic tradition for our first night gift.

  • Reply Rebecca November 26, 2020 at 7:03 am

    Along the cooking lines – there are special gloves that kids can wear to learn how to cut with real knives, they have some metallic wool so they won’t injure their hands. My kids love them and wear them to do real cutting to help with meal prep. They are much better to teach real cutting techniques compared to getting those plastic knives which don’t cut very well and likely lead to worse injuries! Just search cut resistant gloves on any online store (or even local hardware store may sell them).

  • Reply Nanette November 26, 2020 at 7:05 am

    I love love love the kid made modern craft library! That brand is my absolute favorite to buy for my daughter and gifts! In fact, grandparents just got her the 3 month craft subscription for Chanukah… I am hoping it will help get us through the long winter! I am looking forward to your gift episode!

  • Reply Brooke November 26, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Honestly, the kids get 1-3 gifts from us and that’s it. We don’t open gifts every night of hannukah.

  • Reply Jessica November 26, 2020 at 11:47 am

    We usually do 1 night where each kid choses a charity to give money to (they get $6/week in allowance and $1 of that is for charity), 1 or 2 nights of pajamas (footies and then a family theme night), a cooking/baking project night, craft night, book night, game night, and then a “big” present for each kid. This year the kids begged for more gifts because we are still trapped at home and the weather isn’t as great, so more science projects and crafts this year than in previous years.

  • Reply Sarah R November 26, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    Just a note to enthuse about KiwiCo! Our three year old has a koala crate subscription and loves it. It needs quite a bit of parental involvement, but keeps her busy for a good chunk of time and is a great way for her to do some craft activities since she’s stuck with completely un-crafty parents!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 27, 2020 at 6:11 am

      yes we were going to get Koala for G 🙂

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