Easy Gift Guide for Kids

Disclosure: This is a post in a series of sponsored posts as a Brand Ambassador for the ARKANSAS BETTER BEGINNINGS program.  I am doing this because I believe in their mission and everything expressed will be my own honest opinion! #ARBB

“HELP!  It’s almost the gift giving time of the year and I have no clue what to get for (insert name here!)”

Choosing a toy for the holidays doesn’t have to be difficult if you follow these easy steps.

1.  Is is SAFE?

First and foremost ask yourself, “Will the toy last through rough play and not break or hurt the child?”   Also included here would be “Is it age appropriate?”  
In my house right now that mainly means “Will she swallow this WHEN she puts it in her mouth?”  *Tip- to see if something is safe for young child, see if it will fit through a toilet paper tube.  If it fits, it’s too small!
Toys with batteries, strong magnets, strings, and pull cords longer than a foot should be avoided unless it’s for an older child.   
Personally, I try and avoid painted toys unless they are made in Europe or the U.S. (and locally made toys are BEST!)
Then, make sure you keep up with recalls here and on the manufacturer’s website.  

2.  Will it LAST?
Is the toy well made?
If so, 
Will it last through more than one child?  (Will it be able to be passed on or donated when child is done playing with it?)  My kids play with some toys that were mine, my husband’s, and even their grandparents’.  I’d say that was money well spent!
Also,  “Will the toy grow with the child?”  Will they be able to get years of play out of the gift?  For example and nice set of wooden blocks will be fun for a baby, but also for an older child.  

3.  Does it have VALUE? (Social/Educational/Entertainment)

Some things to ask: 
“Is it a toy they can play with others with?” 
“Does it teach them something?” 
FACT: Children learn by playing.  Toys can help them learn cooperation, sharing, shapes, sizes, colors, language, and so much more!
and most importantly…

4.  Keep it SIMPLE!
Toys should not be too complicated to play with.  Let the child use THEIR imaginations to make their stories come alive, not have the toy dictate how they should play.  The more moving parts, the more that can go wrong/break also!

The best tip?
Pretend that you are the child you’re buying the toy for…
What would you think was the most fantastic gift?
Does this child love animals?  (Maybe a cute animal puppet or even a zoo membership!)
Do they like things that go?  (Balls, toy cars or trains, a book of paper airplane designs?)
Are they fond of puzzles?  (wooden or cardboard puzzles, book of Suduko, stacking cups or blocks!)

Check out my Pinterest boards to see some great gift ideas for kids of all ages!

Arkansas Better Beginnings has great tips for choosing toys on their website here.

Greening the Holidays

How can I green up MY holidays?

  • Don’t wrap gifts, or use a scarf, pretty re-usable bag (my sis-in-law used pretty reusable shopping bags last year -such a neat idea!)
  • If you do wrap use paper over (like your grandma did!)
  • Send e-cards!
  • If you are like me and love to get “real” mail this one time a year then use recycled cards or re-use last year’s cards by cutting off the fronts. I read a neat tip on Suite101 that said to write your note on a slip of scrap paper or sticky note so the card-receiver can reuse the card next year! Also pare down your card list if you haven’t heard from someone in awhile. I’m still trying to figure out my cards for this year… I think we are going to make paper with junk mail, then make cards with those. We usually do New Year’s Cards to minimize the holiday stress.
  • If you exchange gifts buy local or handcraft your own creations (try local folks on Etsy!) I saw an idea where friends who craft get together and swap gifts. I’d love to try this next year!
  • Make sure the toys you buy are safe. THIS IS HARD! There are some great sites to verify the toys don’t have nasty chemicals in them (just do a search!) If you buy toys that are made for sale in Europe you will probably be safe as they have stricter laws on bad toys unlike we do in the U.S. (If you have pets remember to check them out too- there is virtually NO regulation on pet toy safety!)
  • Better than giving things why not register your family on Heifer Project’s giving site?
    You will give a chance for a new future for underprivileged people around the world. Another great choice is Arkansas Rice Depot!

  • Buy local foods for your meals. It not only supports local farmers, but makes a smaller carbon print. But, most importantly, it TASTES BETTER! Thanksgiving we managed to get almost our entire meal from local farmers.
  • Decorate using fresh items if possible, or recycle your old ones with new ribbons etc.
  • Reuse old wrapping paper and cards to make neat new decorations for your home! We are making paper chains with old cards today!
  • We always get a fresh tree. I know some people think this is bad, but it’s from a tree farm where they plant new ones every year. In my humble opinion you are supporting local farmers, putting a natural item in your home as opposed to a plastic chemical ridden thing that has been manufactured in China and shipped halfway around the world. Plus we love to go as a family and drink cocoa, ride the tractor, cut the tree… makes for a fun day! (Also they make your house smell so “Christmasy” as the kids say!) I have a great recipe for tree food here on my recipe blog.
Cutting our tree this weekend!

Do you have a good idea to green your Christmas? Please let me know and let’s keep the ideas rolling!