25 simple gifts under $25, for kids.

November 27, 2017

It sounds obvious, but I feel like it bears repeating at this time of year that there’s no admission price to the holidays. It’s lovely to give a heartfelt gift at this time of year, but I firmly believe that gifts can be simple and that we can stay within a modest budget. Toward that end, I’ve been wanting to compile a list of some of my very favorite, very simple, gifts for kids (the grownup version is on its way!).

Junky stuff gets jettisoned toward kids in general, and at the holidays especially, and so I’ve tried to compile a list of items that hold up well to raucous play, that provide a bit of out-of-the-ordinary magic, or that otherwise get enjoyed and used up without adding too much in the way of additional clutter (or eventual waste). 

Wherever possible, I’ve provided links to sources for these gifts online, but I intentionally kept the list general and tried to relegate it to items that you might also easily be able to find in the brick and mortar shops in your own communities. Many of these are gifts, for example, that you can source from local hardware stores, cooking shops, or art supply stores. Some of them are things you can make (or make better) yourself. Others are a bit more specialized. All of them are under $25 and many by quite a bit. As always, I’d love to hear your brilliant ideas, too.

+ A crinkle knife.

+ A harmonica.

+ Wooden beads and shoelaces for stringing them.

+ Wooden peg people.

+ Cookie cutters.

+ A homemade bubble wand and solution.

+ Clothespins.

+ Stainless steel pitcher and “mugs“.

+ A bandana.

+ A roll of sketch paper and a dispenser.

+ Carpenter’s pencils. (Or even fancier ones!)

+ Knotting cord.

+ Special hair elastics

+ Seed packets

+ Sidewalk chalk

+ Postcards and stamps.

+ A two-pocket apron.

+ A batch of homemade playdough.

+ A bread scraper. (Excellent for the aforementioned.)

+ Sunprint paper.

+ Temporary tattoos.

+ Bubble bath.

+ Non-toxic nail polish.

+ Crayons (for on the go).

+ A flower press.

For the curious:

Faye’s overalls and cotton tee are from RMTL sponsor, Mabo.

PS. I’ve partnered with Acorn Toy Shop to offer a few more tips on thoughtful gift giving for kids on their Instagram feed this week. Stay tuned! (Their own $25 and under list is filled with lovely gifts and it’s right this way.)

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47 Comments

  • Reply Georgeranne Brennan November 27, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Lovely ideas for gifts and thank you for including La Vie Rustic’s seed collection for children, A Child’s Kitchen Garden.

  • Reply MissEm November 27, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Oh, thanks for this! What a great list! I love that phrase, “no admission price to the holidays.” We’re doing a number of things on the list, actually, mostly for stockings (and birthday gifts for friends!). These are definitely some of my kids’ favorite things. For us this year, we’re thrifting a play kitchen and getting a little doormat for a play kitchen rug, repainting their thrifted dolly crib, grabbing a kid size broom and dustpan, and devoting a space in our apartment to “playing house”. I think I’ll pop a little “garland extras” wreath on there for Christmas morning so they wake up surprised to find a lovely, new to them play space. We might also get a kite, and I have a couple of books stashed away that I bought over the year. I think that’s it unless I can muster the energy to make a couple of lavender-filled throw pillows for their beds! I also decided to reserve a bunch of Xmas books from the library this year and am wrapping them all up so they can open one or two a day as a sort of Advent calendar that I don’t have to pay for and store (the more obscure ones near the end of the month, of course, in case we get encounter the dreaded “someone has this title on hold, you cannot renew”). I’d also add magnifying glass, fresh colored pencils, handkerchiefs (esp vintage embroidered ones – I don’t know why some kids love these but they do), and their very own treasure box (one of my kids has an old painted tin box and the other has an Altoids tin, but it’s easy enough to find an inexpensive box for them to tuck in whatever they want).

    • Reply mado November 27, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      I LOVE the library advent calendar idea! So cute!

      • Reply Amy November 28, 2017 at 9:29 am

        I’ve thought of doing the book advent calendar for years but hesitated to purchase that many books. I never thought of the library! Mind…blown. Thanks!

  • Reply Liv November 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Best ideas! Bless you! Feeling a little underwhelmed by the holidays this year and this is such a lovely, simple and accessible gift guide for this mama of three littles. Thank you!

  • Reply Tamara November 27, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    These are very sweet gifts indeed. And Faye’s smile plus those overalls! My kids are now 9 and almost 13. I notice the elementary/young teen years either get overlooked in gift lists or get highly gendered or highly expensive (with a focus on electronics). Sigh. I often feel now, in looking for simple, sustainable gifts for my kids, I’m looking for a unicorn. Ah well, back to it. PS I love your holiday posts; they always help keep me grounded in this season.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 27, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      Ah, yes. Admittedly not quite there yet! Books, books and more books? An adult guide coming soon, hopefully with a few translatable ideas!

      • Reply Susanna November 28, 2017 at 12:12 am

        I buy mostly just books for my 9 and soon 11 year old daughters. It’s still too little, luckily we have a library next to us. Your list is clearly for younger citizens but we have almost all things from your list and my daughters still love them:)

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:18 am

          Yes! Very hopeful that all of these are things that will be used and loved well beyond the youngest years!

    • Reply MissEm November 27, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      I always wondered about the possibility of doing a couple smaller gifts and then using Christmas to “unveil” a family vacation destination for that year – even if it was camping at a new and beautiful campsite and then each kid gets their own flashlight or pocket knife or something. Maybe a fun way of wrapping up the idea or doing clues? My kids are 7 and 4 so the future-dependent aspect of that gift would probably be lost on them until they’re older.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:20 am

        Sounds wonderful to me!

    • Reply Emma November 28, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Kids are so specific at that age with what excites them it’s difficult to generalize! I would have loved some “adult” art supplies, like watercolors, high quality paper, paintbrushes, fancy colored pencils, etc. A kid in sports might like some new cleats or a bat. A guitar + lessons will always be a winner in my heart! Supplies to grow their very own window herb garden or succulents? A grown-up sleeping bag and maybe a tent for 2 so they can sleep in their own tent while camping? + headlamps! Maybe a sewing machine and simple pattern? A class at a pottery studio? Real woodworking tools and wood, to maybe learn to carve or build a shelf? A week at a summer adventure camp, for horseback riding or white water rafting or backpacking? A bicycle repair class and a bike? Karate lessons? In days of yore, kids would start an apprenticeship at this age, so it’s exciting that they now have an entire world of more “adult” activities they can try out!

    • Reply Anon. November 28, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      Thank you for the wonderful list, Erin! I bought the flower press and sunprint sheets for my daughter and the harmonica and crayon rocks for my son. I have never been steered wrong by your recommendations and you have introduced me to some wonderful brands over the past couple of years.

      Tamara, my daughter is in the same age range as your children and I have several nieces in that age range. Here are a few things we do:
      Tinker crate subscription — great for STEAM skills and all of the kids in my daughter’s school seem to love these
      Books – the new illustrated Harry Potter books are beautiful. Also, Juniper books has wonderful sets. We have purchased Louisa May Alcott, Dickens, Bronte sisters, Austen, and RL Stevenson books. Admittedly, some are too old for a 9 year old to read independently, but we read those aloud and will wait for them to grow into them. Also, I scour eBay for beautiful older editions of classic books. It’s even better if they come with an inscription (e.g., Jane Doe, Christmas 1896) because the book comes with a history and then we add our own inscription.
      Pajamas and underwear — Hanna Anderrsonn, Socks — Smartwool, Slippers — LL Bean’s wicked cozy slippers
      This year each child and adult is getting a napkin from Fog Linen in their stocking (thanks for introducing me to the company, Erin!)
      And for bigger gifts, we do ballet season tickets each fall for my daughter’s birthday in lieu of a birthday party (they start the season in fall, but still offer partial packages throughout the season) and lessons for the year at Christmas (tennis and piano/voice).

      I hope some of this may be helpful! Happy Holidays!

      • Reply Tamara November 28, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        Thanks, Anon and everyone else! Great ideas!

  • Reply Madeleine November 27, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks so much for the inspiration, such a great list of gifts and ideas! (Also loving the packaging you used in the photos and the very cheeriest smile from your little one!)

  • Reply Eva November 27, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks for being real – we buy a lot of “junky stuff” for kids! My sisters have children, and I always find myself looking at a list of sound-effect laden plastic monstrosities. They’re never simple and never cheap. I love the flower press – I had one as a child (my uncle made it for me as a gift) and I used it on leaves and flowers. What a great thing to encourage! I’m going to get that for my niece for sure!

  • Reply Marika November 27, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    What are you doing for Silas this year? We have a little one about the same age and I’m trying to figure out what to do for her. We’ve got one grandma on the “experiences are better than stuff train” but the other is having a hard time with it.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Babies have so few opinions! They’re so easy! Not sure what we’re getting for Silas yet, but anytime Faye’s asked what she wants from Santa she replies, “a watering can for Silas”…the hunt begins!

    • Reply Sarah November 27, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      We have a baby about the same age, a few months younger than Silas… when the grandparents asked for suggestions we said we’d love a couple of bath toys for her. She’s almost at the age to enjoy them and I figure that’s an easy way of saying “please don’t go overboard with crazy loud plastic toys.”

    • Reply MissEm November 27, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      I work at a fancy little toy store and people always ask about gifts for babies around 1 year old – I always say keep it super simple, that they love balls, board books, and something they can push or pull around and beyond that it’s honestly just pots and pans and books they can pull off of shelves ;). The larger wooden peg people are a winner, too.

  • Reply Emma November 27, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    This year I’ve had a bunch of little relatives age into a very toy-crazy time of their lives, and I’ve found the golden goose when it comes to second hand toy shopping. It’s no secret, and I’m probably coming to this realization late, but ebay has really been a boon. When you want to get those timeless-ish things like legos, playmobil, lincoln logs, etc, check the ol’ ebay for used lots. It may not be minimalist, but it’s thrifty.

    • Reply Kelly November 27, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      Thanks for this idea! My sister-in-law/niece and nephew definitely do not abide by the less is more theory and gifts are expected from us each year. The ebay idea is super helpful as they are in the toy-crazy time of their lives as well. If it’s helpful for anyone else, we have started implementing the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” approach for giving kids presents from us/Santa. As described on a site last year, (sorry, blanking on which one, but I copied the quote to share with my husband and still have it.) “It’s a handy guideline to help you choose better, more useful gifts and limit the amount of unnecessary extras that make their way into your home during December. The plan is easy to implement with babies who don’t know any better, and as the years go by becomes a useful way to manage what can become outrageous expectations for holiday gifts. The idea is for you to give just one item your child wants, one thing they need, something to wear and new material to read. I’m adding a fifth category to the list, which is “Give.” Find gifts that encourage giving back.” My husband and I have also talked about adding Experience category as well.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 27, 2017 at 3:42 pm

        Hi there! Yes, I think it’s helpful to embrace a bit of the quirkiness, especially if you’re hoping to change your gift giving approach and think that a new tactic might be met with disapproval. Here are some more of my thoughts on the subject that might be helpful: http://www.readingmytealeaves.com/2014/11/giving-fewer-gifts-more-thoug.html Also adding a link to the newsletter that I sent out last week that links to a bunch of old posts on gift giving that might be worth a read! http://mailchi.mp/readingmytealeaves/simple-gifts-an-anthology

        • Reply Kelly November 27, 2017 at 5:27 pm

          Thanks Erin! I should have known you were already all over this. : ) Love your blog and all the helpful ideas.

          • ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:19 am

            Thanks, Kelly!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Yes! Modern day tag sale equivalent!

  • Reply Chloé November 27, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    When I was young I had a ceramic plate as a gift. It was made by a local ceramist, and I kept it for years until it broke. I think it’s really cool to give something that will follow the kid in everyday life for years.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Love that idea.

  • Reply Mary November 27, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    These are all such wonderful ideas! I was gifted with a harmonica by my grandpatents when i was 3. I never grew tired of it. (But maybe my parents did? If they did they never said so.) 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Same! My grandpa gave me his! (Still have it!)

  • Reply Lyss November 27, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    This is so good! Thank you ❤️

  • Reply AMR November 27, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    My daughters are grown now, but we often gave fabric (in 1/2-1 yard pieces) as gifts.

  • Reply Christie November 28, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Thank you for the reminder of why your blog is basically the only one I read anymore. I just wish you posted 5 times a day. It’s informative And inspiring. My husband and I were wondering about gifts this year and I found several that are perfect. Thank you.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:17 am

      Thanks so much, Christie!

  • Reply Annette November 28, 2017 at 8:36 am

    You have brought real joy to so many of your followers with this post…Happy Holidays!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:17 am

      I hope so! Thanks so much for saying so!

  • Reply Kyna Getsinger November 28, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Great list that kids will love. One year my son asked for tomato seeds and a stick of butter (!) It shows that simple to us is not boring for them. Last year he asked for us to make donations to saving animals as one of his gifts. My daughter also loves a personal mug we got them and the stockmar modeling beeswax.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:17 am

      lovely!

  • Reply Emily November 28, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Oh Erin, again you’ve made something that I overthink and stress about simple and beautiful. This list has me more excited and much less bah humbug about gift giving than I’ve felt in a long time. Looking forward to the adult version too!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:28 am

      So glad! Here’s to more cheer, less bah humbug!

  • Reply Amy November 28, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I love this post. A few years back I saw a little blurb on Pinterest with regard to Christmas gifts. It was something like asking for 4 gifts as follows: something to wear, something to read, something you want and something you need.

    We start there, typically, and I think it helps the kids focus a bit and be more intentional with their wishes. Of course, with so many people buying for our kids (both our parents are divorced), it ends up to be more than 4 gifts total, but the starting point seems to help us all focus on the few things we’d really enjoy rather than off-the-charts listing for the sake of it.

    Your posts are always charming and make me sit back and think. 🙂
    Amy

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 28, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Yes, indeed! Have written a bit about this in the past and have done similar! (Swapping in a “do” for something experiential!)

      • Reply MJ November 29, 2017 at 9:13 pm

        We do this but LOVE the idea of “do”, so great!! And this list and the adult versions so refreshing, I appreciate it very much!

  • Reply Sarah November 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    I would add to the list a flashlight, umbrella, and bandaids. My son loved the timer his great-grandmother used in her kitchen so she gave him one for Christmas one year. It was probably his favorite gift ever.

  • Reply Alexa November 29, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I love this. Can we somehow secretly insert my MIL into your mailing list? We are constantly fighting the stuff that comes in and trying to get my extended family to embrace the simple things as we aim to do in our own home. Last night, my two year old asked me to put swim goggles on her and then played with a metal straw in the space between the two fridge doors for a solid 15 minutes. She told me she was “cutting” (the fridge in half I guess). Maybe the blue tint of the goggles made it more fun or perhaps it made her feel like daddy when he has his protective eye wear on for home renovation projects. I can only imagine what went through her head but she was wildly enthralled. No toys involved!

  • Reply Nancy November 29, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    For Hanukkah, my kids each get a book, and we get a board game for the whole family. Christmas eve, they get new pajamas. In Christmas stockings, they always get a new pair of socks, hair accessories for the girls, some chocolate and last year, I bought a multi-pack of matchbox cars for my son and wrapped each one individually. They get one “big” gift each under the tree. For example, last year, one kid got a new bedding set, another got a skateboard, and another got a big tin of lincoln logs.

  • Reply Mun November 30, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    This is such a wonderful list. Very well thought out 🙂

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