Holiday Gift Guide
This is THAT time of year – when my apartment building’s package room becomes an Amazon warehouse, stuffed to the brim with gifts for the holidays! I have mixed feelings about the frenzy for holiday gift buying – on one hand, who wouldn’t want to get the best Black Friday deals or delight the youngsters in their lives with that awesome new toy? On the other hand, I hate the idea of people missing Thanksgiving with family so they can work long hours. Not to mention the ugly videos of people physically fighting!
So, my goal for this holiday gift guide post is to take the stress and crazy OUT of the gift buying process. I’m going to be linking to Amazon, since almost everyone has access to it. But feel free to frequent your local small businesses instead. Or even better, buy the kids in your life experiences. More on that below!
In this post, I’ll touch on:
- Gifts for budding paleontologists
- Gifts for slime makers (whether you want to enable their slime habit or distract them with something else!)
- Gifts for nature enthusiasts
- Gifts for history buffs
- The #1 gift you can give any child, of any age and interest
Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission if you make a purchase using one of the product links in this post. It’s at no extra cost to you, and it helps support the site. Thanks!
Gifts for budding paleontologists
Do you have a dino lover in your life? I sure do! Here are some great gift ideas for the kiddo who will correct your pronunciation of Velociraptor.
Fossil collection: There’s nothing like getting your hands on some real fossils! The specimens in this kit are genuine and great for studying with a magnifying glass. It’s a great way to do real paleontology without having to dig out the fossils. This kit also includes some of my favorite ancient creatures that are NOT dinosaurs, like trilobites! Click the picture to check it out!
Safari Toob of Fossils: If your gift recipient is younger than 5, or would like to play with the fossils in a way that might damage them, a great alternative to the kit above is this Safari Toob. I’m a fan of these Toobs because they do make an effort to be scientifically accurate. I even use them in my museum classes!
One of the great things about this collection is that it includes different types of fossils, not just bones and exoskeletons. Skin imprints and footprint traces are fossils too! It also includes specimen replicas from various points in prehistory.
Simulated Dig Kit
ArtCreativity Dinosaur Excavation Kit for Kids | 7” T-Rex Dino Skull Excavating Set with Fossil Digging Tools and Stand: This kit will provide many, many hours of paleontology fun for the kiddo in your life. I bought one for my son at the museum gift shop, hoping it would be more rewarding than the typical fossil “digging” kit.
The truth is, most “fossil dig” kits aren’t like real paleontology. If you’re going to have a single object buried in a thin layer, it might as well be something substantial that can be studied and displayed in its own right. This T Rex skull fits the bill!
Giant Microbes: Dino Creatures: Now the science teacher in me is irritated at this product, even though I think it’s adorable. First of all, these are NOT microbes, and they aren’t dinos either! However, they ARE awesome stuffed versions of funky Cambrian creatures. So I’m overlooking the scientific inaccuracy of the packaging (-:
Gifts for slime makers
Here’s an important question to ask yourself: How much do you want to enable the slime habit? If you can stand it (I sorta can’t) you might consider buying the slime-crazed kids some fun new supplies!
Glow in the Dark pigment – Kids can mix this into slime, putty, homemade playdoh, etc. Another option is items to put IN the slime – sparkles, buttons, even crumpled up glitter paper! Another option is thermochromic pigment, which will change colors when kids touch it!
If you hate slime… don’t despair!
Make Your Own Soap: If you want to steer kids away from slime, but still want them to have that creative outlet and make a finished product, making soap is great fun!
This kit comes with everything kids will need to get started, and maybe even make some gifts of their own!
Another great option is the Bath Bomb Lab – many of my students who love making slime also enjoy bath bombs! This option may be a bit messier, but will produce a good result – and teach some chemistry too!
Gifts for nature enthusiasts
Fandex Family Field Guide: I saw this in use at the botanical gardens recently and fell in love! The printed picture at the top of the card makes identification easy. The text is easy to understand as well. They offer ones for wildflowers, trees, bugs, butterflies of the world, among others!
This next pick, The Wildflower Workbook, looks so gorgeous that I may break down and buy one for myself! I love the delicious watercolors and the combination of journaling and nature.
Speaking of great illustrations, Julia Rothman’s books are another great gift! Her work is a much different style than the Wildflower Journal, but just as beautiful to look at. I love how they’re packaged into this box set. Would be a great choice for anyone new to Julia’s work.
My final recommendation for nature lovers is a field microscope. This one, the Carson Microbrite, is very inexpensive and works great! You can press it onto any surface and view fine details. The magnification is pretty good, and even a young child can use it easily. My son got one as a gift when he was 4 and uses it often.
Gifts for history buffs
This Stickerbook Timeline collection is awesome for kids who love history! The Big History one starts right at the Big Bang and goes all the way until modern times (which is a lot to squeeze in!) The Nature timeline is the history of life on planet Earth, starting 4.5 billion years ago, while the Science timeline starts at 3000 BC and focuses on human knowledge and technology. You can buy each individually, but a collection of all three makes an awesome gift!
Each timeline comes with colorful, well designed stickers to place onto the foldout poster. I love the fact that you can store them on your bookshelf or hang them up! Right now, mine are on the shelf until I can clear more wall space!
Historical Building Toys
Arch-Kid-Tech Building Set: If your history buff likes to build, you might look at a set that allows them to explore their favorite civilization! This particular pyramid set was high on my son’s list for this year. But there are also Greek and Roman options.
Historical Stocking Stuffers: Family Field Guides & Toobs
Fandex Family Field Guides: Mummies, Gods and Pharaohs: Can you tell I’m a fan of these? There are so many topics to choose from! Explorers, Shakespeare, the Civil War, Wonders of the World… the list goes on!
Another great stocking stuffer: Safari Toobs! Turns out, they make history themed toobs that your kids will love to play with. The Ancient Egypt Toob was on our list this year, since we’re studying ancient civilizations. But, my kid loves the Revolutionary War era as well! So I bought him a set of Continental and British soldiers (don’t tell him – he doesn’t know yet!)
In my experience, young children love to play with toys as they learn. Whether they’re re-enacting battles or just observing the objects as they’re listening to a read aloud, having the physical items really enhances learning!
Share The Love, Share the… Germs?
Here’s an idea – give the kids you love THE PLAGUE! Not really the actual plague, but these adorable stuffed Giant Microbe Plagues of History! This set includes the Black Death, smallpox, typhoid fever, cholera, and Spanish flu.
Last, but not least….
The #1 Gift You Can Give Any Child
Here is my #1 recommendation for ALL kids of all ages and interests: EXPERIENCES!
Research suggests that experiences make us happier than stuff – even stuff we enjoy! We quickly get used to having the new stuff around until it isn’t new anymore, and we find ourselves wanting some other new item. For more on why, check out 7 Reasons Why Spending Money On Experiences Makes Us Happier Than Buying Stuff
An experience can be a gift such as:
- Tickets to a play, dance performance, opera, concert, or other performing arts show
- Tickets or season passes to sporting events
- Classes that the child would be interested in taking (i.e. cooking, robotics, crafting)
- Membership or tickets to a local museum, botanical garden, or zoo
I particularly recommend the last option: membership to a museum or institution. My mother bought us a family membership to the New York Botanical Gardens. That gift has paid for many visits and fun experiences throughout the year. The short video below features the Holiday Train Show. I love the commentary from people about how much they enjoyed it.
What stands out to me is how many people use this experience as an opportunity for social connection. Particularly across generations! It’s hard to put a price tag on that! My son will always associate his favorite train show, and the wonder of the displays, with the memory of being there with his grandmother,.
It may seem sappy, but the whole point of the holiday season is to connect with family, friends, and community. Giving a child a memorable experience, preferably one where you’re present with her, is the best gift of all!
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