Last year around this time, I wrote Go Beyond the List to help people to think through the gift giving season. This year my son wrote up a wish list that read as a never-ending catalogue of Star Wars Lego sets and I found myself asking those same questions yet again. Legos are great, but I do not want to simply walk down the Lego aisle at a store and fill my basket. My wallet can’t take the drain. My house can’t hold the clutter.  And, eventually, he’s going to want to play with something else. So I started pooling resources to get ideas from other moms – not just for my son – but how to extend any type of kid obsession.

Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek

For fans like my son, most of the suggestions revolve around the stars.

  • A telescope to see that world you’ve imagined.
  • Name your own star so that one of those lights is named after you.
  • Star charts or star projectors that shine the galaxy on bedroom walls.
  • Solar system or space shuttle models to build.
  • Astronaut helmet or suit.
  • Give a trip to a science center, an observatory, etc. One mom told me about a group of astronomers that meet, set up their telescopes, and share with the general public.

Cars, Trucks, Trains, Motorcycles

These gifts will have you moving with speed!

  • You can find leveled model kits for all of these things that go, as well as other imaginary vehicles like Star Wars ships.
  • Marble obstacle courses offer a similar excitement to racing with the bonus of being able to run 15 or 20 against each other.
  • Give your kid materials like planks, cardboard, water pipes, etc. to make their own track, whether flat for trains or sloped and curved for cars.
  • Most craft stores offer a car design kit similar to the fashion design books where kids can add flames, spoilers, and fancy tires.
  • Tickets for a train ride, a car or motorcycle race, or a demolition derby.

Easy Bake Oven

This isn’t really a theme but Easy Bakes must be making a comeback because several moms mentioned it as something their kids wanted but they didn’t want to buy.

  • A cookbook specifically geared to kids.
  • Matching apron with Mom or Dad and a recipe to cook with them.
  • Classes on cooking or cake decorating.
  • Mini utensils and pans.
  • A pasta maker, which is apparently easy for kids to use.

Minecraft

Minecraft is all the rage among the elementary set this year. Moms’ ideas focused mainly on building and construction.

  • Legos and blocks are a natural fit to expand the idea of building your own world.
  • Clay or foam to create their own people and accessories. We’ve all seen the $25 brand name sword and thought we could probably make it!
  • Many home improvement stores sell kid friendly construction project kits. The big name stores sometimes have free kid clinics to build them.
  • One mom decorated her son’s room with a Minecraft theme using red sheets on the bed, framed posters, milk crates, and a free hand drawing of a creeper.

Technology

My daughter’s list included a phone, an iPad, and a laptop. I laughed and asked which family she thought she’d been born into! But for as many moms as I asked, they all had the same answer, there’s no real substitute. The trick is to find a balance you can live with. I don’t want to pay for sophisticated equipment for an absentminded kid but she wants something that serves that purpose.

  • Board games. They may not hold the same status, but the games can be just as fun!
  • Hand-me-down phones that only work on your home wifi.
  • Fortuitously, as I wrote this article, we were asked to review the Camelio Tablet, which seems to bridge this gap of cool enough for kids and affordable enough for parents. The tablet appeals to my teacher mind as you can access a variety of Google Play apps designed around educational goals. It also appeals to my parenting side because my daughter and son can both share the tablet with their own customized theme and case. The Camelio features Android 4.1 (JellyBean) and is the first fully customizable 7″ Android device. Up to five users can share the tablet with themes like Hello Kitty, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, Hot Wheels, Barbie, Monster High, My Little Pony, WWF. It can be used without a personality pack for a more grown-up option. If you find yourself in the “I-want-every-electronic-device-known-to-man” position, check it out and see if it’s for you.

Balls and Sports

Almost every kid goes through a ball phase when they’re little and a lot of them transition that into a love of sports. They probably already have a soccer ball, football, dodge ball, volleyball and on into infinity. The trick becomes giving them something they can play on their own when everyone else is played out.

  • A favorite at our house is the ball with elastic attached. The kids can hang it to bat or wrap it around their wrists to throw and retrieve.
  • A bounce back net for throwing or kicking.
  • Cones to make obstacles or goals.
  • A door basketball hoop with a catching net that will send the ball back.
  • Tickets for a local sporting event even if it’s not a professional team.

Dolls: Princess, Baby, Barbie, Monster High, American Girl

It seems the options for dolls take rows and rows of a store.

  • Fashion design kits have boomed. You can find ones with real material to create clothes, tape design to stick and cut, and stencil fashion for drawing.
  • Design your own tea set.
  • All of the things needed for your child to host a doll and me party for their friends.
  • Play-Doh YouTube has new instructional videos on how to dress Barbie using play dough.
  • Costumes that are not a specific character. A box filled with tutus, scarves, and pretty material can morph into any character or persona.

Animals

Like balls, almost every kid I’ve met is fascinated by animals. Unless you can afford to take them on safari, it’s better to explore the world closer to home.

  • Binoculars, a magnifying glass, and a local field guide.
  • Adventure bags and costume. Africa may be far away but they can still feel on safari!
  • Material to build your own bird or hummingbird feeder.
  • Ant, butterfly, or ladybug observation kits.
  • A veterinarian set.
  • A visit to a zoo, farm, or dairy.

Technology

My daughter’s list included a phone, an iPad, and a laptop. I laughed and asked which family she thought she’d been born into! But for as many moms as I asked, they all had the same answer, there’s no real substitute. The trick is to find a balance you can live with. I don’t want to pay for sophisticated equipment for an absentminded kid but she wants something that serves that purpose.

  • Board games They may not hold the same status, but the games can be just as fun!
  • Hand-me-down phones that only work on your home wifi
  • Fortuitously, as I wrote this article, we were asked to review the Vivitar Camelio Tablet which seems to bridge this gap of cool enough for kids and affordable enough for parents. This Android based machine offers a host of preloaded programs from photo editing, music, and games to educational tools as well as the expected features like a camera and wifi. Kids can even use personalization packs from companies like Hotwheels and Hello Kitty to make it their own.  Parents will appreciate the kid protection controls. If you find yourself in the “I-want-every-electronic-device-known-to-man” position, check it out and see if it’s for you.