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Stockings are one of my favorite parts of Christmas morning! I don’t know if it’s the challenge of finding items that will fit into a giant sock, or the excuse to splurge on the little impulse-purchase type things we resist throughout the rest of the year (those EOS lip balms in the check out line, am I right???), but both stuffing and opening stockings is something I always look forward to. Now that I have two little ones it’s twice the fun!
As much as I would love to go hog-wild on little treasures for my girls, we are on a tight Christmas budget this year (haha, I say that every year….I don’t see it changing in the near future ;)) and stocking stuffers can add up really fast. However, I also hate clutter and don’t want to just buy junk. Even if it was cheap to begin with, who wants to spend any money at all on things that will just be broken or forgotten in 20 minutes? My strategy is to set a budget for each stocking, fill it with a lot of snacks (little bags of crackers and cookies, juice boxes, fruit snacks, applesauce pouches, basically the prepackaged foods that kid dreams are made of), a few useful things that are fun but will get used up and we’d end up buying eventually anyway — play dough, bubble bath, character band-aids that Ella will quickly plaster all over her limbs, cute socks (the Target Dollar Spot is the best for stuff like this!)– and get a one or two nicer toys or games that will hold their appeal past 10 a.m. on Christmas morning!
I scoured the internet for a few such affordable-but-quality gems that would appeal to the little ones in your life and here are some of my favorites. Enjoy!
1. Books: You can’t go wrong with a board book! AB See is a fun one that we just added to our collection, and appeals to the preschool-aged crowd that are usually past the board book stage (thus making a stocking-friendly book harder to find!). This peek-a-boo book is also on my short list of new books for P. I love that it has fabric flaps!
2. Lego tape: This stuff looks so fun and has great reviews! Dave said he wants some in his stocking 🙂
3. Puzzles: Another stocking classic that will stand up to repeated play for weeks and months to come! Land of Nod has some really cute, bright options that come in a compact little case, or I love the Mudpuppy pouch puzzles too.
4. Teether: We are nearing the end of needing these for the time being, but I’m almost sad about it (actually …. nah) because I’m obsessed with these matryoshka teethers!
5. Watercolor pencils: My mom gave these to Ella and we love them! You can dip them in water, or draw and then go over your picture with a brush and water to create a cool watercolor effect. For me they’re the perfect happy medium when you want to do a project that’s a little more exciting than just coloring, but you don’t want the whole mess and drama that comes with getting out paint. You know what I’m talking about.
6. Nesting dolls: These are kind of a cheater because this set was on sale when I originally found them, but now they are above my $10 limit. I’m deciding to look the other way on this one because they’re so cute and they’re made of wood! My girls love playing with the gorgeous matryoshka that my sister brought me from her mission in Ukraine, but I didn’t really want them playing with it for obvious reasons (read: they can break basically anything). I got a cheaper plastic set and wish I had sprung for a nicer wooden one. Both of my girls love nesting dolls and fight over them all the time! Matching them up and fitting them inside of each other is a good brain-booster, not to mention the imaginative possibilities of playing with all the little animals.
7.Coloring roll: These are new to me but look so fun! I love basically anything Mudpuppy makes and these are a fun take on a coloring book. It’s a roll that you unfurl across your table and color a big scene instead of pages. You can do it gradually or all at once!
8. Robots: How cute are these little wind-up robots for the Star Wars lover in your life?
9. Spot-It: Games that non-readers can play are kind of hard to come by, but this is one we love. My Grandma got it for Ella and we’ve played it over and over and even got another version (there are tons!) to add to our repertoire! It’s great for practicing colors, numbers, and shapes and so rare to find a game a that a three-year-old can play independently.
Magnetic tin: We own one of these and it’s great for travel, church, or anytime you need something portable and quiet! This farm scene is really cute, as is this dollhouse set (there are tons of different options on Amazon)! This Marvel one is a bit above the $10 budget but might be worth it if you’ve got a big fan in the house!
12. Apron: Ella loves helping in the kitchen and I’ve had the best of intentions of sewing her an apron for the past year….for $4.99 this one might be a good placeholder until I make the whole handmade-with-love thing happen!
13-14. Craft kit: I love the little craft kits from Melissa and Doug! This 3-pack of decorate-your-own vehicles is such a good deal if you’ve got a couple kids to buy for (or want to save them for future gifts), or Ella would love this butterfly magnet set. These ALEX Pops crafts are also so cute and such a good deal, and again, tons of different options!
15. Piano horn: For the bravest of parents out there, the perfect long and skinny instrument fit for a stocking …. tell Santa to leave you some earplugs to go along with this one 🙂
16. Brain Quest: I remember my mom had these when I was a kid and we always took them on trips where we’d be in the car for a while. I actually loved them (even though they are educational) and think it’s so cool that they have vocab-building sets of questions for toddlers and preschoolers! I’m going to grab one for Ella and leave it in my glove compartment for future car rides/doctor’s office/restaurant waits.
17. Magnets: We have a few different sets of magnets that I switch out from the fridge from time to time, and it never ceases to surprise me how much use they get! Every kid that comes to our house stops in the kitchen and plays with them for a minute, as do my girls. I love this classic animal set (this one is a better deal if you’re buying two), or Mudpuppy makes the cutest themed sets (can you tell I love Mudpuppy??? I’ve mentioned them like three times in this post, haha). If you’ve got someone that loves construction equipment or the book “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site” how perfect is this set?
18. Pop up car: Another classic stocking stuffer! You can’t miss with a little car, and even my one-year-old loves when the people inside go up and down. I love this wooden pop-up version from Land of Nod, or this little pop-up bus on Amazon for half the price!
19. Li’l Woodzeez: Hate the cheesy name, love the concept. Li’ Woodzeez basically Target’s copycat of the also adorable but much-more-expensive Calico Critters. They’d fit in a stocking but I say you could wrap one of these little playsets up an use it as a bonafide present, too!
20. Pixel Pictures: My last Mudpuppy product, I swear! These Pixel Pictures are a much less messy and labor-intensive version of paint-by-numbers that would be a great form of entertainment for the car or plane ride home from Grandma’s after Christmas!
There you go! 20 stocking-sized goodies that parents can get behind but won’t derail your entire Christmas budget. As for helping you exercise restraint in the Target Dollar Spot, you’re on your own.