I think one of the questions I get asked most always correlates with the fact that we keep screen time to a minimum around here. First off – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with screen time. In fact, during this first trimester, the boys have watched way more TV than normal. Some of their favorite shows, like Wild Kratts, and Planet Earth I think are great. Educational, interesting, and they don’t make me want to pull my hair out.
But for the most part, we like to keep things old school around here. The boys do not have tablets, nor are they allowed to use mine. To each their own, and just do what works for you!
The biggest reason we cut down and eliminated screen time for the most part? The boys’ behavior. The more TV they watch, the more insane they get. There are more meltdowns and more attitude. Basically, I can see an immediate change in them.
But I digress. Here are a dozen of our favorite toys, etc that help facilitate screen free days:
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Screen Free Gift Guide for Kids.
H has had this set since late March. I’m putting this at the top of the list, because hands down this may be one of his favorites. Both H, almost 5, and J, 2, will spend more than an hour with this kit. In fact, I ended up buying a second set! Together, or on their own, this dinosaur kinetic sand kit is a hit with both of them. It comes with REAL Dino poop, which the boys think is awesome. As well as several molds. It also comes in a self contained tray, which means less mess!
Starting under: $15! Also comes in “aquatic adventure”
Recommended ages: 3+
My IG stories have shown this off a ton. So. Much. Fun. I love that the trains are actually motorized! H, almost 5, and J, now 2, both can spend hours playing with this train set. Thomas, Percy and Terence get to ride around a super sweet setup. There’s a bridge, there’s a giant hill, and lots of cool track to set up! J loves filling Thomas’ cargo (which is included!) up, and driving him up the hill to dump it all out. There’s just so much to explore and do with this set. Plus, it’s the perfect size. Especially if you don’t have a lot of space, or you just prefer your kiddos toys don’t take over all your floors.
Starting under: $40.
Recommended ages: 2+
Go for it! Connect 4! Now that I’ve got that stuck in your head, go grab this game for your family. This was our family gift last Christmas, it’s gotten a ton of use. Not only by Zach and I, but the boys too! I know it says recommended ages are 5 and up. But J, 2, loves playing. Which I always let him do. We just keep an eye on him with the pieces! But he loves putting the discs in and although he and H don’t totally play by the rules, they sure have a lot of fun.
Starting under: $9
Recommended ages: 5+
Every time I show this on my stories, I get inundated with questions! The boys have two – this horse hopper, as well as a bunny farm hopper. Especially when the weather turns and we’re stuck inside, these farm hoppers are AMAZING. The boys can get out their crazy energy, and their laughter fills the house. Not only does this get their wiggles out, but it’s great for coordinating
Starting under: $20
Recommended ages: 18m+
Hands down, these are some of the most used toys in our home. One of the things I always try to think about when bringing a new activity in is how much it allows for open ended play. We love so many things about these Mega Bloks. Not only are they a bigger size, perfect for small hands, but they encourage the boys to be creative. Towers, dinosaurs, trains, garbage, boulders, food. You name it – Mega Bloks becomes it.
We have the shape sorting wagon, building bag, learning train, dump truck, and a few other sets. All of which are used daily! And you don’t need a huge set. The basic blocks are perfect for creating anything and everything.
Starting under: $10.
Recommended ages: 1+
*Stocking Stuffers + Under $10 Gift Ideas*
My secret to happy kids whenever we leave the house. Restaurants, plane rides, car trips. You name it, WikkiStix can keep them occupied through it. There are boards and cards you can buy for molding fun! But honestly, the boys just love them as is. No glue, no mess, no sticky worries. H loves making glasses! And honestly, both Zach and I get just as into molding and playing with the WikkiStix as the boys do.
Safe and non-toxic, these make great gifts for kids of just about any ages. Stocking stuffers, classroom gifts, anything you can think of.
Starting under: $10!
Recommended ages: 3 and up (although J is 2 and loves them just as much as H, almost 5)
Another great stocking stuffer! Just like the WikkiStix, these water wow books go on all of our trips. The self-contained water pen literally makes magic in front of your child’s eyes. No matter what your child is into right now – animals, dinosaurs, vehicles, fairy tales, grown up jobs, bible stories, or whatever. There’s a water wow book available for their interests!
Starting under: $10
Recommended ages: 2 and up (although J has been using them with H for almost a year)
My holy grail for travel – window clings! Window clings are the best for a multitude of reasons. First, they’re reusable! So no one-off and in the trash. Instead, you can use and reuse as more times than you could ever imagine. Second, no mess! Don’t get me wrong, we love stickers around here. But the boys have a tendency to stick them where they shouldn’t be. With window clings, I don’t need to scrub and scrape, they easily peel off!
No matter what your kiddo is into, there are window clings for that! See the huge variety, here!
Starting under: $10 (some as low as $4!)
Recommended ages: This depends, some show as young as 6m, some say youngest 2 years. This depends on you! We gave them to J as soon as he understood they weren’t all food, ha.
*Educational Gift Ideas*
Botley the Coding Robot has been AWESOME for H. He’s technically just under the age requirement of 5, but has had no troubles setting Botley up and getting him coded! H has played with Botley for HOURS. Which, if you know H, is quite a feat! I highly highly highly recommend Botley for your kiddo. They can make him move a ball around, follow certain paths, go through obstacle course, and so much more. Easily works on carpet and hardwood!
Priced at: $61.43.
Recommended ages: 5+ (and 29 and 30 year old parents ha)
Use code “brandnew” for 15% off! I have SO much to share with you guys about this kit – head to my Instagram stories to see more. I have zero home schooling bones in my body, so you don’t have to be a teacher type to do this with your kiddos. Carrie’s Kindergarten Toolkit helps build a basic foundation of reading, writing, and math skills as your child prepares to enter Kindergarten. It’s all broken down to easy, simple methods. So it’s a great way to build your child’s confidence and have fun together while learning.
I love that this is not only a practical gift, but will far outlast just the holiday season. Included is a booklet, multiple flashcard sets, whiteboard, dry erase marker and eraser, as well as sidewalk chalk. H loves sitting with me at the table to work on little activities together. We get quality time, H learns new things, and its done in a way that’s easy for us both.
Priced at: $59, but use code brandnew for a discount!
Recommended ages: Kindergarteners, Preschoolers.
So this is actually going to be the boys’ gift this year! These blocks were recommended in a Montessori group, and they sound amazing. Reading blocks are a creative way to help your child with learning their letters and words. Perfectly sized for your preschooler and kindergartener, their small hands can easily manipulate the blocks to create words. They are lightweight, non toxic, and will get your kids excited about another way to learn and absorb language. This particular set is a group of 5, 3 letter pairings. Amazon has a ton of different options for reading blocks here.
Starting under: $13
Recommended ages: 3+
*Subscription Gift Ideas*
Reading is one of the very best things you can do with and for your children. Studies have been telling us this for years. Bookroo is a monthly subscription for your kids that helps them fall in love with reading by combining the excitement of opening a gift with the discovery of a new, treasured book. I love that they gift wrap each book – the boys LOVE getting them in the mail, and ripping open their new books every month!
These are not your run of the mill books. Original, beautiful illustrations, and transfixing. The boys reach for these every time. Ages 0-10 (board books ages 0-3, picture books ages 2-6, chapter books ages 7-10), you can choose a one time gift or personal purchase, or subscriptions of varying lengths. Plus, it’s women run and founded, which is pretty awesome.
Starting at: $16.95/month, but use code DARLINGGIFT to save!
Recommended ages: 0 – 10.
Because H and J are kind of in between ages, we mix and match boxes. The Kiwi box is for ages 5+, but definitely still doable for 4.5 year olds. The Koala box is for ages 3+, but J is able to do them right alongside H and I. And the Tadpole box is for ages 2+, but H still loves helping J do them!
KiwiCo has the most awesome projects to keep kids entertained and screen free. They’re designed to spark creativity, tinkering and learning in kids 0 – 16. And everything you need for each of the kits is completely included in the boxes! I love sitting with the boys and watching them with their KiwiCo projects. They’re always so proud of themselves, and it’s almost like I can see the wheels turning in their minds!
It is a subscription, but you can pause and cancel at any time. And you can change boxes whenever you want to. This makes an AWESOME gift for your kids, or any kids in your life. Normally $19.95/month, but use my link to get your first month free!
Starting under: $25, but get your first month free with THIS link. Subscription starting under: $20 a month.
Recommended ages: 0 – 16
My dad got H a subscription and he’s totally hooked. Every month, H gets a new National Geographic in the mail and it’s full of information on all his favorite animals, plants, and science. It’s also a great way to discuss other cultures with a kid! We live in such a bubble, it’s a great way for him to experience more of the world. There are two options: National Geographic Kids, which is recommended for kids age 4 – 12. And then National Geographic Little Kids, which is more geared towards baby – 4 year olds. If your kiddo is 4 or 5, I would suggest graduating to Kids. But honestly, both H and J still love the Little Kids!
Starting under: $15/year
Recommended ages: 0 – 12
Ranger Rick Jr
The boys’ pediatrician has this in his office and both the boys LOVE it. Ranger Rick Jr magazine is filled with stories, beautiful photos, crafts and recipes, as well as games and more! The facts are fascinating, and it’s perfect for my Wild Kratts loving boys. One thing I love is the stories are not only fun for the boys, but educational as well. We always come away learning something new! H loves doing the puzzles and trivia.
Starting under: $25 / year
Recommended ages: 2 – 7
I feel like this is the magazine I remember most from my childhood. And it’s pretty awesome to now have a new generation of my own children to read and experience Highlights. There are two in particular we love: Highlights High Five, and Highlights. Highlights High Five is more geared towards kiddos 2 – 6. And Highlights is perfect for slightly older kids of 4 – 8. Both are filled with the content we love from Highlights. Everything is wholesome, and so much of the content promotes kindness, reasoning, and fosters a love of language!
Starting under: $30 / year
Recommended ages: 2 – 8
There you have it! My screen free gift guide for toddlers, preschoolers, and kiddos. I hope this round up gives you some great ideas for the children in your life. And helps provide some direction for family and friends! We use and love everything included. So you know when I recommend it, the boys have tried and tested and proven them all to be successes!
And while this list is geared towards the holiday season, it’s not just for holidays November – December! In fact, we use most of these ideas for the boys’ friends all year long. Perfect for birthdays, just because, and anything in between.
Is there anything your kiddo is using and loves that you’d recommend?