Ten shopping days until Christmas. If you're like me, you're looking for one more special gift for each of your children (I have three)... something maybe not on their list already but sure to please. While the stores are packed with toys... it's hard to decide what else might be a good purchase - but a surprise! So here are five of my tested suggestions for children under 10.
1. Jingle and Bell - These adorable plush toys are much more than a cute bed decoration. Jingle and Bell are stuffed husky pups that interact with DVDs, CDs, books and a free app. You can read to it, hug it and listen with it, and play the app with it. My kids all love them. Bell was the top of my 6 year old's list this year. Jingle was top of her list last year - and she LOVED it and still does. My other kids were jealous and now they all want one. She's played with Jingle all year and was uber excited that a girl -Bell- was now available. She's already read the free ebook where Bell meets Jingle and can't wait for Bell to come home. I love how excited about reading it makes her. I also love how she just plays with this toy and takes such good care of it. She snuggles it each and every night all year long. It's not just a stuffed toy - it is so much more - and now it is her favorite one too.
2. Furby Boom - My kids saw this ad everywhere and got excited but never put it on their lists to Santa - which were only two toys each. My daughters have loved the Furbys we bought them last Christmas and my son has been jealous ever since, so I was already thinking a Furby as a surprise gift for this year. Then I saw Furby Boom, which ups the game from last year's Furby, so I knew he would love it. They all do. We tested out the Furby Boom after being sent a sample. It is indeed an upgrade. While the same basic idea - a cute and colorful creature that operates in the real world and interacts with the iPad and iPhone and some Android devices (but sad that there is not a Kindle app- as my kids got the new Kindle Fire HD from grandpa for Christmas this year. Hopefully an app will be released soon!!) The biggest upgrade for Furby Boom is that it can "hatch virtual eggs" and then take care of and interact with the virtual babies. Boys and girls will love this. My son is getting one for Christmas.
3. Lego Bucket - Legos are classic. And the good old Lego bucket gives kids endless creative possibilities. I like these versus the "CITY" kits or any of the others because kids start with their minds in a blank slate - nothing they are supposed to do with the kit other than build... and that eliminates frustration of not being able to build some harder constructions for younger kids. Plus, last I went to Walmart, I found one of these for just $10. That's a great deal!
4. Art Kit - There are lots of Art Kit brands available at this time of year. We have ones from Crayola, Darice and CraZart that excite my kids (and me if truth be told) at the very mention of them. The kits are great because they come in a briefcase (some in a bucket with a lid) which keep the supplies orderly and contained. My kids take 100% better care of their art supplies in the kits then they do random markers and crayons. I also recommend buying a giant "art pad" - a spiral bound book of blank pages a little larger than legal size. This lets the kids keep their works of art nice and neat and savable for years to come!
5. Kindle Fire HD - At $139 (8GB with special offers version), this is a bargain consider all it does and its quality. The screen resolution is fantastic and there are lots of fun apps. (But not everything - the Furby Boom app as discussed above and also notably disappointing Star Wars Angry Birds 2's teleport function - no camera, so no scanning, so no teleporting. My son is insanely disappointed.) But the Kindles are wonderful. There are tons of good free apps and are a great size. My kids love reading, drawing, playing, listening to music, and learning on them. Oh, and if you were wondering about the "special offers" - it is just an add on the lock screen. That's it. It's never inappropriate content and my kids don't even notice or care about it. (Some are even interesting.) But if money is no object, then I'd get the iPad mini instead, because it is an even higher quality, has even more apps, can do things like "pinching" on the screen and it has a camera - so they can do photos, videos - and teleport their Angry Birds. All in all though - Kindle Fire HD (2nd generation) is a solid purchase that lets you buy all three of your kids a device to use and customize for their liking - for about the same price as one iPad mini. This is only #5 on this list because of the price - the learning and experience it provides kids would make it number one on my list if your child doesn't have a device.