Heading into the holidays with a curious, creative child? Check out the ultimate, screen-free gift guide for innovative, imaginative, gifted kids.
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We are not a minimalist family, and for the most part, I’m okay with that. There are days, of course, when I wave the white trash bag of death in a not-so-subtle attempt at decluttering. But most of the time, I’m acutely aware that my three very curious, very creative kiddos thrive on stimulation.
Empty paper towel tubes and nature hikes? They’re only going to carry us so far.
To keep gratitude at the forefront and materialism under wraps, we’ve shifted our approach to birthdays and Christmas. We focus on experiences and family time first, then encourage a minimal collection of screen-free toys designed to feed curiosity and creativity. There’s a wealth of fantastic options out there, and most of them are affordable, too.
I’m excited to bring you the ultimate screen-free gift guide for innovative, imaginative kids, with over 40 screen-free options for creative, curious fun!
Board and Card Games
My husband grew up playing all manner of board games, and we’ve continued the tradition in our home with our kids. Here are a few of our favorites.
Mastermind Game : The Strategy Game of Codemaker vs. CodebreakerPerplexus OriginalGravity MazeRush Hour Logic GameEducational Insights KanoodleRavensburger LabyrinthBRIO LabyrinthHive- A Game Crawling With PossibilitiesRat-A-Tat-CatBicycle Playing Card Deck, 2-PackColor CodeShalinindia Games Solitaire Board In Wood With Glass Marbles
Offered here in a gorgeous wooden version, Mastermind offers two players a chance to outfox one another. Player one creates a code, and player two tries to break it. Just how sneaky (or clever) can you be?
With 22 feet of track inside that plastic globe, the original Perplexus is the ultimate self-contained maze. There are 100s of pathways, spirals, and slides just waiting for the intrepid puzzle master to explore. (You can check out a variety of themes, including Star Wars, here).
Love logic puzzles? Crazy for marble runs? Then Gravity Maze is the game for you. Pick a challenge, set up the cubes, then determine the best way to position them so the marble can complete the path. It’s fun for the whole family, kids and parents alike.
Disclaimer: I can’t stand this game. BUT. My kids and husband love it, so I’m content to let them play. This logic-based puzzler is a cross between flat Tetris and highway traffic – can you clear the jam to free the trapped red car? (Hint: it’s a lot harder than it looks).
Kanoodle is the solitary brain teaser in a bag, perfect for flexing those critical thinking muscles with over 100 challenging puzzles.
In this board game, players navigate an ever-changing maze of passageways to find and collect their characters and objects. Simple rules and straightforward play only enhance this mythical adventure.
Use the knobs and levers to lead the metal ball through the wooden maze.
Which player will be the first to capture the Queen Bee? This 2 player strategy game will have you buzzing with anticipation.
You’ll need a good poker face for this skill-building card game, the perfect conduit for developing skills in math and probability. Get rid of your high cards (rats), hang on to your low cards (cats), and see who reigns victorious.
Every creative, curious kid needs a deck of playing cards, and not just for playing games. Build houses, play tricks, and experiment with pattern recognition with the game-play tradition that’s been around for centuries.
Test your visual-spatial reasoning abilities with Architecto, the game that challenges you to recreate an increasingly challenging series of puzzles with geometric blocks.
There are tons of shape and color matching games out there, but none of them is as unique and engaging as Color Code. Clear tiles require players to reason, match, and stack to win.
How many marbles can you remove from the board? Find out with this solitaire set, handmade in India.
Have a budding architect or engineer? Have a blast with building sets, perfect for kids and adults.
LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box 10696K’NEX – Deluxe Building Set – 375 Pieces – For Ages 7+ Construction Education ToyUSA Toyz Marble Run Game: 85 Piece Large Roller Coaster Race Track Tower Set with 50 Glass Marbles – Deluxe Plastic Marble Builder STEM Learning Toy Kit for Toddlers, Kids and Older ChildrenMagna-Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece SetMagformers Standard Set (30-pieces)Snap Circuits SC-300 Electronics Discovery KitKEVA Structures 200 Plank SetCraft-tastic Tinker Box Creative Challenge Craft KitLik DIY Wood Bars – Premium Quality Pinewood for Easy DIY Projects, Professional Wood Crafts, Do It Yourself Woodworking Kit for Beginners, Adults & Kids. Size 2C-40 pieces.Bundle with Glue & Nail.Crazy Forts,Purple, 69 pieces
Always a classic, since 1932.
Endless possibilities. Moving parts. Knex is a budding engineer’s dream.
Build a maze (there are countless combinations) and see which marble reaches the bottom first
Yes, they are pricey (you can find smaller sets here). But these magnetic tiles provide hours of creative, building fun. Totally worth the price.
The open-centered cousin of Magnatiles.
Yes, they use batteries. No, I’m not leaving them out. My kids have hours of fun building and testing circuits with this set – even my three year old.
Create endless structures with these study pine planks, perfect for planning and building.
You can certainly make your own Tinker Box with items you have around the house. But if you’re looking for convenience and creativity in one, this box set has you covered.
Plan, build, glue, create! The options are limitless with this set of wooden construction bars.
My kids love building forts. They don’t love struggling with the furniture to get them to stay up. These crazy fort kits are the answer, as they connect in any number of configurations.
Crack the code. Solve the puzzle. Sharpen those critical thinking skills with puzzle games and books!
240 Puzzles Magnetic Travel Tangram Game Tangrams jigsaw with Answer Kid Adult Challenge IQ Educational Toy For 3-100 Years OldUnderground Bro Decoder w/ Secret Decoder RingExtreme Dot to Dot: Wildlife Wonders Set of 3Rubik’s Cube GameCaydo 50 Vivid Colors 200 Sheets Origami Paper 6-Inch by 6-Inch for Arts and Crafts ProjectsThe Complete Book of Origami: Step-by Step Instructions in Over 1000 Diagrams (Dover Origami Papercraft)Museum Collection 1000-Piece Vincent Van Gogh “The Starry Night” Jigsaw Puzzle 63152-4ULT-unite3D Wooden Cube Brain Teaser PuzzleClassic Caesar Cipher Medallion Silver Decoder Ring
Tangrams aren’t just fun – they’re excellent for building pattern recognition and visual-spatial reasoning. This magnetic set is reasonably priced and perfect for travel. What’s not to love?
This book of secret code comes with a matching decoder ring.
These are not the dot to dot books of our youth. Some of these puzzles have up to 1400 dots!
I’ve never solved one, not that I’ve tried that hard. Maybe your kiddo will (or has already)!
The classic book detailing the art of Japanese paper folding.
Van Gogh + spatial reasoning = tons of jigsaw fun.
The original fidget spinner, in solid wood.
Create codes (and crack them) with this vintage-inspired decoder ring.
Need to squish? Squash? Smash? Create? Check out these fun sensory toys for maximum amusement.
MarvelBeads Water Beads Rainbow Mix, 8 oz (20,000 beads) for Orbeez Spa Refill, Sensory Toys and DécorKinetic Sand 2 pound BrownPlay-Doh 10-Pack of Colors (Amazon Exclusive)Crazy Aaron’s SO003 Super Illusions ‘Oil Slick’ Thinking Putty Tin, 2-Inch
The size of a pin head out of the package, these tiny pellets expand into marble-sized balls of jelly when immersed in water. Bounce them. Bury your hands in them. Pour them from one container to another or lay them on a light box. Tons of cool, sensory fun.
The sand that holds its shape!
This modeling compound isn’t just for kids. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit rolling, squishing, and cutting a mound of Play Doh.
A mashable alternative to fidget spinners, and a great stocking stuffer, too.
Creativity and Art
My eldest is an art fiend, so I’m constantly on the look out for new medium for her to try. Here are some of our favorites, in no particular order.
Sculpey III Oven Bake Clay Sampler 1oz, 30/pkgWikki Stix Art and Craft Wikki Stix, Assorted PackagePacon Lightweight Construction Paper, 9-Inches by 12-Inches, Assorted Colors, 500 Count (6555)M-jump Scrapbooking Edger Scissors Scrapbooking Supplies Paper Decorative Edge Scissors,Wave edge Scissors for Scrapbook Album/decorative Stamps Edge/scrapbook Cards (set of 12)Ohuhu 40 Colors Dual Tips Permanent Marker Pens Art Markers Highlighters with Carrying Case for Drawing Sketching Adult Coloring Highlighting and UnderliningMungyo Non Toxic Square Chalk, Soft Pastel, 64 Pack, Assorted Colors (B441R078-7003A)30 Rolls Washi Masking Tape Set,Decorative Craft Tape Collection for DIY and Gift Wrapping with Colorful Designs and Patterns33-piece Professional Art Kit – Drawing and Sketch Kit with Pencils, Erasers, Kit Bag and Free Sketchpad – Art Supplies, Drawing Pencils, Graphite Pencils, Sketching SuppliesMoleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Classic Notebooks)
Create figures, keychains, sculptures, ornaments, and more, then bake and share.
The perfect fidget tool for creative minds, wikki stix let you craft and create any number of creations out of smooth, malleable, wax-covered sticks.
This elementary school standby is surprisingly versatile for all manner of creative endeavors.
Create a variety of fun edges with this set of shears.
Rich, brilliant, permanent color, perfect for creating on surfaces other than paper.
Blend and smudge to your heart’s content.
This ain’t your grandma’s masking tape. Colorful, textured, and just the right thing for bookmarks, bracelets, picture frames, and more.
Pencils. Charcoal. Blending stubs. Sharpeners. Erasers. Everything you could ever want in a kit for artists.
Every artist or writer needs a place to keep her creations. These moleskine journals or lovely, and you can find them lined or unlined.
While the care and feeing of creative, curious kiddos can be challenging, it’s a blast if you’ve got the right tools.
May this gift guide give you great ideas for the upcoming season, and a step toward the simplicity you crave.
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