Lots of kids only have shiny objects on their holiday lists and it’s hard to imagine what would entice them that isn’t tech-related. But unplugged gifts can compete, especially if they’re just risky enough to cause a jolt of adrenaline, as do their screen-based rivals.
The gifts on this list not only pack a thrill, they also build kids’ mental, physical, and social skills, and might even draw your family closer together:
Tickle a preschooler’s fancy with a (play) knife
Little kids love slicing through the bread, tomatoes and other wooden foodstuffs in Melissa and Doug’s sandwich-making set. Besides the mental math your child does to separate and arrange the Velcro-joined pieces, this toy builds manual dexterity. Hand-eye coordination is taking a hit of late, as evidenced by young adults who are smart enough to train as surgeons, but they can’t sew.
For elementary-aged kids, a spooky night caper alone in the woods
No need to leave the comforts of home. To play the award-winning Shadows in the Forest board game, kids need only turn out the lights. Players roll glow-in-the-dark dice and take turns using a teeny LED lantern to search out mysterious creatures called Shadowlings. Opponents use cunning and logic to keep their Shadowlings in the shadows.
A thrifty holiday gift for older and younger kids
Bubbles! How are they slightly risky? They’re guaranteed to cause unpredictable movement. That, in turn, builds physical durability as kids stand up and get exercise, which became sorely lacking as the pandemic spread.
Blowing bubbles also helps little kids learn how to speak. By puckering up and exhaling, they strengthen breath control and muscles in the back of the tongue. They also practice a bunch of sounds, including /w/ and the /o/, /oo/, along with /k/ and /g/, according to Michelle Boisvert, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, RSP-ADHD, founder of the speech language pathologists’ reporting platform, easyReportPRO. You can buy bottles of bubbles in bulk and bubble refills at Bubble Tree USA.
Non-tech gift idea for Fortnite-prone teens: a wand of red-hot metal
Kids can’t not get creative adorning the ligneous shapes in T.S. Shure Woodburning Creations Kit. Even the box is burnable! Sure, they could possibly singe a finger, but the kit is rated 13 and older. Oh, alright. If you’re gonna get nervous, buy leather gloves to go with.
Enjoy right along with them: a genuine sack of coal
This is no punishment. Who knew you could make beautiful crystals out of coal briquettes, but here are the directions. To make the experiment work, you also need a bottle of the laundry agent, bluing. This activity teaches your child hands-on lessons in chemistry and earth science—plus how smart and fun mom or dad can be.
Besides needing 3-D, 360-degree full-sensory play, kids crave your undivided attention. To fulfill those wishes, print out fill-in-the-blank coupons (thanks, NewDream.org!) and create your own fun, like a family kayak (or camping or sledding) adventure.
Little ones don’t hold much sway in household decision-making, so love redeeming coupons such as:
- Let me stay up 15 minutes past bedtime
- Read me an extra bedtime story
- Drop everything and play with me
When the holidays are over, continue your tech-management momentum with this free downloadable Durable Family Pledge. Family members choose five life-balance habits to try over 4-week period. Long enough that they just might stick.
About the author: Jenifer Joy Madden is a health journalist, digital media professor, and parent of three durable young adults. Her words have informed millions on news outlets including ABC News, The Washington Post, and in her books, How To Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design and The Durable Human Manifesto: Practical Wisdom for Living and Parenting in the Digital World.