Smart Gifts for Smart Kids – Budget-Friendly

Some toys come and go while others last for generations. And have you noticed the toy fads tend to cost a lot more and give a lot less lasting satisfaction than their budget-friendly, tried and true counterparts? Perhaps the amount of work a toy has to do for children — while flashy and eye-catching at first — has a little something to do with how long it will hold their attention, stimulate them developmentally, and get you the most bang for your buck.

For savvy holiday shoppers and tuned in parents, here are five timeless, smart gifts for smart kids that deliver the fun and learning year round.

The Whole Family Can Enjoy Twister While It Works Wonders on The Kids!


Tuned in parent and speech language pathologist Keri Vandongen, founder of Speech Party, points out that while kids are enjoying this classic game, they are also learning the following:

  • colors
  • spatial concepts (location)
  • temporal concepts (time)
  • quantitative concepts (numbers)
  • comparative concepts (descriptions)

All of the above are basic concepts that aid in developing your child’s listening skills, her ability to follow directions, and aid in learning to read and develop future math skills. Twister. Who knew?

They’ll Have a Ball with . . . a Ball! Really.


A ball at any age and stage will delight and excite according to experts (both professional and pint-sized). Big, soft, textured, noisy ball and a small hard rubber one for babies and toddlers; bright, colorful, bouncy ball for preschoolers; new, shiny sports ball for older kids. . . .

The developmental value of a simple ball is rich! Just by grasping a small rubber ball a baby is tuning her fine motor skills. Roll any size ball with her and watch her track it — she’s learning spacial awareness. Oops! It rolled behind Mommy. Mommy stood up and it’s still there. She’s now picking up on object permanence (the concept that things don’t disappear when they are momentarily out of sight).

And as your child grows, she continues to develop with ball play: playing catch, learning to throw and kick, hand-eye coordination, etc. So, buy a ball and have a ball!

Books Rock at Any Stage If You Add a Personal Touch


For babies, you can personalize it or add a puppet, which also works for grade school children (age varies by child). In her blog, Keri Vandongen offers another valuable speech-language toy tip. Using puppets while reading to your child not only makes reading exciting and entertaining, it also allows you to use the puppets to teach your child important listening skills.


For kids who are learning to read, level books are a great gift! Add a few sheets of their favorite character stickers in each book to encourage them, and there you go! As for preteens and teens who are into more individual activities, books — or gift cards for book downloads — are also smart gifts that keep on giving.

Build Healthy Brains with Blocks!


We all know how consistent the research has been on the developmental value of blocks for babies and toddlers. It aids in a child’s learning, enhancing memory and stimulating the cerebral cortex, making this gift a no brainer. “Blocks” don’t always mean the classic wooden blocks. Anything age appropriate that requires stacking, connecting, construction. There’s a lot out there. Get creative, and so will your child!

As your child grows, she can still benefit from more mature “blocks” — Squigz, Legos, Wammy, model construction sets. And please don’t let gender roles get in the way!

A New Painting Set Is Fun at Any Age!


Art is wonderful for all ages for creative expression, tuning artistic abilities, relieving stress, and building self-esteem. A painting pad, a couple of brushes, some bottles of paint (you can even make it yourself with a few ingredients), and an adorable artist smock for the little ones or apron for older kids and you have a great gift set!


For those who are not artistically inclined, it’s just plain fun to make a mess sometimes. And for the youngest among us, they get the most out of it from fine motor skill tuning to learning basic concepts to sensory motor development and more. We should all be so lucky to get a new painting set this year!

Splurging on one crazy fad is fun (even better when Grandma and Grandpa do it). But busting a budget on a future toy graveyard full of fads can be stressful, to say the least.

I hope our five smart gift recommendations get you thinking of others out there waiting to team up with your unique, smart child.

Thank you for being tuned in parents and a special thanks to Keri V. for her awesome speech-language tips! I welcome your comments, suggestions, stories, and more parenting tips here and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!

-Elle C.


photos,Creative Commons:
Twister – stevendepolo, Box of Balls – christinakessler, Block Party – Brett Jordan, Colorful Wooden Blocks – stevendepolo, Wammy Ball – japan_style, Child Painting – pennuja

About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children's book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and "make it workology," she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

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