I went a little crazy last year with the Christmas presents for my kids. My eight-year-old son Lucas finally opened his last Lego set two weeks ago. That is embarrassing. Have you guys ever had that happen? Please tell me you have so I can stop feeling so dirty filthy rich. It’s gross.

This year I’m going to do better. No, I’m going to better than better. Not only am I going to buy my kids less crap, but the crap I do buy is going to be good crap. Crap that my kids will play with more than the box the crap came in. Crap that stimulates their spongy little brains. Crap that makes them develop both their fine and gross motor skills.

Because if we’re going to spoil our kids at Christmas, we might as well simultaneously turn them into engineers, athletes and architects, right? RIght. With that in mind, here are my top 10 picks for no-guilt Christmas gifts for your kids:

1) Thames and Kosmos Science or Magic Science Kit: We get some variation of a science kit for Lucas every year. He loves these things and uses up every last shred of material that comes in the box. The added bonus to this year’s pick is that it’s magic themed. Since Lucas has been gobbling up Harry Potter books lately, I figure this is a great gift all around.

1A) Harry Potter Illuminating Wand [Toy]Um … okay here’s where I might be kind of spoiling my kid a little … nobody really needs a pretend magic wand and I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to make Lucas any smarter. But, okay, Lucas totally FREAKED OUT when he saw this in the store and HELLO it’s Harry Freakin’ Potter. I’m calling this “1A” because it obviously goes along with the magic/science kit. (Mom, you want dibs on this one? Buy it here so I get a commission. Love ya.)

2) Marble Run: 103-Piece Set: We have had this toy for years. My kids, aged eight and four, both still play with it. I love it. Absolute home-run gift.

3) Perplexus Original Maze Game by PlaSmart, Inc.: Let’s just go ahead and be honest; this gift is really for the grown ups. I have seen cat fights break out over this game. My best friend tried to steal it. It’s that awesome.

Also try Perplexus Epic if you are a genius, infinitely patient and have absolutely nothing to do: 

4) K’NEX Amazin’ 8 Coaster Building Set: Lucas spent a week building this thing last January. He has ADHD, people, and he is unmedicated. I was afraid of this toy, honestly; I thought it might be too much for Lucas. Nope. Totally doable. We love it, and it’s a huge crowd pleaser. All kids who come over, both the boys and the girls, want to try this thing out. (The roller coaster car really goes!)

5) Elenco Electronic Snap Circuits, Jr. Kit: My cousin is buying this for Lucas. Great for your little wannabe engineer.

6) Radio Flyer Cyclone-640: We got something similar to this last year, but the one shown here is cheaper and has higher ratings than the one we have. The kids played with our (inferior) version until it finally broke just a few days ago. They literally played with it to death.

7) BRIO Labyrinth: I am so getting this for Lucas this year, though I think Mari will like it too. We all had one of these growing up, right? (By the way, I researched cheaper versions and they all had terrible reviews. Hence this one being what I consider to be on the pricey side. But I’m definitely coughing up the extra $20 to get the one that won’t break.)

8) ThinkFun Rush Hour: Kids love this thinking game. Great for car rides.

9) Laser Maze Logic Game: This is one Lucas picked out as we browsed the isles at our local Barnes & Noble. Very excited to get him this game that gets your kid thinking about trigonometry without even realizing it. I think Mari will love it too, even though it might be a little advanced for a four-year-old.

10) Construction Fort by Discovery Kids 72pc Build & Play: I had an idea for something like this that would have totally made me a millionaire, but like eight other people beat me to it, dammit. I think this will be the toy of choice for my kids on December 26th!


What have been your kids’ favorite toys? Anything you want to add to this list?

If you’re new here, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and subscribe to Abandoning Pretense so you never miss another delightfully pretense-free post!