Five Gift Giving Guidelines for Grandparents

When my first grandson was born, my husband and I made a few decisions about selecting his (and future grandkids’) gifts. We didn’t want to load our grandkids up with a lot of stuff they didn’t need, or get in the habit of spending a lot of money on toys every time we got together. That’s not to say I don’t love to give gifts! I enjoy the whole process of giving presents: selection, wrapping, and giving. Christmas at home was always one “splurge” gift and a lot of little practical items like socks, gloves, and books for the members of my family.

Actually, creating fun with grandkids at birthdays and holidays sans all the “stuff” has become a challenge I welcome. If I’m patient enough, inspiration eventually comes!  Also, it’s been helpful to have my daughter and son-in-law share their expectations with us.

Sometimes I hit a home run in the gift department, other times I just make it to first base. I think it would benefit a lot of grandparents if we shared winning ideas amongst us. (Hint, hint, please post a comment at then end of this blog.)

By the way, I’m leaving off the obvious choices: Legos, Play-doh, Thomas the Train. Chances are, your grandkids already have these classics!

These ideas are for kids about 3-5 years old. Also, I unabashedly  include pictures of my grandsons playing with many of these toys.

Five Gift Giving Guidelines I Try to Follow

1. Give gifts made of out natural, eco-friendly materials. 

Contigo Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Stainless steel, press-to-release button flip top straw

Contigo offers a variety of colors, styles, and sizes. We chose the 20 ounce so the bottles would accommodate my grandchildren as they get older. Besides being eco-friendly, these bottles keep their water cold for several hours. Plus, our two year old can push the button himself. Fun and practical!

Wild Mint offers a variety of toys and other products that are chemical free for the environmentally conscious family. For a quick read on non-toxic products for kids, check out Hannah’s post, CEO of Wild Mint.

Melissa and Doug toys are made of toxic free materials like those from Wild Mint. This is the brand I’ve found at our local consignment shops and garage sales, so I’m more familiar with Melissa and Doug  toys than other “green” products for kids.

2. Buy toys that develop cognitive skills and eye-hand coordination. 

Kapla Blocks~ Jim and I found these at a children’s shop dedicated to all things Kapla while vacationing in Myrtle Beach. My 4 & 5 year old grandsons spent hours with these at our home Thanksgiving week. I’m still in awe of their designs.

Owen, age four, Kapla tower


Melissa and Doug Puzzles~ Check out this link for a variety of puzzles for pre-schoolers at different skill levels.

Make ‘n Break~ This pick is from my friend, Cindy. She says, “It is super easy to learn. Our grandsons have been playing it without the time since they were four. This game, we have found, crosses language barriers. The international students, who our daughter and son-in-law are mentoring, love it.”

Busy Board~ My son-in-law made this busy boy board for Silas’s birthday. He hung it at my grandson’s eye level in the dining room. The boys love it.


3. Choose items that nurture creative play.

Hats~ cowboy hats, engineer/conductor hats, Indian headdresses, sombreros, construction worker hats, fire chief hats etc., etc.! Our pre-school grandsons love wearing hats of all kinds.



Sand and Water Table~ my friend, Jeff, actually built his daughters their own sand and water play station; an ambitious yet inexpensive endeavor! If that’s not your cup of tea, Step Two offers an excellent set-up complete with an umbrella to keep the sun out.

T-shirts with Capes

Dress-up Clothes of All Kinds~ Check out Goodwill for these.

4. Provide avenues for artistic expression.

Do a Dot Markers~ My daughter introduced me to these. Besides the markers, you can purchase coloring pages plus a whole lot more Do a Dot items to spur on creative minds.

Sketch Pads

Beads to String~ My pre-school grandsons LOVE making colorful bracelets and necklaces for their Mommy.

Musical Instruments ( Wild Mint has a fun selection of wooden instruments for pre-schoolers.)

4. Find Games to develop cognitive skills

(Suggestions and commentary below from my friend Jessie, who has a four year old nephew.)

Spot It Junior~  a colorful matching game.

Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Airport Game ~ an imaginative/adventure game. “It’s a busy day at the airport and you’re the pilot.”

Animal Upon Animal Game a wooden stacking game helping with fine motor skills/hand-eye coordination

Hoot Owl Hoot Board Game~  a cooperative matching board game

Blokus simple strategy/logic game using pieces on a game board. Jessie notes, “The recommended age is 5 and up, but my 4-year-old step-nephew LOVES it!”

(Thanks, Jessie, for these great ideas.)

5. Give Gifts that are Just for Fun! (imagine that)

Train Whistle and Kerchief~ to go with the engineer hats

Slinky~ Get the plastic ones and play on carpeted stairs. For some reason unknown to me, watching a slinky make it all the way from the top of the stairs to the bottom elicits tons of giggles from our little ones.

Hullabaloo~ Cindy says, “This is a great kids game, even as early as 1 1/2 or 2. It is a little sound box with voice commands and about 20 small pads of different sizes, shapes, colors, images for kids to step on as directed. Very easy. I like playing it with my grands!”

Knee Hockey~ Apparently, younger children play hockey while on their knees. This is news to me! Cindy explained, “Our grands are 6&7 this year and we got them a knee hockey game, complete with goals and little sticks. Before, I was cutting and duct taping paper tubes to use as hockey sticks. We use small nerf balls the size of golf balls. But I got some small foam pucks for this year.

If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “what about books for Christmas?” I think that’s a great topic for another post!

Hope to hear some of your good ideas for grandkids.












4 thoughts on “Five Gift Giving Guidelines for Grandparents

  1. Great ideas, Donna. We love the Melissa & Doug toys and buy them often. They’re fun, retro, and well made, usually out of wood. Another company we like is B. Company, which Target carries. Their blocks are our grandsons’ favorites and work well for toddlers/preschoolers. I love the dress up clothes idea. I’m going to fill an old trunk with Goodwill items and keep it at my house for the grandkids. Thanks for the tip!


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