Every year, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and every year, it seems like Santa stopped caring by the time he got to filling them. Let’s be honest, stocking stuffers have never been Santa’s strong point. He was up until an ungodly hour wrapping presents, and the fog of fatigue made him think it was a good idea to fill the stockings with chewable vitamins, dental floss and a couple of crappy cars from the 99-cent store. This year that must change, lest your offspring start doubting the existence of Saint Nick as a result of your uninspired picks. These creative stocking stuffers for kids will spare you from that sad fate.
1. Dino Sand Dig
This activity will appeal to budding archaeologists, or really any kid under age 7. And don’t be scared of the sand! The fact that this project is pint-sized means minimal mess.
2. Mad Libs
Yes, Mad Libs are still a thing, and they are still equal parts smart and stupid fun. A particularly perfect activity for siblings on long road trips, this word game is also great for any kid with some downtime. Just prepare for the inevitable potty humor.
3. Solitaire Peg Game
A classic game that is good to go almost anywhere—and your kid can play without parent participation (’cause Santa knows that parents need some solitary time too). This stocking stuffer is suitable for a pretty wide age range; even tots too young to understand the rules of the game will benefit from the fine motor skill exercise—and the challenge of putting tiny pegs into tiny holes basically screams toddler (just make sure the young ones avoid their own mouth hole).
4. Color Your Own Christmas Cocoa Mug
A stocking-sized art project that is festive, fun and feeds your child’s sweet tooth. Your kid will be so content coloring the Christmas mug that you’ll probably have enough time to prepare the cocoa and contain the wrapping-paper craziness.
5. Miniature World of Peter Rabbit
You can put a bunch of tiny Beatrix Potter books into a stocking. Best of all, they come packaged in a gift box that also fits in a stocking.
6. Iron-on Patches
A fun and easy way for kids to personalize and get creative with their clothing. These iron-on patches come in a variety of different themes, every one of them absurdly cute. If you happen to be a (crazy) cat lady—Who, me?—check out the weirdly lifelike cat option. Patch perfect.
7. Model Magic
This beloved modeling clay provides a fun tactile experience for toddlers and has a lot of potential for the older and more serious sculptor too. When stored promptly, it won’t dry out—and if it does dry out, it won’t break apart into millions of tiny crumbs that never go away (ugh, Play-Doh!).
8. Crayola Bath Time Bundle
Young artists can keep their creative juices flowing even while you get ’em clean. This collection of Crayola bath toys includes markers and crayons that work well and wash away easily, so you can focus on scrubbing your tot instead of the tub.
9. Reusable Rainbow Baking Cups
What is the holiday season if not an occasion to indulge in baked goods? These silicone cups are great for baking—but you can only do so much of that. Fortunately, they have visual and sensory appeal for young kids, which is why they made it onto the list. Might sound strange, but these guys will be used for literally everything (tiny, silly hats; storage for September’s acorn collection...), and the vibrant rainbow colors will make a big impression on Christmas Day too.
10. Cat’s Cradle
String games are still fun and, fortunately, this piece of string comes with a how-to book in case your memory is a little fuzzy. Your kid can bring this form of entertainment anywhere to keep their hands busy without an iPad.
11. Scottish Fudge
Looking for something you can’t find in the local candy store? This incredibly decadent and delicious confection hails from Scotland, where it is known as tablet, not fudge. Tablet is different from American fudge in texture—less creamy, more flaky and grainy—but kids and grown-ups will go bananas for it (in small doses...so sweet!). This treat comes to you in a cute, dog-adorned keepsake tin that will slip right into that oversized Christmas sock.
12. Jump Rope
It’s hard to find the perfect jump rope, but this might be it. The rope is made of durable braided cotton just like the old-school kind, so it won’t turn into an infuriating tangled mess; and it’s adjustable, so it can be shortened to preschooler size or made long enough for a lanky teenager. Also, the wooden bunny handles are darn cute.
13. Toy-filled Bath Bombs
Not the cheapest stocking stuffer but SO worth it. These bath bombs will make any child excited to get clean. They dye the water, but not the tub, and the scents aren’t too cloying for grown-up noses. And yes, the toy inside is very exciting every time—kind of like fancy Cracker Jacks (but all cleanliness and no corn syrup–coated yumminess.)
14. Invisible Ink Spy Pen
Harriet the Spy–inspired games will always be fun for kids. They’re usually very easy on parents too—consisting mostly of your kid “spying” on you while you do all the super-ordinary shit you need to get done. But if you want to get in on this mutually beneficial play dynamic, Santa might need to send some gear.
These puppies could also fall into the category of spy gear. Wait...puppies? Pups? Paw Patrol! Dammit. They will work just fine for every variety of rescue mission too. And at least one reviewer says that, dollars to doughnuts, they beat the actual Paw Patrol brand.
Every kid needs a kaleidoscope, and the classic tin design of this one is charmingly retro.
17. Mag Men Magnets
So much more than your ordinary fridge magnets! Mag Men connect to each other at the hands and feet, so kids can use these bendy bodies for building activities. They also make great necklace and bracelet holders for any tween who’s into accessories.
18. Tiny Music Box
So much less precious than the keepsakes that might come to mind when you hear “music box.” In fact, this stripped-down version is just plain cool. Children can easily operate the crank to play the music, but the best part is being able to watch the mechanism in action—decidedly more interesting than watching a plastic ballerina twirl around.
19. Candy Necklace
Most stockings will be stuffed with sweets—but you can have fun with that too! Your inner child will tell you that the ecstasy of candy consumption comes from more than just sugar content—it’s the whole experience. If you feel any nostalgia for candy necklaces, you might even get misty-eyed watching your kid eat pure sugar like a little beaver off a soon-to-be-soggy piece of elastic. (This package comes with 40 necklaces, but no need to be put off by the bulk. You now have a head start on birthday-party gift bags, ’cause these things have no expiration date.)
20. Snow Mittens
If your kids are used to getting a pair of socks in their stockings, this will be a step up—because you can’t have a snowball fight with socks.
21. Candle-Making Kit for Kids
This craft project gives children an opportunity to swap the usual materials for something new and interesting: beeswax! This kit includes everything needed to roll brightly colored and sweet-smelling wax candles, and the activity is as easy as it is satisfying.
22. Leather Pouch
It might seem like a strange choice of gift for a child, but your kid doesn’t have to be into LARPing to get use out of this well-made leather pouch. Toddlers get a lot of joy out of putting things into other things (ahh, the familiar explosion of broken crayon bits when you open your eyeglass case…) and the possibilities are endless with this pouch.