We get a ton of emails asking about gift ideas for families this time of year, so we're whipping up a helpful guide! This will be pinned on the homepage for the duration of the season and updated when we see good deals or cool gadgets that fill a need for active families. If you have an idea for something we should add or a question about anything you see here, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gift Ideas for Families who Have ALL the Things
The Ultimate Chicken Coop
The aptly-named Ultimate Chicken Coop by Hampel is made of molded plastic for an easy-to construct and easy-to-clean home that's the perfect size for a backyard flock. It's simple to move so you can provide your chickens with fresh grass often. The company is planning to sell add-on wheels and a door timer that can be set to open and close at specific intervals to let your ladies free range daily. Flaps on the sides lift up for easy egg access and it's totally predator-proof, as proven by our cats who spent the better part of a week trying to gain access into this curious new contraption. Our former chicken run – that monstrosity of wire and metal in the background – is getting demolished to make room for a playground.
An Upscale Play Area
We got this Activity Table from Skip Hop earlier in the year, and we love how it converts from a bouncer to a play area and even a sleek homework table for our older kids. The things that have really stood the test of time, though, are the Reversible Waterproof Play Mat and the Kids Chairs.
A Portable Noise Machine
Sure, a lot of families have a noise machine. But a simple, portable one that can double as a bluetooth speaker? That's a win for any crew – especially one on the go. The Sound Oasis is multi-purpose for the whole family. When we're at home, I even use this speaker on my desk to drown out the household noise.
A Cycle Desk
Work up a sweat while you work on those emails. Well, you won't really get sweaty, but this combination cycle desk and standing desk from Flexispot helps you keep your muscles moving to counteract the effects of working in an office all day. Multitasking for the win! I plopped this across the room from my desk, and I find myself wandering off to this corner more often than perching at my traditional desk.
This Video Game Thing
We gave our kids the Nintendo Switch last year, and we're following that up by asking Santa for Nintendo Labo kits this year (and by “asking Santa,” we mean “calling up our sponsor Nintendo who happily sent us some samples to play with”). These DIY kits let kids make, play and discover with pre-cut cardboard sheets that take learning opportunities off the screen and into the real world.
A Pillow that Doubles as an Imagination Station
It's a pillow. It's a play area. It's an awesome-possum minimalist kitchen playset! This is one of the pillows we keep in our RV for easy, creative play in a compact space. The accessories store in little pockets that fold right back up into the pillow when play time is over.
A Haul-it-All Backpack
Citi Babies is a mom-owned, North Carolina-based company making functional gear for families. Their durable, vegan leather Explorer holds all our gear when we're on the road – and it keeps my hands free. I love the spacious front pocket that keeps lots of diapers and wipes easily accessible, separate from the rest of our stuff.
I was never a red wine person until a pal told me about Troublemaker. “Every red gives me a headache,” she swore, “Except this one.” I gave it a try, and I was SOLD. Not too sweet, not too crispy, it's the perfect match for any steak or chicken dish whether it's being served at a party or a weeknight with the husband. I've since added this to my favorites list on Amazon and invested in a Vacu Vin to keep it sealed so I can enjoy a bottle over several days. Solidly mid-level in terms of price, it's quickly become my go-to at home and my grab-and-go for parties – and hostesses have all asked me for my wine-y opinions after I've unveiled it on my way through their front door. This is a can't fail pick for families that like a good pairing – or a good party.
Most families have a pretty big library, but board books have come a long way in the last couple of years. Some of the newest sets are awesome for our little kids and also include a TON of learning opportunities with bigger words for the older set. Our toddler and preschooler love the Wee Beasties series with tales about an Octopus, Python and Lion, and we're putting the Hello Book series on our list of gift ideas for families who want to learn about Ninjas, Robots and Knights. The oldest kid is loving the factual information included in the This Little Collection – it's his go-to backpack pick for road trips.
A High-Achieving Blanket
The world's biggest towel – aptly named the Monster Towel – is ten feet by ten feet. It's thin and lightweight with a convenient carry strap for beach-goers. It has pockets in all four corners to weigh it down with sand or rocks on windy days, and it has a zipper to safely stash loose keys or money.
The STEM at Play kits from ETA Hand 2 Mind are our fave for getting hands-on activities going without the need for a bunch of prep.
A Tracker for your Tidbits
Keychain trackers are all the rage right now. We've tried Tile and Chipolo and love them both, but our current fave is the Cube. It's lacking in crowd search capabilities due to lack of broad usage, but it works perfectly well for finding my keys around the house. The ability to use it as a remote shutter for camera phones is a game changer, and that's the primary reason that this is the fob remaining on my keys after several months of use.
This 3D Pen for Kids
The 3Doodler Start lets kids write their name in 3D or create cool keepsake gifts without the threat of burns. The eco-plastic comes out of the wireless pen in a warm state that's soft, pliable, and totally safe for children.
A High-Powered Charger
With so many new gadgets, you'll need all the power you can get. The MOGICS Donut can charge everything on our list of gift ideas for families all at once – and then some. It's our go-to for trips where outlets are scarce and power usage is high.
An Indoor Garden
My 6-year-old begged for his own garden space for his birthday. Only problem? It's winter. Not exactly high season for planting…and if I do manage to get some seedlings sprouting, I always worry about killing plants over the busy Christmas holiday. We got the Click & Grow system to let us “set it and forget it.” This herb garden features a timed grow light, pre-seeded capsules in properly-balanced soil pods, and a reservoir that lasts weeks with easy indication for refill time. The light above the plants can extend up and down as the plant grows.
You can never go wrong with LEGOs! We've been using the Teebee with a built-in brick plate to tote our creations around, and finding inspiration in books like How to Build Brick Airplanes. LEGO Chain Reactions is another huge hit around here, along with the brand's Make Your Own Movie Kit.
Another way we've been keeping our LEGOs in place is with these reversible suction plates that feature non-skid rims to stay put on the table, with divided sections on one side and an angled plate on the other side. We got them for eating in our RV – and they've been great for that – but we've also found that the kids grab them for craft time and they're hugely useful in that capacity. Another big hit around here are these unbreakable cups, which we use for everything from drinking to digging in the dirt at our campsites.
All the Meats
We've shared a few times about HelloFresh – which we absolutely love – but another great meal service for gifting is ButcherBox. 100% grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork and free-range organic chicken delivered straight to your doorstep. We maintain subscriptions for both HelloFresh and ButcherBox, staying on the lowest delivery interval for each so that we always have something good to eat on-hand without needing to meal plan. Click through my ButcherBox link, and you can get $15 of your first order plus FREE BACON in every order you ever place for life!
This Wonderful Bag that Cooks
The Wonderbag is a non-electric insulated bag that continues to cook food that's been brought to a boil. Simply place an already-hot pot into the bag and slow cook up to 12 hours for perfect, evenly-cooked chilis, meats, and potluck favorites. For every Wonderbag purchased, one is donated to a family in Africa.
This robot vacuum is the ultimate gift for anyone who's tired of cleaning up after messy kids. Hint: that's pretty much every parent on the planet.
Like a Giant Erector Set
Antsy Pants sets feature snap and click poles and connectors that can be built into any design your kiddo can think of. Their imagination is the limit! Each set comes with inspirational instructions, and they also have add-on covers in case you want to follow their directions to create things like pirate ships, play houses and lemonade stands.
Activity Books and Sets
Our kids spend SO much time at their activity table, we have a full closet of activity set options for them. Friends always ooh and aah over it when they come over. Our favorite books are Highlights Write-on Wipe-Off books, Highlights Activity books for grades kindergarten through 2nd, Zentangle for Kids, Easy Origami, the Melissa & Doug Tape Book, and Klutz Paper Airplanes. Our favorite sets are Magnetic Mighty Mind, Spirographs, Strawbees, Lite Brite, Just For Boys Bracelets, WikkiStix and National Geographic's Mega Fossil Dig Kit and Mega Gemstone Kit.
A Coat that Turns into a Stuffed Animal
If your kid is obsessed with Mickey Mouse, Minions, Black Panther, Spider-Man or Star Wars, these cuddly hoodies will help them channel their inner character and also have a fun pal to snuggle with at night. Cubcoats sleeves and body fold up into the hood to transform this jacket into an always-there buddy, so your kiddo won't ever forget their layers at school again.
A Picture Frame that Tells a Thousand Stories
Speaking of transformations, this epic digital frame and membership from Meural gives you access to 40,000 works of art to give you a glimpse into the world from a classic or contemporary perspective depending on your mood. Meural's swivel mount allows you to switch in seconds from landscape to portrait artwork and back again, and also lets you showcase your own pictures on the world-class anti-glare, auto-dimming screen that accurately displays every brush stroke. This is the best way to teach your kids – and possibly yourself – about historic and modern art.
Cogito, Ergo Sum
“I think, therefore I am.” Since we're getting all deep with art and the state of the world, this chair by ErgoErgo will provide the perfect opportunity to sit and contemplate. A practical spin on the classic balance ball, this innovative seat has been as big of a hit with the parents in our house as it has been with the kids. Its active shift seat lets you move through a wide range of positions with a super-small footprint.
A Really Cool Stroller
The Diono Traverze stroller is light, works for kids up to 45 pounds, has a single-hand fold and stands upright on its own. For traveling families who are short on space, this is the ultimate in toddler transportation.
A Power Tool
Every household needs these, and constant tech updates mean that there's always a fun way to upgrade that tool closet. Or maybe I'm just a big sucker…I feel like Nate finds an excuse to get a new STIHL chainsaw every other year.
What gift ideas for families are making it into your shopping cart this year?