Deep breath. Here goes December!
The shopping, the wrapping; the cooking, the feasting; the costumes, carols & cards. And at the end of it all, a warm glow, some sparkly memories and lots of new things to stash somewhere in our already bursting homes. (Stuffels work well for this. Wink.)
A far-cry from the reality for most of us, but wouldn't a sustainable Christmas be a lovely thing? This year the Secret Santa at Stuffel HQ only allows gifts that have been pre-owned, and we want to cut-down on plastic and avoid buying useless tat altogether. We don't mean to be bah humbug, but it doesn't seem right that things are bought for Christmas and discarded by Boxing Day, however 'novel' they are.
With all that in mind, we have pulled together our own little gift guide.
The presents we have picked all abide by three simple rules that ensure they will become firm favourites in the playroom:
They have proved their longevity within our own circle of family and friends; with any luck they will become firm favourites and be played with over and over again.
They can be enjoyed across a range of age groups - encouraging siblings & cousins to play together.
They are screen-free!
Of course, all our kids really want is happy parents and carers, so make sure you treat yourselves too.
Until then ... costumes, carols & cards! Yelp! Good luck.
Hope this list helps with ideas for Father Christmas:
Inventive, indestructible and with boundless opportunities for
imaginative play both on your own and with friends.
What's not to love about Lego?
We sell many Stuffel bags to Lego fans for storage of their bricks.
The oldest has been an 85 yr old grandpa. He likes to make Lego chess boards with his grandson. You create, destroy and create again, and with all the tie-ins the clever Lego peeps have done over recent years, there is a set for everyone.
From Hogwarts to Houses-of-Parliament, parrots to patrol cars, you are guaranteed to give something that the recipient will enjoy making, and can share the building of with whoever is around. The set we are coveting this year is a boat in a bottle, whilst the youngest Stuffeler we know wants a Creator Dinosaur set.
Age 3 & up
Find it anywhere! Local toy shops would be our choice. : )
An oldie, but a goodie!
A few of these have gone through our homes over the years and we're always grateful for a new one as we wear them into the ground!
Aquadoodle is a mat that you can draw on with water. Very simple, very clever and keeps 1 to 5 year olds, and if you're lucky, their older siblings, busy for yonks. What's more, there's no risk of felt pen marks on the carpet, as all drawing is done with plain old water.
Mess-free art! Boom.
Best for Ages 18 months - 5 yrs
Tomy Aquadoodle Classic
Available from Smyths Toys
One of the BEST presents we were given for the kids this year
Slacklining is a modern take on tight rope walking, the difference being the added bounce and width of the line. Ours is from Concious Craft and is fantastic. It's basically a robust roll of strapping with fixings to attach it between two trees to provide a tight rope for kids to play on.
It does rely on you having two appropriately spaced trees, but if you don't have these at home finding them can give direction to a walk or picnic. And once up it provides endless possibilities for active play.
All our kids love it. We love that it gives them an incentive to wrap up and play outside, whatever the weather!
Best for age 5 & up
'Kids at Work' Slackline by Corvus
Available at Concious Craft
4 MOON LAMP
Okay, it's just a night light. But it looks like the MOON!
And it has it's own remote control for your sleepy bunny to click through the phases of the lunar cycle, from crescent to full and back again. It is lovelier than it sounds.
One of those things you see on a friend's wall, then end up buying for all your own kids, and their friends, whilst secretly coveting it yourself.
It's a light, that looks like the moon! With a remote control!!
Best for any age
'Moon in my Room' by Uncle Milton - find online
A few companies make these clever magnet tiles, but Magformers are our favourite.
The company is based in Chester, and we can't get enough of the tiles. They aren't cheap (strong magnets never are) and you need a couple of packs to be able to build the good stuff, but they're an investment. Practically indestructible, ours have been used to create everything from castles for Barbies to bridges for train sets.
They are one of the few toys we reckon will still be going strong when the grandkids come to stay, and I am secretly waiting for the day I can have a stack on my desk as a smart executive toy.
They are so darn pretty and tactile.
Best for any age. Any age at all.
A hilarious card game that will get everyone pondering and discussing.
If you want to get a table of kids and / or adults chatting, questioning & laughing together, Sussed is a great place to start.
Players take it in turns to answer all sorts of questions - whilst everyone else guesses the answers to decide who knows who best.
Best for Ages 6 & Up
7 TREE SWING
Nothing says childhood like a swing! We can't think of a more wholesome pressie.
We are big fans of anything that encourages our kids to turn off the telly and get outside.
Swings of course come in a range of price-points and for a range of ages. (If it is for a baby or toddler make sure it is designed as such! You don't want little ones slipping off!) Ours (pictured) is simple and inexpensive.
Any age. Baby to grown-up!
Ours is by Garden Games,
available from Big Game Hunters
If you don't yet own a set of Dobble, buy one now. Do it even if you don't have any kids.
Who knew that a tin of cards could create so much excitement? But we've seen grandparents, parents & kids all in an excited fluster over this simple matching game. It fits easily into a change-bag or handbag ready to whip out whenever a quick distraction is required.
Best for Ages 6 & Up
Find it at Waterstones or John Lewis
9 PLAY TENT
Everyone loves a den, and these are so pretty!
We have whiled away many merry hours helping the kids make dens and teepees. Pegging up sheets, rearranging tables, tying canes together. And then stocking it with pillows and books and snacks. But I don't have the hours to commit to doing this everytime they beg for a den on a rainy afternoon.
There are a huge range of teepees available, with a huge range of price points, but we are partial to these pretty ones by myweeteepee - now available at John Lewis.
It will become the site of many role playing adventures.
Best for ages 3 and up.
Admittedly, we are in plastic territory here, but single-use it is not.
Duplo blocks will be used again and again. And again. Our kids have built houses, forts and towers. Then as they have grown have used the same blocks to make trains, stations for trains, bridges for waterfalls for Sylvanians, sofas for Barbies, towers as skittles ... the list
honestly doesn't end. Buy a bumper box for your little one, house them in a Stuffel and they will be revisited for many years.
Best for age 3 & up
Hours of simple fun.
There are hours of happy engineering to be done with a set of Hubelino and a Stuffel of Duplo.
These robust blocks create runs for balls and are compatible with Duplo.
As they click on to base plates they are unlikely to tumble, and allow kids to explore fundamental physical concepts like acceleration and gravity.
Best for ages 5 & Up
There really is nothing like a good book.
With so many fantastic kids titles available, we're spoilt for choice.
We are working on a separate list of book suggestions for different ages which we will post here - watch this space!
The list, of co is endless. But if you are looking for inspiration then we promise these have been read and re-read by us and our little ones.
And if you can't decide, a book token is a brilliant option. Our kids love to go down to our local bookshop to choose a book.
National Book Tokens can be used in bookshops all over the country and they are even offering personalised tokens this Christmas.
We love to support our local book sellers.
Take a look at www.nationalbooktokens.com
12 IQ PUZZLER PRO
This pocket-sized puzzle offers great brain-teasing fun
Older kids can figure out some of the 123 solutions for themselves, younger ones can follow instructions in the accompanying booklet, and the littlest in your gang will just love handling the bright and tactile pieces, slotting them into eachother and their handy tray.
As the grown-up, you will love that it slips easily into a bag and so can be taken anywhere for quick quiet concentrating time! And you will want a go yourself.
13 SCHLEICH ANIMALS
Great quality and endless play appeal mean these lovely figures really stand the test of time.
We just love these wonderful little figures from Schleich. They don't come cheap, but
with excellent quality and attention to detail we think they're worth the investment.
We love the idea of building up a collection - A Stuffel Mini with a couple of these beauties would be a brilliant Christmas present which could then be added to annually.
A great gift idea for godchildren?
The opportunities for imaginative play are infinite and they look lovely in your playroom too.
Fans of Schleich should head to www.bowbeaus.co.uk and shop the gorgeous collection offered by the clever and creative Jo.
Her animals in party hats are simply adorable and make fantastic cake toppers!
Schleich - local toy shops are a good place to start
or www.smythstoys.com online
14 SHUT THE BOX
This classic wooden toy is a fun way to introduce maths and numbers.
The origins of this traditional childrens' toy can be traced back to 19th century France.
It's inexpensive and a brilliant way to teach younger children about maths and numbers. It's also a game for everyone as older kids and grown ups will enjoy the competitive aspect.
The object is to flip down the numbers according to the throw of a dice.
It's simple, fun, educational and all contained in it's own little box.
Many people make versions of this classic toy
Ours is from www.jaqueslondon.co.uk
15 FAMILY NERF WARS
Get everyone in the house a Nerf gun this Christmas and let the battle commence!
OK. So this isn't the most wholesome or PC present on our list this Christmas.
But for a slightly older family, this is FANTASTIC fun!
Ask Father Christmas for a Nerf gun for everyone in the household. Add a bucket-load of bullets, and watch everyone get stuck in.
We did this last year and it provided hours of hilarity. We found that rules evolved as we went along and allegiances were formed and broken. True, we were still finding stray bullets in random places well into February, but it was a great way for the generations to have fun together. And not a screen in sight.
Available in a range of sizes and prices, Nerf guns can be picked up fairly inexpensively and should last for many Christmases to come... Although in our experience, the bullets won't!
From all major outlets