Five Christmas toys I’d buy again – and ten I wouldn’t

I’m a mother of a nine year old boy and a seven year old girl.

I’ve made plenty of toy-buying mistakes. But now we’re coming up to Christmas and the toy buying season, here’s my list of five great options I’d happily put on Santa’s list again – and the list of ten toys I’d happily lose on the way to the mail box!

One thing I would advise – buy a single big item each year, and ignore the small stuff. Small presents will soon add up cost-wise anyway, and trust me, they’ll get far more value from the big, great stuff than the small plasticky rubbish.

So invest in the scooters, the train set, the trampoline (between your kids as a one-off family gift). Ignore the little plastic cutesy sets of critters and Barbie and other similar brands. Buy basic Lego blocks and forego the Star Wars and similar. Ignore anything that talks and claims to teach.

And remember, what your kids will remember from Christmas will always be how much you love them, not how much you spent.

Happy holiday hunting! 🙂

The best of the best.

1. Wooden train set – generic brand, with “Thomas” add ons.
Suitable for age one to forever!

My kids have had YEARS of play with this wooden train set. I bought it six years ago, when my son was 3 and my daughter 1. They still bring it out and play with it. That’s six years EACH from one toy. Best value ever. I still keep it out, and it’s an awesome toy for any younger kids that come to play too. A win all around.

PS. I’ll even admit I like to play with it sometimes. This is one cool toy 😉

Psst! Don't tell anyone but my 9 year old son *still* plays with the train set!
Psst! Don’t tell anyone but my 9 year old son *still* plays with the train set!

2. Tomy xylophone.
Birth to four

I only just passed this Tomy toy xylophone on to charity after years of play. The toy is robust and gender-neutral, as well as being educational. Part plastic, but still an awesome toy, and after six years of HEAVY play from my two still in good enough condition to pass on.

We got years of play from our xylophone - and have now passed it on to another family. A great, robust toy.
We got years of play from our xylophone – and have now passed it on to another family. A great, robust toy.

3. Wooden A-Z blocks.
Birth to five

My kids have had years of fun with their wooden blocks. Another winner that won’t ever end up in the landfill on my watch. They also used the blocks as extra construction for the wooden train set, and my daughter still brings them out from time to time for her various construction projects.


4. Scooters.
Age three to ten

My kids have had a LOT more use from their scooters than they have had from their bikes. The scooters were easy to transport in the car, easy to learn to ride, and cheap to buy. They’ve been run into the ground, and a winner all around.

My kids have used their scooters far more than their bikes.
My kids have used their scooters far more than their bikes.

5. A trampoline with safety nets.
Age two to ten

I don’t want to think how many hours of use our trampoline has had. We’ve had it for years and it gets a workout every summer. A great investment for a family.

Our trampoline has been an awesome buy!
Our trampoline has been an awesome buy!

Ten wastes of money

These aren’t necessarily a complete waste of money. Just don’t expect the toys to last long, teach your children anything, or keep their attention for long.

Plus, they’ll likely to end up in landfill before the year is out.

1. Any small electronic with batteries.

We’ve had numerous beeping, blipping, squeaking toys through our home over the years. None of them have lasted long. They tend to be expensive and not worth the money. Don’t bother.

2. Anything that speaks, talks and claims to educate.

It doesn’t, it won’t and it’s a waste of money. If you want to educate your child, talk to them. Get books out of the library. Take them to the park.

3. “Creative”, design, crafty items in kits designed for girls and usually boxed in noxious pink.

Items such as “make your own” jewelry box / pillow / wall hanging / perfume / photo frame etc.

These boxed kits don’t generally have a shred of real creativity about them and just create clutter. Instead, enrol your child in a holiday craft class if you don’t want them painting and doing pottery at home, and watch them have a blast with other kids. Or build up a craft box full of scraps and clippings at home and let your kid create their own ideas.

4. Lego sets.

Yes, modern Lego sucks 😦

Lego used to be creative. Truly creative. And I used to love it. But these days, it’s so gendered and so kitset that it really does little but teach kids how to follow instructions and follow gender roles.

Yes, I’d buy basic blocks, but those Star Wars and other movie themed sets, no.

Lego really needs to work through its sexism issues before I’ll consider parting with my money in its favour again. I’d really advocate similarly-minded parents do the same.

As an aside, if you want to buy Lego more affordably, and encourage creativity in your child, buy secondhand. There’s lots of it available on Ebay and TradeMe, and much cheaper.

Lego sucks nowadays. I can't think of a more overpriced, sexist toy.
Lego sucks nowadays. I can’t think of a more overpriced, sexist toy.

5. Littlest Pet Shop (and similar miniature plastic toys)

No, no, no, no, no! Expensive tiny pieces of plastic. Ick.

6. Anything resembling a must-have toy of the moment.

It’s a toy of the moment. It’ll get one week of play, then lie in a pile, forgotten and never played with again. You can tell it’s a toy of the moment because it is something you’ve never heard of, it wasn’t around six months ago, it is overpriced and overpackaged, and it has been heavily advertised on TV.

Extra points for a movie or cartoon tie-in.

If your kid must have it, they can pay for it out of their own hard-earned spending money, so they learn what the words “waste of money” really mean.

7. Child-oriented baking kits i.e. cupcake sets, usually aimed at girls.

While learning to cook is a key skill and great for kids to learn, I really think kids need to learn real cooking (not just baking) and they need to learn with real tools.

Get kid-sized cooking implements, teach them properly, and teach them how to cook real food, not just sugary sweet rubbish.

8. Child makeup and grooming sets.

No, no, no, no, no! Anything that turns girls into women before puberty gets a big red mark against it. Never and no and not ever!

I never bought anything like this for my daughter, but we have received them as gifts (a three year old receiving makeup? Really? Ugh!), and they went straight back to the toy shop for a refund.

9. Toy guns and other war weaponry.

Speaking as an ex-soldier (I spent a few years in the army), war is not a game we should teach to children.

‘Nuff said.

10. Pets – of any sort.

Animals are not things. They’re creatures. Living things.

Please don’t ever give a living being thoughtlessly as a gift to a child. Animals are a lifelong responsibility, and need care and love for sometimes decades. They’re not a quick fix toy and they’re not something you ever give without a lot of consideration. Santa would heartily disapprove.


  1. My mom always said Santa never brought pets or brothers . My sisters and I asked for a brother every Christmas as far back as I can remember. We sometimes still do, for the laughs.

    We have nephews(ish – families are complicated :)) who are 10 and 11 this Christmas and we want to get them something small. I love the idea of something cooking-related but sadly I’m afraid their dad would think it a girly gift. 😦 Got any other ideas?


    1. Absolutely NOT girly! Some of the best chefs in the world are men! I wonder if Jamie Oliver does a cookbook for kids?

      One of my son’s favourite books is a Herb The Vegetarian Dragon cookbook – he loves the easy recipes and has cooked a lot of them himself (veg recipes are often easier for kids to manage). There are also some great cooking implements you can get that are kid sized, in places like KMart – they’re often not expensive and are well made. My local KMart has a range of $2 implements in all colours that are really well made.

      Another possibility is iTunes cards and similar. Yeah, they’re not a physical toy as such, but my kids love them because they can buy music or games or anything they want (parent approval pending of course) and you can get them at any price.

      If you come from a big family, you could talk to other aunts and uncles about joining together for a bigger gift.

      Or you could go for an “experience” gift – vouchers for laser tag, paintball, the zoo, anything like that are all terrific options.

      Hope I’ve helped! 🙂


  2. love this! We still have the xylophone and wooden blocks, and will be giving them to baby. Initially I thought the trampoline was a fad buy that would just rust- but kids really love them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nup – my kids are still using our now very dilapidated trampoline. I’m almost tempted to replace it, as it’s getting so old, and really needs tossing. But hey, waste not, want not! 🙂


  3. Reblogged this on Natural penniless parenting and commented:
    Some very sage advice, not necessarily just for Christmas. We still have the xylophone and building blocks.
    My son loves Lego, but we mix it up with knock off Lego that’s compatible and it’s all kept in a huge box so imagination is a must!


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