Friend birthday parties around here are tough. We don’t always know the friends well enough to buy something very specific, but we want to get them something they will enjoy. In addition, some of the kids’ friends have huge parties and it’s difficult to find something unique. These are some of our favorite go-to gifts for kids. They are all under $20 and we’ll add to the list as we add new favorites in our own home.
HEXBUG Nanos – Among the strangest, but best received items on our Go-To Gift Guide is the HEXBUG Nano. It’s a small, robotic “bug” that vibrates so quickly that it moves around on its rubber legs. There are a variety of track sets available to create elaborate habitats, including battle sets, elevated sets and race sets. The track is easy to assemble, but stays together even when it’s being relocated. My husband and I were able to move the track on the left outside without it breaking at all.
A track like the one picture will run you into the hundreds, but you can get a friend addicted to HEXBUG Nanos with just a small starter set for well under $20. The starter sets have one HEXBUG Nano, one hex cell, and two curved track pieces. It can create an enclosed environment. Better yet, if they do get multiples of the same gift, it just means more fun!
Each HEXBUG Nano includes a code that allows the recipient to access a special environment online. There, they can play games and explore science concepts. A double-win gift!
HEXBUG Nanos are best for ages 5+, although slightly younger children will enjoy it, too.
Mind Blowing Science Kit – This kit, which is appropriate for ages 4+, includes everything you need (except water) to perform a variety of science experiments. The contents are relatively safe – many of them can be found in your own kitchen – and the experiments are very simple. Still, they are impressive for younger scientists and there isn’t all that much out there available for that age group. The kit has little scoops, mixing cups, test tubes, etc., which makes it easy for busy families to engage their kids in science. Having done several of the experiments with my kids, I’m not sure how much they learned in terms of the scientific concepts, but I do know that they’re learning that science can be fun and interesting. That alone is a fantastic lesson.
Mind Blowing Science is available for $15-20 and makes for a really nice gift for inquisitive kids, especially those in the preschool/early elementary age group.
Take the Cake – Gamewright Games makes a wonderful variety of quality games for all ages. This one gets a nod on the list because of the birthday theme, but you can see my reviews of several Gamewright Games in a past post.
Take the Cake is a game that helps kids learn about shapes, counting, and the basics of fair game play. Shake the cupcake-like shaker the number of times shown on the die. If any “sprinkles” fall out, try to match them with open spaces on the cake cards. If you manage to fill a cake card during your turn, that card belongs to you. The game continues until there are no pieces left and the one with the most cards wins. Winning is largely about luck, but there’s just enough strategy in there to keep things interesting for slightly older players. As a bonus, a game only takes about 15 minutes.
Take the Cake is best for ages 4+ and, like most games from Gamewright, is available for $10-15.
PBS Kids Global Gift Set from Barefoot Books – By way of disclosure, I’m a Barefoot Books Ambassador (independent sales rep). I’m a huge fan of the titles, which include multicultural stories, beautiful artwork , messages about earth-friendly practices, and quality product. They aren’t available in most major bookstores, so they’re also a nice choice for families who have a lot of books. For this list, I selected a gift set: PBS Kids Global Gift Set, which contains three fantastic paperback books in a reusable green tote bag (suitable for your grocery shopping!). The books, Off We Go to Mexico, We All Went on Safari, and We’re Sailing Down the Nile, help children explore other cultures, imagine global travel, and even pick up a new language. The stories themselves are simple rhyming tales, suitable for younger children, but they each include several pages of information on the geography, people, culture and practices of the region explored in the book. I skip most of these pages when reading with my preschoolers, but know that the books will grow with them with new and interesting information. As a bonus, for each purchase of one of these gift sets, Barefoot Books donates $5 to PBS. You’ll still save money on the books as opposed to purchasing them individually, but you’re also donating to a great cause.
The PBS Kids Global Gift Set retails for $19.99, which puts it on the high end of our gift range (and pushes it over with shipping), but there are less expensive alternatives available. There are also some bigger gift sets suitable for gifts from aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Shop for the PBS Kids Global Gift Set at Barefoot Books.