As a mum sick of constantly picking up puzzle pieces or parts of toys not used for their intended purpose, I love presents that teach kids something, or that engage their brain - something especially important in an age of screens.
Of course, each child is very different and it's impossible to predict what's going to occupy their attention for months or years.
But, with Christmas coming up, and last week's plea to purchase things that aren't junk, I thought I'd share some suggestions for presents my kids have been given that seem to stand the test of time.
My kids are 7, 4 and 1, so gifts are most relevant to this age bracket.
I guess it technically falls into the category of things that get scattered around the house which drives parents nuts, but Lego is amazing.
Ticking all the boxes for engaging their brains, their imagination and their attention, Lego is an all-time favourite that people play with into their teens and adulthood. Don't believe me? Try and buy some on the cheap. Even second hand Lego holds its price.
2. Board or card games
Our kids are into board games in a big way. They play these games by themselves once they have learned the rules. Snakes and Ladders, Mickey and the Roadster Races, you name it. They also love memory card games and they usually beat the adults. A friend's boy, 5, is massively into Uno. Games are a great way to reinforce their counting skills, not to mention the communication skills that come from debating who's cheating or breaking rules.
3. Experiences or activities
I'm generally not a fan of vouchers because of how easy they are to lose. However activities that get kids and families out and about are always welcome in our house. Ten-pin bowling, mini golf, entry to the local swimming pool, movie vouchers, anything like that is going to come in handy… so long as no one loses the tickets.
If you're a grandparent wanting to spoil the grandkids, but feel like you've done it all: pay for the kids' swimming lessons or extra-curricular activities, assuming this fits your price range.
Even better, offer to take them too if you can.
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You can drive me nuts with plastic junk but I'm okay with picking up books. I just don't think you can give a kid too many books. They last forever, can be passed on to other kids and they just enrich everyone's lives. Lots of little ones I know also love finding books like Where's Wally and similar.
5. Photo albums
Okay, so maybe you need to start this one for next year's Christmas, but it's still a good idea. Especially if, like me, you've been planning to get your photos printed for the last seven years but just haven't got around to it.
Kids love looking at pictures of themselves and you can tick off another job you keep putting off because it's too daunting. Win-win.
Completely addictive in an old-school no-screens way, even the adults have to keep picking this one up.
This is one of those toys that our girl, 7, plays with for hours every time we visit my husband's mum. It's like a little maze: you rotate the ball to make a little ball bearing inside follow the numbers on a track. Great fine motor skill development.
These are household staples in many friends' homes and kids are drawn to them. Like Lego, they are a toy that you can build with and make your own play, as well as having sensory experience of feeling them pull together and apart. There are lots of different versions and sizes of these and they're not too expensive.
8. Smart Games North Pole Edition
Full disclosure: I haven't test-driven this one yet, but a friend says her twin boys, 6, are obsessed with this game. It's a real thinking game with multiple ways to reach the same conclusion. The kids spend hours playing it and mine are going to after Christmas Day too. I had a look at other games made by Smart Games who make this and they are all exactly what I love for kids - games that make kids (and adults) use their brain, think outside the square and keep them busy. Perfect.
9. Garden gifts
Our girl was given some seeds to plant recently. Kids love looking after things and watching things grow. If it produces veges, even better. You're teaching them about food at the same time. A little pot, some soil and seeds and you're all go. This could also be a DIY fairy garden, sunflowers or anything you think the child would like to watch grow.
10. Personalised gifts
Kids are obsessed with themselves. And these days you can get anything named, even if it is an unusual name not found on store shelves. Drink bottles, cups and even books are extra special when they have your name on them.
And if you've got the kids sorted but are struggling with their parents, here are some ideas of things I have been given that are always winners.
Presents for parents
Offer to babysit and/or pay for lunch or dinner out while you do. Amazing.
2. Relaxation or time out: Coffee or food vouchers, movie vouchers, pampering appointments, whether it is for a manicure or massage.
3. Garden centre vouchers: This is a new discovery for me while looking for an indoor plant. Even if someone has it all, there is always something they can buy for themselves at a garden centre. They can grow their own veges, buy planters or pot plants, go to the café inside, or buy things from the gift store.
4. Books: This could be a book you've heard is good, a voucher for them to choose their own, or magazines, or even a magazine or newspaper subscription.
5. Experiences: Anything that encourages them to try something new. Have they mentioned wanting to try the new float spa, or yoga, pole classes , or Pilates? Even a few boot camp classes might be welcome for the right person. Some of these activities can be quite expensive and people put off paying for things or making time for them when it is for themselves. A gift can give them the motivation and a reason to treat themselves.