15 Holiday Gifts for Your Kids that Won't Drive You Insane

Want a quieter holiday season this year? We've got you covered.

December 06, 2018

Kitchen playsets have undergone major renovations and now come with "stainless steel" appliances and undercounter washer-dryer combos. If this kitchen had a house around it, chances are you'd want to live in it. We bet your little chef will feel the same and will want to spend hours and hours opening and closing the doors, making pretend pancakes, and doing fake dishes under the gooseneck faucet. And guess what? Not a noise-maker in sight.

BUY IT: Amazon, $149

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Kinetic Sand

If you've never played with Kinetic Sand, prepare to be amazed at how it moves through your fingers like liquid but holds a shape like damp beach sand. Or, ahem, if your child has never played with it, that is. This sandbox-in-a-case comes with molds, tools and 2lbs of sand that kids totally love. And don't worry, it doesn't get everywhere like real sand since it wants to stick to itself because it's a non-Newtonian fluid. Science-y!

BUY IT: Amazon, $30

Play Tents and Tunnels

Think of this mega tunnel and play tent structure as a child-sized Habitrail. Toddlers and pre-schoolers will wear themselves out with hours of play from end to end in this massive environment. It's good for indoors or out and can even be filled on one end with balls to make their very own ballpit.

BUY IT: Amazon, $47

Spy School Top Secret Collection

Books are the most magical way to lose yourself in a fantasy world but maybe aren't the most appreciated gift to open up. To keep your 8 to 12 year-old from groaning when they unwrap a book, try a super fun series like Spy School by Stuart Gibb. Ben Ripley, a bumbling nerd, gets recruited by the CIA and learns through misadventures that he eventually may make a halfway decent undercover agent.

BUY IT: Amazon, $45

Instax Mini 9 Camera

Modern kids have never known the torture of taking a picture and not knowing if it turned out until it came back from the developers. We think these instant-satisfaction elementary kids, tweens and teens will love getting a Fujfilm Instax camera. There's nothing quite like taking a picture and then getting to peg an actual photo up to their (non-virtual) wall or their locker. Fair warning: the younger the receiver, the more film they'll likely blow through and, therefore, the higher the expense.

BUY IT: Amazon, $69

Fold Up Barn

Without electronics to make the animal noises, your kids will have to resort to using their imaginations to bring their farm to life. Not a bad thing to practice, if you ask us. This fold-up barn is remniscent of ones from the 70s and 80s with its classic red color and Old McDonald's set of animals. But unlike our childhood farmsteads, this one is probably an organic farm with responsibly sourced animal feed.

BUY IT: Melissa & Doug, $50

Crayola Ultimate Art Case

This art kit is loaded up with crayons, markers, paint and paper, but what makes it a truly fun present for little kids (3 & up) is the red case that it comes in. It's perfect for carrying from room to room, to the car for a road trip, or over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house. We think your kiddo will love having all sorts of art supplies at their fingertips and may even end up playing with the case long after all the supplies are used up.

BUY IT: Amazon, $15

Gemstone Mine Kit

Trust us on this one: Roll out some craft paper on your dining table and set your little explorer up with this Gemstone Mine kit. Then, sit back as they quietly hack away at the dig brick with the chisel, brush and magnifying glass for hours. No guarantees that they won't scream with delight when they finally unearth a gem, but we think that might be a noise you'll be able to deal with just fine.

BUY IT: Amazon, $30

Magna-Tiles

If your kiddo has ever spent a toddler's age building a structure out of wobbly blocks only to have it be knocked over with the gentlest breeze, then you know very well that playtime can end in crying time. Enter Magna-Tiles. The triangle- and square-shaped pieces snap together with embedded magnets which means they are sturdy enough to play with and not fall over, but easy enough to take apart again. They're even STEM-approved for ages 3 and up.

BUY IT: Amazon, $50

Hogwarts Lego Building Kit

There are 878 pieces in this Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall building kit. If you generously imagine the hunting for pieces, reading the instructions and then the actual placement of each individual Lego in its rightful spot as taking about one minute per brick, this set is over 14 hours of quiet play. (P.S. This is a perfect example to share with your child when they complain that no one uses math in the real world, by the way. Parent math.) The recommendation is for ages 9-14, but there's probably a bit of wiggle room on either end of that spectrum depending on your child.

BUY IT: Amazon, $100

Bruder Backhoe

Bruder makes the most accurate miniature construction vehicles for play time. You may already know this if you have a fan of diggers, excavators and dumptrucks living in your house. This backhoe has a functional loading arm and one-handed scoop steering wheel. Your little construction worker can practice their workyard skills inside but the Bruder can stand up to real digging in actual dirt outside, too. And if dirt isn't the ultimate no-noise toy, then we don't know what is.

BUY IT: Amazon, $35

Etch A Sketch

Tell your kids that Etch A Sketch was the original iPad. They might buy it! This doodle machine is the perfect portable toy for the car or for just tooling with on the floor. No messy pens or markers are needed to make the most creative designs and unintelligble words on this classic toy. You may have to explain to your kids that it doesn't actually need to be charged to work, though. Kids these days.

BUY IT: Amazon, $15

Superhero Capes and Masks

True, these are supposed to be toys that don't make much noise, and while these capes and masks technically don't make noise, your little super hero will not be able to help themselves from pshew-pshewing and loudly battling imaginary villains once they've got them on. Sorry! The capes are satin and the masks are made of felt so they'll be comfortable in them all day at home, on the playground, at the store, in the car, in bed....We know it goes. Once the cape goes on, it doesn't come off.

BUY IT: Amazon, $37

Calico Critters Country Home

When your child unwraps this country house and all the tiny components of the Calico Critters set, you may have to hold yourself back from getting in on the play. Or don't! Give in to the urge to enter the Calico world which is full of anthropomorphized woodland creatures, miniature furniture, working lights and delightfully microscopic housewares. It provides hours of make-believe fun and can be added to each holiday or birthday.

BUY IT: Amazon, $99

Adopt an Elephant

If you live with an animal lover, we think they'll be so touched by this gift. And if they don't quite get it at first you can explain to them that the plush elephant they're unwrapping is a miniature version of the one you "adopted" for them in Africa. In addition to the stuffed animal, this kit comes with a picture of their elephant species, a fact card about elephants, and best of all, an adoption certificate.

BUY IT: WWF, $55