Small, light Christmas presents for children
November 14, 2018 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Normally, I mail my grandkids their Christmas presents before I fly in, but this year, we're all meeting in a city where none of us live. Consequently, I'm looking for small, light Christmas presents I can stick in my suitcase. Snowflakes below the fold.

First, please don't suggest "experiences" or gently push back on my saying this. That is not what I want this time, for Reasons. Would prefer not to give them certificates for something they can buy later. Also, no electronics or toys featuring Disney or licensed characters. Parents are very religious, so no sex or violence (not even Exploding Kittens).
Ages of the kids are 14 (girl), 11 (boy), 8 (girl), 5 (boy), and 1 (girl). The 14-year-old is very interested in basketball, classical music, knitting, and boats. The 11-year-old is into drawing. All of the kids love nature and science stuff. I don't think gender matters much for this question - I don't want to get the girls jewelry - but I'm throwing it in just in case. I'd really prefer gifts that give them something to do. Tiny games would be great, though my experience with so-called travel games is that they're cheaply made, hard to play, and not much fun. One year, one of them got a very cool dice-related math game that fit in a little bag. Something like that would be great.
Specific ideas and links are very much appreciated. Thank you!
posted by FencingGal to Shopping (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Two more things: 8-year-old love sea creatures, and 5-year-old is very into anything related to firefighting.
posted by FencingGal at 8:04 AM on November 14, 2018

I like the game SET which is probably an ideal gift for the 11 year old, and the 14 and maybe 8 year old siblings can play along. Here's an online version you can try playing. Note that the online version is WAY harder than the card version because with the card version, you keep laying out new cards so you have many more chances to find sets.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:08 AM on November 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

Coloring books, books of any kind really (if you think you can find something that suits their parents' religious restrictions), playdoh for the younger kids? I always loved these brainteaser type puzzles when I was little.
posted by greta simone at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Good card games are probably a better bet than "travel games" - Gamewright makes a whole bunch of good ones for different age groups; I don't have experience with all that many of them but I'd recommend Sleeping Queens, Slamwich, and Rory's Story Cubes. For a more adult-level strategic game (no adult content, just more challenge) that the eldest might prefer, I really like Red7. (Also, yes, Set is great, and it's plenty challenging enough for adults too.)
posted by mosst at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Blink is a great card game that they can all play, except the baby. If the 14 year old is into knitting, maybe a kit that teaches amigurumi crochet? Would the 11 year old like a harmonica?
posted by corey flood at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

finger puppets for the 8 and 5 year olds
posted by brujita at 8:43 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hive is an excellent two player game high quality, travel sized, bug themes. Kind of like chess in that each piece has its own way of moving, but with bugs.

Also Parade. Beautifully made, Alice in Wonderland themed art, but not Disney. Cards based. Can be played by larger group.

Neither have betting if that is an issue.

For the knitter, perhaps needle felting kit? I was given a set of needles that came in a jar the size of a film canister.
posted by chapps at 8:47 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

If they don't already have it Sushi Go! is a fantastic, light card game that the kids ages 8+ (and adults, I love it!) could play together. These "escape room" type games are only single use, but they are hours of fun and would be right for the 11 and 14 yo to do together. Little brain teaser puzzles are fun, too.
posted by LKWorking at 8:52 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

Bananagrams is a fairly compact game that the 8yo and up could play.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:02 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Tell Tale is a neat little card game with pretty good replay value. Anyone that can tell a story can play, and even the toddler would enjoy hearing the stories.

Maybe a little digital microscope? Some of them are pretty small.

For the child that likes to draw, maybe the Anti-Coloring Book and some nice quality pencils or markers? Mystery Mosaics are a big hit at my house, and work best if you buy the numbered pencils that are designed to go with them.

Set is a little much for the 8 year olds I know, YMMV, but Sushi Go works for that age and up.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:06 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

How about Foldscopes for all the kids? They're small microscopes you assemble yourself out of special paper and a lens. You can buy them with a kit that lets them makes their own slides of things to look at. They're extremely portable, and you can use them alone by holding them up to your face, or with other tech (camera, smartphone, etc, if they have access to that) to take pictures of the magnified objects.
posted by cnidaria at 9:12 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Spot It is a super fun card game that kids can play fairly early since it doesn't require reading. It's fun for adults too.
posted by advicepig at 9:36 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Foldscopes. I also like this small kit for making photo-like prints with the sun.
posted by pinochiette at 9:53 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

The 14-year-old likes knitting AND boats? Perfect candidate for a knot-tying kit (available in either practical or whimsical depending upon taste).
posted by halation at 10:27 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

For the baby, a dress-up rag doll ("Dressy Bessy" and similar) might be a little outside of her scope now, but she could enjoy just having the doll, and work up to dealing with operating the clothes.

Other good toys for 1-2 year olds are puppets, things that stack or fit inside each other, building supplies (blocks, duplos), simple puzzle-ish things with parts that move around (large wooden beads on cord or heavy wire), and toy versions of what the people around them are using - kitchen tools, a car dashboard, toy laptop, etc.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:53 AM on November 14, 2018

First, play doh is still quite popular.

Second, what about a subscription? Magazines (Ranger Rick is the first one that comes to mind) or craft kits? Random google find here.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:04 PM on November 14, 2018

A parafoil kite.
Origami paper and a book of simple origami
posted by sciencegeek at 2:48 PM on November 14, 2018

We gave grandkids these rocket copters last year and they were a BIG hit.
posted by raisingsand at 2:59 PM on November 14, 2018

Quirkle is a super fun and portable game that works for a wide age range! There's no reading involved. Bohnanza is also great- the three older kids could play that one.
posted by DTMFA at 4:19 PM on November 14, 2018

Things that have worked in family get togethers with similar age-ranged kids (excluding the baby) :

Crazy Aaron's UV sensitive thinking putty with light (plaything, playdoh, +science)

Dice for all the kids in their favorite colors, and a deck of 77 ways to play Tenzi

N'thing Slamwich

Iota probably exceeds the five year old, but fun for the others?

Mini Fastrack? (Might be a bit heavy?)

Flash is super fun, and sort of Yahtzee-esque
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 9:32 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

How about Playmobile fire fighters and Playmobile aquarium for the five year old and for the eight year old? Playmobile is well made and durable so while they might lose pieces they won't break them unless they walk on them or try to destroy them.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:18 AM on November 15, 2018

OP, if you don't already have what you need, you might enjoy this ask: What are some great board/card games that aren't too big?
posted by mosst at 7:13 AM on November 30, 2018

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