If you're looking for a unique alternative to the traditional trucks and dolls, a holiday gift that is both fun and functional is an ideal way to treat the kids on your shopping list this year.
A present that is fun and has a purpose lets you get creative as you tackle holiday shopping, and feel good about giving a gift that can be used rather than being added to the already overwhelming mountain of toys and gadgets gracing most kids' bedrooms.
Start by gathering some basic details about the kids you're buying for: favorite colors, sports teams, activities and so on. Ask parents for ideas that fall more toward "needs" than "wants" and you'll be on your way.
For some added inspiration, consider these unique but usable kid-friendly gift ideas:
Bedding: For a child who has recently transitioned from a crib to toddler bed or toddler bed to big-kid bed, sheets are a way to honor this exciting milestone. Choose an appealing design, such as a beloved character, to maximize the fun factor. You can easily find sets under $30 at nearly any major retailer.
Pain management: Help soothe little ones' pain and reduce fever in a lovable, non-threatening way with kid-friendly cuddly cooling and huggable heating packs. Thermal-Aid Zoo stuffed animals are available in seven different familiar animal characters that kids will embrace when it comes time to treat an ailment. Find your favorite zoo animal at http://www.buythermalaid.com; a current promotion lets you get two for about $15 plus shipping and handling.
Storage: You can now find a wide range of storage solutions that appeal specifically to kids. From canvas cubes bearing funny critter faces to brightly colored bins and shelves, there are numerous options that help contain kids' stuff in fun and funky containers. Prices vary widely, but can range from as little as $10 or less and up to $100 for larger units at most big box retailers.
Outdoor gear: After months back in school, the holiday break may be the first extended period the kids on your list get to spend outside. Send them out to the elements in style with outerwear appropriate for your climate, such as matching scarf and gloves, new snow boots or a warm and cozy coat. You're sure to find what you need at nearly any price point, from $5 for gloves up to $50 or more for a quality coat at most general retailers, clothing or sporting goods stores.
Activity books: Make learning fun with age-appropriate books that offer interactive activities such as connect-the-dots, coloring, mazes and more for toddlers, and phonics, math and other subjects for the older kids. For an added touch, throw in a whimsical set of markers or crayons (parents will thank you if they're washable). A book or two will run less than $10 at most major retailers.
Regardless of your budget, you can find fun and functional gifts for the youngest kids on your holiday shopping list that they'll be excited to receive and you can feel good about giving.