Gift giving times are always a challenge for us, as I am sure they are for the rest of you living on the road. Working out how to get the kiddos the things they want, along with the things they need is tough enough. But doing that and fitting it all into the limited space in our rig makes it REALLY tough. As full-timers, we have to be disciplined about how much stuff we take on board, but as parents, we want to make sure the kids are happy with the things they get, and that they get things they will actually use. In the old house, the Christmas tree would be packed with gifts and after a few days, many of them would never be seen again- until the semiannual cleaning under the beds. Over these past few years, we have honed down the mess to a few really good ideas for kids that have gotten a lot of use, inspired creativity, served multiple purposes, and/or taken up little space.
We learned about Plus Plus when a set was delivered to our kids last Christmas by Santa Clause ( via Amazon I presume.) This toy is the coolest thing since LEGO. The concept came from Denmark, where the toys are still manufactured today. The Danes are known for precision craftsmanship and that holds true with these. The pieces are shaped like 2 “plus” signs joined together such that the openings are the exact size of the sides of the plus signs. The pieces then fit together in an endless variety of ways. You can make patterns on a flat surface or turn the pieces at an angle to go 3D. The single piece is so simple in design that it is mind-boggling what your kids will design with a few hundred of them. Total creativity at its best. The awesome result for working parents is hours of quiet time while the kiddos are perfecting their crafts.
The sets come in different sizes so you can get all you want for your own creative genius. The Starter Set (pictured) is 300 pieces and sells for about $20. The larger 600 Piece Set goes for about $35. As the kids get older, you can add more sets for larger, more intricate designs. Our kids love making decorations using Plus Plus at Christmas time, they have made a roaring fire, the elf on the shelf and a Christmas tree to name a few.
When I mentioned precision what I mean is that, not only do the pieces fit tightly together, but they KEEP fitting tightly together. Our kids have used theirs over and over and you would expect them to have loosened up or deformed by now but they have stayed just the same shape as when they were new. We give this toy an A++ (pun intended- thank you, I’ll be here all week.)
Cons: Several pieces have ended up in the washing machine – a huge sorry to all the campground owners!
What can you say about Lego that hasn’t already been said? They are fantastic for all of the right reasons. They inspire creativity, they entertain the kids for hours, and they fit nicely in an RV. We have a big Tupperware full of Lego that the kiddos have collected over the years. When they receive a kit they will usually build whatever it is, and then promptly destroy it and add the pieces to the big Tupperware. Over the years they have collected a pretty good conglomeration of parts and can now build some pretty cool stuff. Again, the kids can spend a couple of hours quietly playing with lego and we, the parents get a little time to ourselves.
Conor (9yo) will usually build guns, some sort of advanced attack vehicle (with guns) or a super-space ship with lots of (you guessed it) guns. Aine (8yo) will usually build some sort of house or building which will hold the variety of Lego characters (from Barbie to Batman) that have also been collected over the years. Recently she has been making beds and house for all the characters.
Lego has always been a top-quality toy. They stay in shape and work for years. Just like the Plus Plus mentioned above they are manufactured in Denmark. Hmmm.
While bikes are a staple for most households with kids, we have found that scooters are also a great toy that does not take up too much space. Just before we want on the road, our neighbor gave our kids an old Razor scooter. It folded up so nicely that we decided to take it with us. We still have that same scooter, because no-one used it. However recently, our daughter started taking a big interest in it, riding it almost exclusively when we camped anywhere with proper roads. The only problem was that there are a lot of dirt or gravel roads and the small wheels do not work very well. So this birthday, she received a new scooter with large air-filled tires. She absolutely LOVES this thing. It is very cool, all pink and has hand brakes front and back. She rides it everywhere we go- even if we are just walking the dog. While this new scooter is not the best in regard to space- it is well worth it to watch her when she rides. For the boys, this baby comes in other colors as well. Just click on the pic below.
As a side note, this is mom approved also, in fact, there are times when our daughter can’t find her scooter because mom is riding it around the campground!
Our kids love to read and still read chapter books. It has always been important to us that they do, so we have always made sure they had reading time almost every day. As they are getting older though they are more and more attracted to their electronics. We have been Kindle users for many years but the problem with kids is that if you put books on their electronics, they will invariably end up playing games instead of reading. The solution is this Kindle E-reader. It is a dedicated reader and the package that kindle has designed is made just for kids. The $99 bundle includes the E-Reader, a choice of cases and. Most importantly for us parents, a 2 Year Worry Free Guarantee! That is a “no questions asked” replacement for any reason guarantee. This Kindle does NOT have a backlight. So you know when it is lights out time, the book gets closed.
With Kindle Free Time as well, you have access to thousands and thousands of titles for kids and can set goals and track progress. Big space saver in the old book bag! A subscription starts at $2.99 per child or $6.99 for a family.
Get rid of those nasty old crayons as the kids get older and move into gel pens. They come in about a bazillion colors including metallics and sparkle colors. The kids will have a whole new interest in coloring. Our daughter got a set of these for Christmas last year and she uses them all of the time. There are also some great coloring books designed for these pens. They are a bit more intricate than the old style coloring books we had so they really help with fine motor skills and creativity. What a nice thing to have around on one of those rainy days.
If your kids are into collecting Junior Ranger badges like ours are, there is nothing better to show them off than an Official Junior Ranger vest. They come in the traditional olive green and also we found one in pink which our daughter wears on every possible occasion. With all of their badges attached, they get quite a bit of attention in the parks, and the Rangers really love to see the kiddos in their gear. You can also find these at any gift shop attached to the National Park.
Yes, they are making these for kids. Water is the number one most important thing to carry with you when hiking. With all of the snacks etc that we adults carry along, it is really great for the kids to be able to bring along some water as well. These backpacks are just the trick and the kids love to have their own tube to drink from. There are a ton of different styles to choose from. For our 9-year-old boy, we got an Ozark Trail pack at Walmart. It carries up to 2 liters of water (we don’t fill it up all the way) and has several pockets for him to keep all of his bits and bobs and to store any items he finds and collects. For our daughter, a sleeker pack without all of the pockets was in order. She is 8 and is rather slight so this U’Be pack really fills the bill. It also can carry up to 2L of water and has only a couple of pockets but the profile is quite slim so it fits her nicely.
For the little ones, it is really great to have their own “kid-sized” folding camp chairs. We had these for ours when they were a bit smaller and they always loved to pull them out and set up by the campfire. They each come in their own bag so portability is for moving days or trips to the beach. When they turned 6 and 7 they received these adult size chairs for their birthdays and were thrilled. They were slightly too big for them but it really didn’t matter and it gives them time to grow into the chair. It also has a zippered pocket that they can keep stuff in which they love. These chairs also come with a bag so they can be thrown into the bag of the truck and taken out as needed.
I consider Magformers on a par with the PlusPlus mentioned earlier. These things are great! They are geometric shapes formed of colorful iridescent plastic with magnets set into all sides. The pieces then can be formed and built into all kinds of fun structures as the magnets hold them together. Squares, triangles, and hexagons come together to stretch the wild imaginations of your youngsters. When it comes to storage, they easily stack together and don’t take up much storage at all. They provide hours of fun for the kids and quiet time for mom! HELLO!
If your little guy is anything like ours, its all “guns guns guns!” Nerf is the answer. Give him the fantasy of Super Rambo abilities, while also protecting the poor dog. Safe and loads of fun. PLUS after he loses all of the bullets, he has to put it away until his birthday! Don’t worry- they have extra bullet packs as well. Soft, foam ones with soft rubber tips. The dog will be fine (but hide the cat!) Our son has had several of these guns and he does really love them- plays with them all of the time. He now has an Adventure Force model with a chain loader, where you can shoot up to 15 bullets in rapid succession. Ok I admit, even us parents have had a go with this baby, once or twice.
The classics are still the classics. Play-doh is still a fixture in our house. The creations change with age, but the game is the same. Perfect for rainy days or those “I’m bored” moments. Great colors, awesome tools, and some imagination and you have the recipe for fun.
These binoculars are great for younger kids. They are much better built than the typical kid binocs but are still rubber cased so they can withstand a bit of beating. Don’t miss any more awesome animal encounters passing around the glasses. Get the kiddos a pair of their own.
Kids LOVE to have money to spend so every year, they can count on Santa delivering a gift card in their stocking. It gives them the opportunity to learn about spending money on things that last AND of course to take advantage of POST HOLIDAY SALES! WOOHOO! Teach ’em young, moms and dads, teach em young!
There are some of our best ideas for gifts while on the road. They are space saving, educational, and most of all the kids will love them and play with them.
Did we miss anything? Can you recommend some toys that are not on the list?
Do you know someone who travels in an RV or wants to? Check out Our Ultimate List of 53 Practical and Fun Gifts for RVers.
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