Need some stocking-stuffer ideas for Christmas? Or a “little something” to give to friends’ kids at the holidays? These super stocking stuffers are under $10 each, and are favorites in our house for family travel.
And one of the best parts? There are no batteries or sounds involved! No fighting over electronics, running out of power, or driving the driver/fellow passengers nuts with noises! Meaning ALL the travelers in the vicinity will be happy, not just your kiddos!
So if your family is known for long road trips, plane trips, or train trips, give these super stocking stuffers a try.
Super Stocking Stuffers for Happy Travelers
1. Wikki Stix
I first learned about Wikki Stix from another parent’s blog tips on traveling with kiddos. I was skeptical, but several years later, my kids still find them enthralling. (Partly because we save them for travel use only!)
These brightly-colored, wax-coated cotton strings are infinitely bendable, twistable, and moldable. Kids can write words with them, make pictures, create sculptures, stick them to the walls, whatever. And they never wear out.
Besides being great for airplane tray tables and road-trip lap desks, I also recommend stashing some in your purse or an eating-out bag for waiting at restaurants.
2. Bendy fidgets
They go by lots of different names, but my kids LOVE playing with these things. Especially when they’re trapped on a plane.
My girls’ favorite in this category is the original Tangle Jr., which can be twisted into bracelets or necklaces as well as popped apart into shorter or longer configurations. But Wacky Tracks and the Neliblu Snakes are close seconds.
3. Classic wooden toys
A few summers ago, we visited one of those “living history” museums – a recreated 19th century village where the people dressed in costume and taught us about life long ago. When we got to the house that had a room of 19th century toys for visitors to play with, it was all I could do to get my girls to leave, after a solid 30 minutes of playing with a classic Jacob’s Ladder toy.
Several years later, they remain fascinated with this stocking-stuffer from the Christmas after that museum visit. But unlike the versions from the museum or from my own childhood, today’s Jacob’s Ladders come in a wide variety of colors and designs. And besides the classic flip-flop motion that puzzles and fascinates, you can also arrange the wooden blocks into shapes and sculptures.
4. Portable-sized Smart Games
If you aren’t familiar with Smart Games from my previous post about them, they’re a fabulous line of toys that teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills. My girls love them, and have learned so much from playing the eight or nine that we now own.
5. Card Games
Card games are a classic favorite for long days in transit, as well as rainy days at your destination. While a lot of card games are just plain fun, others can also teach kids everything from math skills to strategy and planning ahead. Some of our favorites include:
- UNO – this classic game is just plain fun!
- SET – a great game to learn strategy and patterns while practicing color and shape recognition.
- 24 – a fun game that allows kids to practice their basic math skills. (OK, this one is currently an “under $11” stocking stuffer instead of “under 10,” but Kimmie’s 3rd-grade teacher said her students LOVE to play this game for fun when they finish their in-class math work early!)
- Cribbage – our favorite standard card game that uses a wooden board for scorekeeping (shh! your kids will learn math playing this game!).
Of course, there are plenty of games you can play with a basic set of cards as well. If you’re not familiar with basic card games or want to expand your repertoire, this book is a great place to start.
6. A knot-making kit
This is my girls’ favorite “game” to take whenever we go camping, starting the moment they get into the car. While knot bandanas can be hard to find and generally run over $10, there are also how-to-tie-knots pocket guides and reference card sets. And the best string I’ve found for the girls to practice with is a pair of rope handles from one of those glossy paper shopping or gift bags. Just untie the knots on the inside of the bag and you’re good to go!
Bonus: besides the pocket knot-tying card set, the Learn’n’Live series makes lots of other educational pocket card sets as well, on everything from first aid to primitive cooking to fire-building to animal tracks – perfect for kids who love the outdoors!
What kid doesn’t love a flashlight? Buglites are the perfect emergency flashlight, and a fun bendy friend rolled into one. My kids’ Buglites live on their backpacks when we’re traveling, so they are always handy. And just like Wikki Stix, they love sculpting them into different configurations. Some colors run more than $10 at times, but I’ve pretty much always been able to find at least one color for under $10.
8. Assorted S-biner clips
This is a travel accessory that’s more utilitarian than anything else, but fits great into a stocking and is SO helpful for travel. My girls each have several hanging off their backpack carryons. With them, they can clip just about anything onto the outside of their pack: their travel neck pillows, a water bottle, whatever. (Though my kids have been known to play with them, too!)
9. “Vintage” 3D hand puzzles
Confession: I grew up in the 1980s. Back then, kids didn’t have iPhones, iPods, or iPads to amuse themselves with on the (in my case, hour-long) school bus ride to and from school each day.
We had Rubik’s Cubes and a slew of other three-dimensional hand puzzles along those lines.
There’s a reason these can keep you occupied for hours on end. And I am totally in favor of any game that keeps kids’ attention for hours on end without the use of electricity OR noise!
10. Travel-sized doodlers and other magnetic toys
Have a budding artist in your midst? At 5 and 7, our girls STILL love road-tripping with their pocket Etch-a-Sketch and doodle boards as much as they did at 2 and 4. While of course you can spend more, there are versions of these toys available in the under-$10 range.
And unlike other travel options for your artistic ones, there’s no mess or need to clean up! Far as I’m concerned, that’s the best part of traveling with these toys.
What about you? What’s on YOUR list of super stocking stuffers for road warriors and frequent flyers? Let us know in the comments!
P.S. Looking for some great stocking-stuffer ideas for grownups that come in at $10 or less? Click here for some great ideas for everyone on your list!