Every time my daughter is invited to a birthday party, my wheels start spinning for the perfect gift. I’m not a fan of buying a present that simply matches the party’s theme. I prefer to find a gift that shows a little more thought, that still fits her friend’s personality and might even (gasp!) make their brains work a little. With that in mind, I surveyed my fellow GeekMoms for their go-to gifts for children of all ages. From games to toys to books, the GeekMoms have you covered with our favorite birthday presents for kids.
BabyLit Board Books
Jackie spotted her first BabyLit board book in a bookstore when her daughter was just a couple of months old, so she really bought Pride and Prejudice: A Counting Primer for herself. As a librarian and crafter, these tap right into Jackie’s deep love for literature and great design. She has given these as baby gifts to fellow lit geek parents (definite crowd pleasers), and feels they would make great first birthday gifts as well. Turns out Jackie’s daughter really loves them. She reaches for Sense & Sensibility almost nightly, and sometimes grabs it to turn through the pages a second time. Jackie can’t wait for Halloween and Christmas, when it will be time to dig into Dracula and A Christmas Carol. [$8.99]
Another librarian friend turned Jackie onto the Global Babies board book when she was still pregnant, since babies love looking at pictures of other babies. [$6.95]
Little People DC Super Friends
Fisher Price’s durable Little People sets range from a farm to Noah’s ark to Disney princess figures. Their DC Super Friends sets, though, are a geek toddler’s dream come true. Playsets include a Play ‘N Go Batcave, Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet, and more. DC Super Friends Little People are a fantastic way to introduce the world’s finest superheroes to tots.
LeapFrog My Pal Violet
Jackie’s daughter was given a LeapFrog My Pal Violet for her first birthday (there is also LeapFrog My Pal Scout), and she thought it was great. It connects to a computer with a USB cable so parents can customize it with their child’s preferences. You can program your child’s name, favorite color, favorite food, etc. This is a lot of impact at a reasonable price. The age range is given as 6 months to 3 years, and Jackie thinks it might be an even bigger hit for a second birthday. [$20.99]
Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Musical Dino
The Fisher Price Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Musical Dino is a huge hit in Jackie’s house. It has a bowl with a bouncing mechanism that pops balls back out, and her 15 month old loves throwing in every other toy she owns to see if they will pop out, too. Jackie recommends it as a fantastic gift for first birthdays. [$29.99]
Jackie originally bought the plush AT-AT from ThinkGeek for her husband to keep on his desk at work. Now it is a happy addition to her toddler’s toy bin. Bottom line: It’s great for any age that likes Star Wars and stuffed things. But if it’s for a little one, maybe save it for a second child or wait until their first birthday, when the new parent worrying frenzy about baby-safe toys has worn off. [$9.99]
The Monza racing game by Haba is great fun for all ages. It is aimed toward young preschoolers who are learning their colors and counting. The pieces are made of wood, and hold up to abuse. Cathé’s copy of the game has been played many times by at least a half dozen kids and shows no wear and tear. [$22]
Kaskey Kids Sports Guys
Kaskey Kids has put a sporty spin on your classic Army men. GeekMom Rachel says that her son will get a whole tournament going with his hockey guys, and the color commentary can be hilarious. She’s given (and received) several sets of hockey guys as gifts, but there are also baseball guys, football guys, soccer guys, and soccer girls. Each one comes with a field or rink and other equipment for hours of play. [$11.99 to $29.99]
Geistes Blitz is a game much in the same vein as Spot It. The game includes a deck of cards and five wooden objects. As the cards are flipped over, the players grab the object that is represented on the card. Younger children will need help with this game, but quickly catch on (and often beat the adults!). [$20]
ROCK ON! Geology Game & Rock Collection
It’s hard to imagine that you’d want to bring any additional rocks into your home. However, the ROCK ON! game is pretty awesome and puts all of those tiny pieces into a nice carrying case. It comes packing 18 “specimens,” a rock guide, rock marker chips, and cards filled with educational and fun facts for the whole family. [$25]
Rory’s Story Cubes
The Post family has given Rory’s Story Cubes as a birthday gift more than once. They are perfect for any age kid. Dice with pictures on them that you can make stories up with? Yes, please! This game is straight up fun. [$9.99]
Scientific Explorer Magic Science for Wizards Only Kit
If the birthday kid is into Harry Potter, science, or–even better–both, the Scientific Explorer Magic Science for Wizards Only Kit will be right up their Diagon Alley. It’s recommended for kids ages 6 and up with adult supervision, though, so you might want to run it by the professors (i.e. the parents) first. [$19.99]
The Superhero Starter Kit
Know a superhero in training? This Superhero Starter Kit includes a shiny red cape, as well as cardboard masks, wrist shields, and stickers to accessorize the entire super ensemble. It also has a hilarious book so that a little wonder can learn superhero moves and other tidbits. [$14.95]
DK First Reference Books
For kids who constantly ask “Why?” and want to know how things work, the DK Reference Series books are a dream come true. (Their parents will appreciate having a go-to source for answers other than the Internet.) The books are detailed but age-appropriate, covering topics like the First Human Body Encyclopedia, First Earth Encyclopedia, and First Space Encyclopedia. [$16.99]
Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book!
We’ve been talking up Mo Willems a lot lately. However, unlike all of his other Pigeon books, this is one that the kids can actually play. Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book! has portions you can cut, paste, draw, and color. It even has finger-puppets! Of course, there are plenty of cute (and sometimes crazy) sections to read, too. [$19.99]
Add liquid watercolors to a creative child’s collection of art supplies. Vivid colors offer up all kinds of opportunities for artistic exploration. Tie on a paintbrush or two, along with some pipettes and let the fun begin. (Set of six watercolors, $18)
ThinkFun’s Rush Hour game is always a hit. Encouraging critical thinking skills, the game features a small base (think: portable), a number of little cars, and 40 mind challenge cards. Players work to maneuver the little red car out of the gridlock. With four levels of play, the classic game is suitable for ages eight and up (even adults). Rush Hour Jr. is great for six to eight-year-olds. Those inclined to love animals more than cars will like Safari Rush Hour. [$16-18]
Duct Tape Tote
People are making artwork, wallets, prom attire and all sorts of other cool things out of duct tape. Is there anything that it can’t do? This Duct Tape Tote starter kit will answer that question, allowing kids to get creative with duct tape and craft a unique tote bag that they can take to school, the beach, or to a friend’s house. Just rip, wrap, and wear. [$11]
Jungle Speed is a fun board game that will get all of the players running all over the house. This game was featured in the first season of Penny Arcade’s Strip Search and is great fun for all ages. [$19.99]
Blokus is a good, standard game. For kids who spend a lot of time in the car, a travel version of this game is perfect. Even if kids don’t have someone to play with, they can make designs or practice strategy by themselves. [$14.99]
King of Tokyo
King of Tokyo has a lot of different elements to it. You can take over Tokyo as a famous monster, attack other monsters, build up powers, collect points, or all of the above. The deck of power cards is substantial and different powers will come up in almost every game. [$44.99]
Tree Houses You Can Actually Build
If your gift recipient has some outdoor play space, Tree Houses You Can Actually Build by Jeanie and David Stiles will inspire older kids to get outside, let their imagination run wild, and create a fun space of their own. Pair the book with a collection of hardware – pullies, clamps, and rope – and they’ll be occupied for days on end. [$18.95]
Star Wars Folded Flyers
Klutz offers a wide variety of activity books for kids ages 8 and up, and their Star Wars books will definitely light up the face of any young Jedi. The Star Wars Folded Flyers are a great pick for fans of things that fly, and Star Wars Thumb Doodles are fun for kids of almost any age.
Kris Bordessa, Rachel Cericola, Amy Kraft, Cathé Post, and Jackie Reeve contributed to this gift guide.