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Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Outside-the-Box Presents for Kids

Not sure what to get your kids for the holidays? Check out this list of items, many of which you can buy locally.

As my kids get older I'm finding it increasingly difficult to come up with original gift ideas for the holidays. My 5 year old is still thrilled with new markers and an Ugli doll, but pleasing my 7 and 10 year olds is more of a challenge.  

They don't need much, but we always have to come up with a long list to satisfy the relatives. While parents can sometimes get away with new sneakers or books, grandparents want that "WOW!" reaction when the darlings break into their booty.  

It's hard to find "WOW!" presents year after year—especially with three boys as everything for my oldest gets passed down twice. We have held out on a video game console for another year so that also eliminates a whole gift category. I know my boys would love a Wii or XBox, but it would be a time-suck I would rather avoid and would create unhealthy competition between brothers.  

There are other things I won't buy my kids anymore because they are too high maintenance. Those of you who have had the pleasure of getting a teeny tiny Lego stuck between your toes or lodged in multiple house crevices know what I'm talking about. We no longer buy Lego sets with hundreds of tiny pieces, no matter how cool the picture on the box looks.  

My husband calls Playdoh "the devil's work" because after just one use it's a brownish-purplish mound of crud that inevitably hardens in the carpet. As adorable as those mini versions of board games look at , I know two-thirds of the pieces will be missing in a week. Are you catching my drift?

So I'm always on the hunt for unique. For those of you still shopping for holiday gifts, here's a list of some favorites (many of which you can find locally at Scriveners or Sparkhouse Kids in Maplewood).

Old Standards You May Have Overlooked: 

1. Large rubber ball—Obvious, I know. But my kids never tire of playing two/four square outside and in our basement. Sure we have a dozen balls in the house already, but half need air or don't have the correct traction. A new ball always brings a smile.  

2. Lite Brite—Remember this oldie? It's still fun to play in the dark, either creating your own colorful designs or using the stencils in the box.  

Building toys: 

3. Magna-TilesMy 5 and 7 year olds keep coming back to these plastic progressive blocks that stick together through magnets on the edge of the tiles. They come in bright primary colors and several different flat shapes that can make patterns and horizontal designs on the floor or tall, 3D architectural wonders. With so much creative mileage and appeal to all ages, they are well worth the steep price tag.

4. Kapla BlocksKids place these flat wood blocks on top of each other and let gravity hold them in place. Each set comes with a book of projects to build so it challenges all ages and stimulates imagination and ingenuity.   

5. ExoBonzThis tub of plastic pieces is a modern, funky version of Mr. Potato Head. Kids connect anthropomorphic parts with bendable joints to construct critters that look like creepy/cool/wacky bugs and dinosaurs all at once.  

Stocking Stuffers: 

6. Candy—I hit CVS and Target for mainstream holiday M&M's and Life Saver candy canes but I also bought some savory sweets at Lily's Kandy Kloudz in downtown Millburn. I loaded up on gummy burgers, chocolate sports balls and soda-flavored Jelly Bellies. Sure, you risk sugar overload but once in a while you have to let kids be kids. 

7. Movie tickets—I love to give experiences instead of stuff. Get an empty popcorn bag and throw a pack of microwave popcorn in with two (or ) movie passes. Your child gets to be in charge of an activity and one-on-one time with the family member or friend of their choice.  

Out of the Box

8. Dumpling dough—My 10 year old always wants sushi for supper. While we love Japanese food, we don't want it every night and it's expensive. This year, I bought Jacob a $30 gift certificate to and wrapped it in a box with the restaurant's menu.  He was excited and empowered by the possibility of being the dinner decider.  

9. Keepsake book—As a sentimental saver, each of my kids has a box filled with first snips of hair, art projects, and nursery school diplomas. I have also saved ticket stubs from many of the shows and games we have attended over the years. I bought Jacob a personalized album but instead of photo slots it has space for tickets. He loved reminiscing about game stats when looking through the book (lillianvernon.com).   

10. Rain gear—My 5 year old, Eli, has been wearing his Batman rain boots every day since he opened them last week for Hanukkah. He loves the matching umbrella too. I was surprised that seven year old Aden was jealous but now have something to get him next year!  

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