Unique Christmas gift Ideas for kid’s old-fashioned play that won’t cost the earth.

Whilst Christmas is a time of celebration, holidays, overindulgence and anticipation for children, let’s face it, it can also be a time of financial burden, unwanted presents and household clutter for parents.

Alice Zsembery, the author of “Real Kids, Real Play” shares her ideas on how to create unique gift ideas for children that won’t require a second mortgage or be discarded after an hour.

The key to gift giving

You will often see it written that your gifts for Christmas should cover off the following points: Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

This is an excellent rule to live by. Additionally, when considering toys or play items, I like to ensure that any play gifts that my children receive promote flexible play; that is, they are not overly prescriptive in the ‘way’ they need to be used. I also like gifts that do not contribute significantly to household clutter.

Be creative

Typically, parents and gift-givers have their blinkers on when it comes to gifts; simply looking at the toy aisles and book stores for inspiration. Children, particularly younger children, find joy in the most unexpected places. My son once thanked me profusely for buying the sunscreen that he loved and told me it was the best present ever (true story)!

There are so many alternatives out there that can create bigger bang for your money. The best thing is that with so many of these ideas, you can avoid the mad December rush at the large shopping centres and pick up your supplies from Bunnings, Spotlight and supermarkets!

Engaging, yet space minimising

Think about what play you can provide for vertical surfaces…

For younger children, magnets for the fridge are a fabulous idea. Whilst my daughter absolutely loves her magnetic scenes (she can build up her own scene with characters on a magnetic background), the favourite was definitely the photo magnets that we had made of all the family. The bonus was it helped her remember all the special people in her little world.

Last Christmas, Santa left us a BIG surprise; a black board wall! (well, actually, it was the backside of our kitchen island bench as we have limited space). The chalkboard paint was only $16 from Bunnings, some chalk was only $4 and for a grand total of $20 they have had endless fun without taking up any space at all!

Make a Kit

Kits are a great idea for both younger and older children, aligned to their interests. It doesn’t need to take much time or money, but some carefully curated items can amount to endless play! Here are some ideas:

• Car Track Kit – tape, new cars, cardboard tubes. We just use masking tape at home, but you can buy road tape from Kmart for $2! [Hint: buy a few!]

Cupcake Kit – cupcake mix, cupcake tray or stand, variety of decorations, patty tins, apron

• Sock Puppet Kit – colourful socks, pom poms, googly eyes, glue, various bits of felt to cut ears, nose, mouth etc.

• Dino Excavation Kit – small dinosaurs, plastic containers, plaster, sand, paintbrush, magnifying glass

• Fort Kit – colourful flat sheet, flashlight, rope, pegs, even glow sticks. If you are really a sewing champ, you could also sew a few loops to each corner and the centre of the sheet to make them easier to hang.

• Craft Box – these are always a hit and can usually be stocked from the local $2 shop. A fishing tackle box makes a great craft box, and then you just need to fill it with a variety of pencils, crayons, arts and crafts supplies and stickers.

• Playdough Kit – some homemade playdough, cookie cutters, a rolling pin and a board and you have yourself hours of fun.

• Gardening Kit – A great present to encourage outdoor play and engage in nature, it is really easy to stock on a budget from Bunnings or even a supermarket. Be sure to add in a sheet of stickers so that they can decorate their pot!

If you need more details on the kits above, head to www.jackandlus.com for your free guide.

Gift of experiences

Some of our most loved presents are memberships or unique experiences. The zoo and museum are good-old favourites, but there are plenty of other unique experiences out there; indoor rock-climbing, go carting, Luna Park entry and even designing your own bags and accessories.

Think travel

With so many families taking some time off and packing up the car for a summer adventure, a travel pack is always a great idea to keep them entertained both in the car and on holiday.

Two of our favourites are:

• Travel Lego Kit – glue a lego board to the inside of a carry tin and fill the tin with a small packet of lego. You can also include some printed activity cards (free to download at www.jackandlus.com) which prompt younger children to follow a set of instructions and duplicate the card.

• Magnetic Travel Box – stocked with magnetic figures for younger kids or, for older kids, how about picking up a packet of magnetic letters and icy pole sticks and create a word activity game for the car?

By Alice Zsembery, Jack and Lu’s. jackandlus.com

Alice is the founder of Jack and Lu’s: a company created with a simple dream of bringing back real childhood; where the toys were simpler, the items were fewer and the imaginations were greater. She is a busy working mum of 2 preschool aged children and has just released her new book Real Kids, Real Play – 150 activities to do around the home using household items.