I know what you’re thinking: It’s September. Fall is just beginning. Why are you doing this to me???
The short answer is: I actually do my holiday shopping around this time of year, partially because we typically spend Christmas with my family in Puerto Rico and I need to make sure everything arrives in time, and partially because I just really enjoy the process of researching and thinking about what items the people in my life will most enjoy for the next year. I can’t be the only one out there! (But if I am, then just bookmark this until you’ve had a large glass of wine and you’re ready to think about the holidays.)
A note: 100% of these ideas would work for monolingual/English speaking children as well (with some minor tailoring)! And this post has been updated as new deals, ideas, and toys arise.
Ok, this one is not language specific in the least, but giving to a charity and having your child involved in the process can be exciting, fun, and also an early lesson on perspective, gratitude, and giving (here are a few supporting those affected and displaced by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey). (Also consider checking out our post about how to help following Hurricane Maria.) A monetary donation might be a little high concept for some kids, but going to a toy store and picking out an item to donate to a local child in need for the holidays can be as much (or more) fun as choosing a toy of their own.
And you can tailor your donation to your child’s specific interests. (Do they love animals? Consider the Wildlife Conservatory Society. Do they like construction? Consider Habitat for Humanity or an organization like Construction for Change. Do they love school? Consider Donors Choose.)
Charity Watch has a great, extensive list rating charities based on each charity’s use of funds to give you some more ideas.
Multiethnic & Multicultural Dolls & Figurines
These are great gifts for any child! I’ve found it surprisingly hard to find a diverse array of options for dolls and figurines, but I’ve shared below a few of the options I’ve found that will be well-loved.
Although these Duplo figurines are more expensive than other Duplo figurines, these might be a great option for a preschool classroom or for a family with multiple children, so you know they’ll get many years of good play.
This set also includes people with diverse physical abilities and body types, which is fairly unique. We just set up a DIY magnet wall in our basement and these may end up under our tree this year.
These dolls, which smell sweetly of vanilla, are some of E’s favorites (I think they have the right amount of heft and feel for her). They have a few diverse options, which is fairly unusual for dolls for younger kids, including the “Maria” (pictured below), “Naima” and “Yang” dolls.
And don’t forget the gift of literacy in the minority language! We love monthly book subscriptions and there are some great options out there. Booklandia offers a diverse selection of Spanish and/or bilingual books for a wide range of ages (babies through young adult) and Sol Book Box offers a great selection for young kids with the bonus of an added trinket or toy that builds upon the theme of that month’s book. We’ve had subscriptions to both and haven’t been disappointed.
You might also consider monthly magazine subscription, like Highlights High Five Bilingue. Cricket Media also offers magazine options in English/Chinese and Spanish. And Amazon Prime, Kindle and Audible offer solid programming, Spanish book options and audio books for kids. My kids also really enjoy their Amazon Kindle Fires for Kids, which right now are part of a Black Friday sale and are 2 for $90 off, which is very reasonable. (Read more about why we love it here.)
A DIY Activity Set
All my life I’ve been an aspiring DIY-er/crafty person. Most of the time, my projects do not work out (though I have a lot of fun putting them together!). But a DIY activity set like the ones I suggest below are so easy to put together that I think (hope!) they should be pretty easy to put together.
Science is one of the hardest topics for me to talk about with the kids in Spanish, in part because I haven’t used that vocabulary in years. So I’m focusing on sets centered around science books in Spanish to discuss certain scientific concepts. Books like these are life savers for me, and hopefully will be for you too! The best part about these gift sets is that they allow you to create an environment brimming with opportunities to use new, interesting vocabulary in fun and creative way.
A Magnet Activity Set
For the preschool set, magnets are a total hit. (I would not recommend some of the below for kids who are still mouthing objects, but in any case I suggest using your parenting instincts in deciding what works for your child.)
My basic plan for sets like these is to put together lots of great items to support the book’s theme and encourage exploration of the topic, without looking that gift-y feeling. I will likely put everything together into a plastic storage box with a handle, like this one, or some sort of other reusable storage container and then wrap it in some way, possibly with a bow (though, like I said, I’m really bad at the actual crafting part, and you’re lucky if I don’t just use tin foil ‘wrapping paper’…). Once I choose my book, I might add:
- magnetic wands
- horseshoe shaped magnets
- magnetic marbles
- magnetic letters and numbers
- magnetic counting chips
- animals, shape, people or other magnets (Melissa & Doug offer a great variety)
- fun to play with magnetic objects, such as jingle bells and pipe cleaners (which can also be used for arts and crafts)
- you can also make their existing toys, such as a puzzle, magnetic with magnetic squares or tape
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of compiling the above, you can also purchase pre-assembled magnet kits, like this one (with 2 wands, some chips and some marbles) or this “very first magnet kit.”
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Magnatiles, magnetic blocks that my kids have played with consistently for two years and counting and which I also love.
An Oceans or Water Themed Set
As with the magnets, I would start off with a great ocean, water wildlife, or water themed book.
Then I would add some of the following:
- ocean-colored water beads (water beads are amazing, non-toxic, bouncy, squishy little balls of fun that even I, a real life adult, love playing with)
- kinetic sand or regular sand (though I wouldn’t necessarily mix this with water or the water beads unless you’re ready for a larger than usual mess)
- sea animal, deep sea creature or coral reef figurines
- corn starch or some other sand equivalent (corn starch is just much easier and cheaper to obtain and throw out, if necessary, than regular sand)
- an ocean themed puzzle, like this floor puzzle or this fishing game puzzle that my kids love
- scoopers, funnels, droppers, tweezer, and anything else you can think of to scoop, manipulate and splash around (my kids also love using measuring cups, bowls and other kitchen utensils)
You could even add or incorporate a reptile or frog theme, if you think it’s something your child would enjoy, by adding a different book or small thematic toys:
A Dinosaur Themed Set
Same as above, I’d center the gift set around a good dinosaur themed book (I like the science ones, but there are also a lot of great options out there with Dino characters that aren’t as focused on the specifics).
- kinetic sand (this one comes with dino figurines already!), kinetic sand (without the dinos) or regular sand (or corn meal! Or dry beans! The options are endless.)
- dino skulls
- paint brushes (to unearth the dinosaurs from the sand, naturally)
- mini dinosaurs
You’ll note that a few of the options above have more than one item (like the magnifiers) so I would suggest either buying them individually where appropriate or, if you have multiple kids in your life, splitting up the value-packs to make individual sets for each kid (which is what I’ll be doing), and include a different book or special item for each!
(Spoiler to my family: the kids may each be receiving one of the above for the holidays!)
My kids don’t read yet, but once they do I’m really looking forward to introducing more board games into our lives. If you have older kids on your list, they might enjoy some of these classic games in Spanish. Bilingual Zingo, Spanish Bingo, Spanish Bananagrams, Manzanas con manzanas (I’m not ashamed to say that Apples to Apples was one of my favorite games in college, but I hear it’s also fun for kids!), and Scrabble (Spanish letters) are all available to offer your family just one more way to enjoy each other’s company and seamlessly incorporate Spanish into your daily life.
If they’re old enough, they might also enjoy magnetic poetry in Spanish (lots of other languages are available too).
Books in the minority language! I know, you’re shocked. Me recommending books? But these are the best gifts: you can tailor them exactly to your kid’s interests, you can tailor them to your own, they can be passed among family members and friends. Books are where it’s at. (You might want to take a look through my prior book recommendations for some inspiration).
If your minority language isn’t easy to find in your area, I highly recommend asking your friends and family (assuming they live in an area with books in that language) to send you books once a year or bring them when they visit. If you’re lucky enough to have a language with books sold on an international Amazon, such as Amazon (Spain) (where I sometimes peruse books in Slovak that aren’t available for purchase in the US) or Amazon (Canada), you could also make a yearly purchase of books through them.
I also like to make the kids a book of their adventures from the past year on Shutterfly and if I have the time and inspiration, I’ll make it into a story all about them and write it up in Spanish. They LOVE these books (who wouldn’t love a book starring themselves!) and I love looking back on past books to see how much (or how little) they’ve changed.
Updated to add:
Some Solid Toy Selections
These aren’t really language specific, but these are great toys that my kids adore and which opportunity for the use of rich, varied language as you play.
Magnatiles Magnetic blocks that kids of any age can use and enjoy. These are great for little kids learning shapes and colors, older kids learning to build, and frankly they are really fun for adults too. The possibilities are pretty much endless and they are really beautiful. Check out some ideas for what you can do with them here.
Tube Locks, fun in the tub, fun to make noise/music, fun to make vehicles. This is another set the kids have enjoyed for well over two years (and counting).
This tube is deceptively simple. N uses it to make robot hands, to see how many cars will pile up inside, to see how the pompoms fly through, and to figure out what angles work best. People always look at me strangely when I gift it, but I’m a solid believer in this toy!
The stomp rocket is another one I personally have enjoyed as an adult. Who wouldn’t like stomping with all your might, followed by the satisfaction of watching with glee as a rocket shoots into the air (and hits your ceiling, or the wall, and sometimes your kids…but it’s ok, they’re foam!).
That’s all I’ve got! Do you have any other gift ideas for the multilingual children in your lives? Please share!
Check out some of our related posts for other gift ideas for the multilingual children in your life!
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