Last Year’s Gifts We’re Still Using

The elusive gift with staying power. I know I’m always searching for it, so I thought I would share gifts from last year that we’re still using. My bookworms are now about to turn 3 and 5 (in the next week and two months, respectively), so our gifts come in clusters around here! These have been enjoyed on a consistent basis over the past year (or more), with no signs of fading. Please note, we did not gift our kids all of these items last year (although we do spoil them)– some are from years prior to that!

three pigs brick house building blocks

Melissa & Doug giant blocks: used every single day. I adore toys that lend themselves to open ended imaginative play. These are gold. I was initially concerned about storage, but a large rubbermaid tote did the trick. It easily tucks away into the closet– but rarely spends more than a few hours there. I spent around $40, although I’ve seen them as low as $20 (hi there, Cyber Monday).

light pad literacy tie in

Light pad: I purchased this for our homeschool preschool, but it’s definitely not solely for either homeschoolers or preschoolers! It’s technically an artist’s drawing pad, to be used for tracing. But we have done a variety of activities for fine motor practice, sorting, color and shape identification, patterns, letter learning… Type “light pad” into Pinterest and you’ll be busy for a while. 😉 The picture above is using bingo chips and “do-a-dot” pages (free through a google search). You can also find translucent manipulatives like these pattern blocks, and I’ve found rulers at the dollar store, too. (*I opted for a professional light pad rather than the DIY hack because I was concerned about the quality of light hitting my kiddos’ eyes. The size I chose has been perfect for two kids, around 23″x15″ or A2)

Magnatiles (or other off-brand type magnetic tile): Another in the “every single day” category, and a springboard for open ended play.  My kids are not generally “builders” so these will often become cookies & other food items to be served at their elaborate imaginary parties. These are going on two years old and not showing any signs of aging or boredom. When I purchased them I price shopped for ages and it seemed like $1/tile was the going price. They appear to have come down in price since then!

Doorway gym: With two boys and a long winter ahead, we decided to give this a try for the gross motor category! It has been a huge hit! We put it away for the summer months, but it’s back out and as popular as ever. We have it hooked in our laundry room doorway with a thick rug underneath. I credit (*some*) of my boys’ sharing abilities to this thing (“You need to take turns or I’m putting it away in the closet.”). Our set came with 5 attachments and we do use them all, but primarily the swing and hanging bar. The rope/ladder are tricky for my guys’ age. This was their BIG gift of the year but its price per use makes it a bargain!

find it book nursery rhymes

Bamboo book stand/cookbook easel: I can’t believe we haven’t always owned this. We use it every single day at every single meal. I even wrote a blog post about it here. I love love love it. Pair it with one of the “visual feast” books I recommend for a smart gift idea!

Stainless steel mixing bowls: A wedding gift. LOL. But these have been used every day for years. They have been every sort of vessel you can think of, including sailing ships (yes, using wooden spoons as oars of course). I can’t imagine life without these.

LED light changing candles with remote: These have been used endlessly as well, becoming camp fires, reading by candlelight, creating sleepover parties for our stuffed animals, a job for our firefighters-in-training (with their wooden spoon fire hoses)… oh, and I use them too after the kids are asleep for the night. 🙂

Learning Resources pointer: I picked one of these up at a consignment sale and was surprised by how much play this inspired! It’s been a fishing rod, Nutcracker battle sword, fire hose, soup pot stirrer, drum stick… Sadly ours broke recently in an epic battle scene, but it’s on the wishlist for this year.


Although our home library books are read frequently and many are on rotation, the books below have earned special status in our home. They are the very favorites that have been read over and over and over. These also happen to be thick volumes with fabulous illustrations and photographs to pore over.

Under Earth/Under Water by  Aleksandra Mizielinska. First of all, this book is huge. It’s bigger than my Toddler, whose favorite it is. It’s also fascinating, exploring the world beneath our feet, and the world beneath the surface (it’s two books in one). 

Natural History by DK/Smithsonian. I snagged this at Costco on an impulse a few days before Christmas (after all my shopping was completed). I’m so glad I did! Preschool Bookworm spends hours looking at the amazing photographs of animals, even learning to use the index to look up favorite animals, such as “mice” during our Mouse King/Nutcracker obsession.

Picturepedia I picked this up a few months later for PB’s birthday and it has enjoyed a space next to its sister book. We use it to look up topics we’re interested in that are mentioned elsewhere. We’ve also spent a lot of time on the food pages (I’m looking at you, Toddler Bookworm/Foodie Bookworm). It always enriches our understanding of the topic we’re searching, in a safe & easy way.



During PB’s afternoon quiet time, he listens to these audiobooks on endless repeat. Because they are “collections,” they are super long (10+ hours each), giving you extra bang for your buck!

Henry Huggins collection

Magic Tree House collection

What about your house? What gifts have been hits? Connect with me in the comments below or on the Facebook page!

Happy Gift Giving!






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