Best Gifts to Encourage Creativity

This list is going to be the anti-list to those “hot toys” out there.

Nothing. I repeat. Nothing on those lists is being marketed to inspire creativity and open-ended exploration. Instead, these toys are specifically designed for a cheap thrill that your kids will soon tire of and then move on to the next craze.

So… turn off the commercials, hide the catalogs, and think about ways to inspire your little ones to think and grow in creative ways.

The best gifts are ones that offer multiple possibilities. You know why kids get more excited about a box than its contents? Because the box leaves space for the imagination to run wild — it could be a spaceship, race car, house, TV, zoo…. it invites the creative process, and the kids become invested in the final product because they’ve made it themselves, even when it might not be Pinterest-worthy.

This year, give your child something to explore and create with, to really make her own.

Here are some of our favorites:


Every year, my parents buy the kids a membership rather than presents. We’ve been Aquarium members, and this year it’s been to the New York Hall of Science. These museum memberships also have amazing reciprocal agreements, so we’ve been to museums in Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, and Massachusetts, all without paying admission fees.

Trips, classes, and other opportunities can be eye-opening and life-changing, and they also help reinforce to our kids that there’s more to life than “stuff”.

Building Supplies

Think about what you have already, and try a different type. If you have wooden blocks with linear features, try something with movement or angles.

Marble run

Magnatiles (Picasso Tiles) – check out how we use them here!



Imaginative Play

Between the ages of 3-10, imaginative play is incredibly important for kids. Whether it’s a kitchen set, a doctor kit, dress-up clothes, or some of these other favorites, give your kids an opportunity to explore possibilities outside themselves.


Peg Dolls – use paint markers and make your own set

Art Supplies

Once our kids are no longer breaking things or putting everything in their mouths, I’ve discovered that the quality of the art supplies really matters in how engaged my kids are in their activity. Invest in a good set, and be surprised at the difference it makes!

Chalk markers

Prang watercolors

Watercolor paper

Art Journals


– buy this from a Usborne consultant if you have one! This book is AMAZING for the 3-7 year old crowd.

– this book is a collection of biographies of what famous artists were like as kids. It’s sweet, funny, and lets our kids know that they don’t have to have it all together. This whole series is great, by the way.

– another Usborne book — again, if you know a consultant, support them!


For younger kids, percussion or bells, pretend wind instruments, simple keyboards
— we LOVE these bells! It’s the same concept as a xylophone, but it spins, too, which adds so much fun!

– this saxophone has been a favorite in our house for years, and it plays like a recorder, so you the kids can even at 2 start making a sound and connecting breath and fingering to music.

For older kids, actual instruments they can develop their skills with. Buy something mid-level, used if possible. Instruments, especially pre-owned ones, tend to hold their value. The cheap versions will only frustrate all involved in their inability to hold pitch or create a quality sound.


This year, we’re expanding our basement “ninja” course with interchangeable obstacles they can swing or hang from on those cold and gross winter days.

And while we’re at it, here’s a link to our favorite chemistry resources, books to help perfectionists learn to let go, and our favorite game this year, which also encourages kids to think in creative ways.

This list is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Holiday Gift List series.

Check out other great ideas from homeschooling families here!

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