The 26 Best Stocking Stuffers for Kids – The New York Times


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We asked Wirecutter staffers—as well as our own families and friends—about their stocking-stuffer go-tos, and we collected ideas that are appropriate for a variety of traditions. So whether Santa’s idea of the perfect stocking for your clan leans classic (socks, lip balm), whimsical (fanciful tattoos, bath bombs), or practical (good ol’ undies and toothbrushes), we’re here to play Santa’s helper.Some of the gift suggestions below may be appreciated by adults, as well, and we also have ideas on the best stocking stuffers for grown-ups. Of course, little gifts like these could also work for Hanukkah (during which many families give children small presents on each of the eight nights) or for any occasion when you’re looking for tiny but special gifts for kids.If you’re searching for more gift ideas for kids, check out our guides to the best gifts for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and 10-year-olds. We also have guides to gifts for tweens and teens. We’d love to hear about your own best stocking-stuffer ideas and traditions in the comments below.The classicsFruits of fortune Photo: Michael HessionAn orange (about $1.50 per pound at the time of publication)Tucking an orange into a Christmas stocking is a tradition with a long history. In late-19th-century Europe, an orange was an exotic treat—both spendy and scarce. In the early 1900s, citrus growers pushed oranges as a delightful and healthful holiday gift, and gift givers jumped on the trend. During the Depression, the fruit was considered a luxury, and those in a position to get an orange considered themselves lucky. Although the sight of a lone citrus fruit hidden in a sock may generate a bit less awe than it did 100 years ago, the driving sentiment and emotional impact of the tradition are alive and well within many families. There are different reasons for keeping up the practice, but one common thread seems to be that the more-humble orange still reminds us of how fortunate we are. (Others appreciate that an orange rounds out the toe, creating a picture-perfect sock.) Some families give the tradition a twist: One Wirecutter friend reported that her Santa always places an interesting fruit in her family’s stockings—a rambutan, horned melon, dragon fruit, or anything they haven’t tried before.—Ingrid SkjongCrowd-pleasing card games Photo: Rozette RagoGamewright Sushi Go! (about $8 at the time of publication)HABA Rhino Hero ($15 at the time of publication)Card games are another stocking staple, and for good reason—simple, family-friendly games can be lifesavers during the holidays, giving everyone something to do between big meals and long naps. To please a range of ages, we love Sushi Go!, a fast-paced, pick-and-pass card game featuring cartoon illustrations of nigiri, dumplings, and other delicacies. We also love Rhino Hero, which calls for a steady hand to stack cards into a tower that’s sturdy enough to support a wooden rhino. (Both are among our favorite board games for kids.) Some of our own kids have also liked Exploding Kittens, the enormously popular game co-created by Michael Inman, creator of The Oatmeal. Exploding Kittens is a silly romp recommended for kids ages 7 and up.—Ingrid SkjongFun little somethings Photo: AmazonOriginal Slinky ($4 at the time of publication)Silly Putty ($6 for a pack of three at the time of publication)The metal Original Slinky made it to my family most recently as a little gift for my then 3½-year-old when his baby brother was born. Its undulating steps and specific texture were a hit with him; I was happy to see that something invented accidentally in the early 1940s can still hold a kid’s attention. (If you want one that will walk down the stairs, consider the larger size.) Silly Putty is a similarly no-frills classic that feels right at home topping off a stocking filled with surprises. Little hands like stretching, snapping, bouncing, and smushing the stuff. (Be sure to show them how to transfer newsprint off a page to the putty.) If you want a more modern take, we like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, which is recommended for kids 8 and older. Guaranteed not to dry out, it comes in a bunch of colors and effects, from jewel tones to shimmering sparkles to glow-in-the-dark, picking up where its old-school predecessor leaves off.—Ingrid SkjongHoliday colors Photo: Winnie YangCrayola Twistables Slick Stix (about $8 for 12 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils (about $14 for 24 at the time of publication)Cracking open a fresh box of crayons or pencils is consistently satisfying—particularly if the set is something slightly special. I find that regular crayons can be so dissatisfying: Many just leave faint, streaky marks or break when your kid tries to color with any measure of enthusiasm. Crayola Slick Stix deliver maximum color payload and glide easily over paper. They’re more like oil pastels, with the added benefit of being tidily encased in a plastic barrel that you twist to let out more crayon. My nieces (who were 5 and 8 at the time) were delighted by the vibrant drawings they made with these. My 4-year-old loves using them too. But younger kids definitely require supervision, since these crayons can leave stains on fabric and walls. Older children may prefer a more precise tool for drawing and coloring, and after we compared 13 brands of colored pencils, the vivid Prismacolor Scholar Colored Pencils were our favorite. We recommend these pencils in our guide to school supplies, where we have more ideas for art tools that could help fill out a stocking.—Winnie YangSeasonal sweets Photo: See’sSee’s Candies Marshmallow Trees ($25 for six individually wrapped treats at the time of publication)April’s Maple Maple Candy (from $5.50 for a small box of five Christmas-themed candies at the time of publication)Li-Lac Chest of Gelt ($9.50 for 3 ounces of gold-wrapped chocolate coins at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. My siblings and I always found a special chocolate bar or marshmallow treat sticking out of our stockings on Christmas morning, and now my kids do too. Paying a visit to See’s Candies was a part of my own holiday tradition for the many years we lived in Los Angeles. I’d buy the California confectionery’s chocolate Santas and marshmallow trees, as well as gelt for Hanukkah. A Wirecutter colleague who has tried both tells me the Hanukkah chocolates from Li-Lac surpass even those at See’s. After we moved to the Northeast, Santa became partial to giving little maple candies, which my kids confirmed as being a favorite after a recent trip to the sugarbush at April’s Maple in northern Vermont. Not that there’s any reason to get too fancy about the treats you choose: It turns out that finding these books of Lifesavers stuffed in a stocking is a treasured common memory of a number of my friends. The current version of the Lifesavers book is pretty lame in comparison, but now-unusual classic candies like Chuckles and Charleston Chews have also done a nice job of filling out the socks at my house.—Kalee ThompsonLots of socks Photo: SmartwoolSmartwool Kids’ Wintersport Yo Yetti Socks ($17 for one pair at the time of publication)Antsang Wool Cat Crew Socks (starting at $14 for six pairs at the time of publication)juDanzy Rainbow Knee Highs ($10 for two pairs at the time of publication)Socks are a staple stocking stuffer for lots of families (and they’re satisfyingly meta: socks in socks!). Parents on the Wirecutter staff have a number of suggestions to fit different tastes—all are styles we’ve bought for our own kids and found to be comfortable and reasonably durable. These abominable snowman–themed Wintersport Yo Yetti Socks from Smartwool are snug and warm, and they’re great for a kid who is actually going to be sledding or skiing this winter. We also like the thick, multicolored Wool Cat Crew Socks (even though they won’t have the longevity of Smartwool socks). Socks are an easy way to give a nod to a kid’s current obsession, be it Minecraft or rainbows. And Wirecutter kids have enjoyed this food-themed mix pack featuring avocados and pizza, as well as the simple but sweet designs on Target’s Cat & Jack Fuzzy Icons Super Soft Marled Crew Socks. Hansel from Basel offers lots of lively colors and styles, including anklets, crews, and knee-highs (we like to keep an eye out for sales). And these 3D Animal Paw Crew Socks, featuring dog, cat, and even dinosaur feet, are quite the conversation starter.—Ingrid SkjongBig, beautiful hair accessories Photo: XimaXima 3-inch Sequin Hair Bows ($15 for 25 at the time of publication)Qing-Han 6-inch Grosgrain Ribbon Bows ($14 for 20 at the time of publication)Mandydov Velvet Hair Scrunchies ($5 for 20 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. Teenitor Bun Maker Kit ($8 for 4 sizes at the time of publication)Hair accessories are fun and useful stocking stuffers that will be very appreciated, and you don’t have to break the bank. At under a buck each, these hand-size sequin bows or enormous grosgrain ribbon bows can’t be beat. My long-haired child has enjoyed both for more than four years, and they show zero signs of wear and tear. For the more practical or athletically inclined child, these velvet scrunchies are perfect for ponytails, and this bun-maker kit creates perfectly coiffed updos in seconds.—Nancy ReddLove for their lips Photo: Sarah KobosEOS 100% Natural Organic Lip Balm (about $4 at the time of publication)Supergoop! Play Lip Balm SPF 30 With Acai ($10 at the time of publication)Lavender Stardust Kissing Glitter Lip Gloss ($7 at the time of publication)Lip balm (holiday-themed and otherwise) was a stocking-stuffer standard in my home throughout my childhood and beyond. My 6-year-old son likes the thought of pocketing one (though holding on to it for more than a day or two without losing it is the current challenge). A former Wirecutter favorite, EOS 100% Natural Organic Lip Balm comes in a novel shape that appeals to kids, and there are several fun flavors and colors (we like sweet mint). For older youngsters, Supergoop! Play Lip Balm SPF 30 With Acai (our favorite in the guide to lip balms) has a smooth gel formula (with sunscreen) that goes on nicely, thanks to a slanted applicator tip. We like the berry scent of the Acai version, but the balm also comes in Mint. For a more-festive option, we also like these glittery lip glosses from Lavender Stardust. They roll on smoothly and come in kid-friendly flavors like Red Hearts Cherry and Disco Dots Vanilla. And no worries if your kid licks a few sparkles or decides to spread the magic beyond their lips. (The company also makes roll-on body shimmer just for this purpose, for kids—or adults—who want to sparkle all over.)—Ingrid SkjongFloating on air Photo: AmazonGazillion Bubbles 1-Liter Solution (about $10 at the time of publication)Bubbles are best when they’re big, bright, and bold. Gazillion Bubbles Solution delivers lovely, stable spheres; the 1-liter size provides plenty of bubble-making fun and slips nicely into a stocking. (One Wirecutter staffer said the Gazillion solution is the next best thing to making homemade bubbles using the classic recipe involving dish soap and glycerin.) A seven-loop wand keeps the bubbles flowing, and the solution won’t stain most surfaces or fabrics. Up, up, and away!—Ingrid SkjongArtistic stickers Photo: Workman Publishing CompanyWorkman Publishing Paint by Sticker Kids, The Original ($8 at the time of publication)I love the idea of frequent art projects, but I’m not a fan of the ensuing construction paper cleanup and glue-sticked chaos. That’s what makes this Paint by Sticker Kids book, which includes 10 “sticker paintings,” so great. It’s a high-focus activity that scratches the creative itch while rewarding fine motor skills and number recognition. It’s also mess free—so much so that you can break out the book on a long road trip and buy yourself about 30 minutes of entertainment from one page. Young kids can complete the puzzle with the help of a grown-up; older kids (around 5 and up) can identify the numbers and do the stickers on their own. (The book is about the size of a typical coloring book and thus would fit best in a larger stocking.)—Caitlin GiddingsThe whimsicalA tiny robot with a twist Photo: David Weeks/AreawareAreaware Cubebot Micro ($10 at the time of publication)The Areaware Cubebot Micro (a scaled-down version of the original, 9½-inch-tall puzzle) is a 1½-inch-by-1½-inch cube until little (or big) hands manipulate it into a 4¼-inch robot. “It’s like a Transformer but so much more,” said Keewa Nurullah, owner of the children’s shop Kido Chicago. She points out that sustainable, real-wood puzzles like the Cubebot are made to last and grow with your child. The robot comes in nine solid-color options, a multicolored one, and natural wood; there’s also a third size, 6¾ inches tall, but we think the Micro is perfectly sized for a stocking. Once kids have maneuvered the Micro into robot form, they can pose it and play with it. The real challenge, Nurullah said, is getting it back down to its cube shape.—Kelly GlassTats for tots (and big kids too) Photo: TattlyTattly Wildlife Set by Oliver Jeffers ($15 for eight tattoos at the time of publication)Kids of all ages like fake tattoos, and I prefer giving Tattly’s over the dime-store variety because of the vibrant colors, exquisitely detailed designs, ease of application, and longevity. There are plenty of options that kids will like, some from well-known artists commissioned by the company to create designs. These vibrant animals by artist Oliver Jeffers are particularly eye-catching. Fans of Jeffers’s books (How to Catch a Star and Lost and Found are favorites) will likely be delighted to wear some of his sweet characters, like the ones found in this space explorer set. Tattly also offers packs of two identical tattoos—kids we know have liked these yetis and rainbows.—Winnie YangBath bombs with bling Photo: Sarah KobosTwo Sisters Bubble Bombs Squishy Surprise Set ($30 for six at the time of publication)For an effervescent bath-time treat and a hidden surprise, the Two Sisters Bubble Bombs Squishy Surprise Set—our also-great pick in the guide to bath bombs—is a great little stocking stuffer. The bombs dissolve for about five minutes, with a stellar amount of fizz, and they have a pleasantly sweet scent. The toy inside isn’t anything special, but the surprise element is really fun. (We did find that kids had a hard time prying open the little plastic balls the surprise comes in, so be prepared to offer an assist.) If you’d prefer to give something a bit more luxurious, Lush Bath Bombs, our top bath bomb pick, are gorgeous, and they fizz spectacularly.—Ingrid SkjongEverything’s better with eyes Photo: Winnie YangCreativity Street Peel and Stick Wiggle Eyes ($6 for a 60-piece pack at the time of publication)Stick-on googly eyes can make just about anything more entertaining—including Christmas morning. I often tuck sheets of these in with presents for other kids, and my 4-year-old and I also like to use googly eyes to decorate those gifts. I start with a foundation of kraft paper, and Andie draws on it with markers or crayons, and then applies these eyes, stickers, and washi tape. It’s very wabi-sabi, and also a fun way to get the task done. I’ve bought individual adhesive googly eyes in bulk before, but the backing can be hard to remove, even for adults. Andie can peel the Creativity Street Peel and Stick Wiggle Eyes off the sheet by herself, and the three sizes included in this pack are easy for toddlers and preschoolers to handle and to stick where they please. Note that these eyes could be a choking hazard, so you should monitor your kids while they’re using them.—Winnie YangSidewalk chalk with sparkle Photo: Uncommon GoodsUncommon Goods Unicorn Sidewalk Chalk Set ($18 at the time of publication)I’ve taken to stashing sidewalk chalk in the bottom of my younger son’s stroller. Colorful and creative, it comes in handy when his older brother needs something extra to do at the playground. This Unicorn Sidewalk Chalk Set has the potential to bring even more style to his asphalt art. The small-batch, unicorn-horn-shaped pieces of chalk are cast in pastel rainbow hues or painted shiny gold, and they are perfectly sized for a kid to get a good grip (the manufacturer recommends the set for ages 3 and up). For classic white chalk in not-so-classic shapes, check out Areaware Moon Chalk; it comes in three styles—Cosmic Pollen, Lunar Rake, and Satellite Stack—or as a bundle of the trio. It’ll wear down fast (as does most chalk), but the shapes are fun to hold and draw with.—Ingrid SkjongFor special stories Photo: Kalee ThompsonOiseaux Personalized Vintage Bookplates ($19 for 24 bookplates at the time of publication)Bookplates by Felix Doolittle ($25 for 20 bookplates at the time of publication)I bought customized bookplates for both of my kids a few years back. Each time we reopen a storybook with the personalized flourish pasted inside, it brings me a little joy. In truth, my boys seem pretty much indifferent to these nameplates at the moment (except when they’re used to argue the point that a particular book belongs to me, not my brother). But I’m optimistic that in time they’ll appreciate these little badges, which signify that a particular book felt special enough to be tagged and added to what may be a lifelong library. The bookplates I bought came from a Los Angeles Etsy shop called Oiseaux, which specializes in old-timey storybook images. Felix Doolittle also has a lovely collection, but with a cleaner, more contemporary look.—Kalee ThompsonComics of all kinds Photo: DC ComicsTeen Titans Go! ($1 at the time of publication)Simpsons Comics Showstopper ($17 at the time of publication)DC Super Hero Girls Vol. 1: Finals Crisis ($10 at the time of publication)Naruto ($12 at the time of publication) When my three brothers and I were kids, we’d discover magazines, special catalogs, and the occasional comic book tucked into our stockings. Last year, on the heels of my then 5-year-old’s announcing his love for all things comics, the tradition continued. (“When I cried when I was a baby,” he told me, “I just wanted comic books.”) He loves Teen Titans Go!, Simpsons Comics Showstopper, and DC Super Hero Girls. But I’ve found that beginner paperback books with a comic-book feel, like Scholastic’s Mega Robo Bros and The Snow Day From the Black Lagoon (from the Black Lagoon series) do the trick. We also dipped into the English adaptation of the Japanese manga series Naruto, written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto, which tells the story of the plucky ninja for which the series is named. The volumes (all 72 of them) are read from right to left, holding to their original Japanese orientation, and they deliver action-packed fun.—Ingrid SkjongThe utilitarianPersonality-plus cloth face masks Photo: Rozette RagoGap Kids Full-Coverage Accordion Masks ($15 for a pack of three at the time of publication)Gap Kids Contour Masks ($18 for a pack of three at the time of publication)Old Navy Triple-Layer Pleated Kids Face Masks ($13 for a pack of five at the time of publication)Kids truly are champs for pushing through the pandemic. The pleated, woven-cotton Gap Kids Full-Coverage Accordion Masks—one of our top picks in the guide to cloth face masks for kids—are charming, thoughtful, and helpful stocking stuffers. The Gap masks have a nose-bridge wire and ear loops long enough to help the masks fit older kids. They come in a variety of delightful prints, so your child can build their own little mask wardrobe. Soft and comfortable, these have become our go-to masks: My 6-year-old loves choosing his pattern for the day (cheery ping-pong paddles and colorful pineapples are recent faves), and my 2½-year-old wears them with ease. Also from the Gap, these Kids Contour Masks (each with a filter pocket) include designs with fun animal faces. And if you want some seasonal flair, Old Navy Triple-Layer Pleated Kids Face Masks (our budget pick) come in holiday prints.—Ingrid SkjongBright bandages Photo: WellyWelly Kids Bravery Badges Flex Fabric Bandages (48 count) ($7 at the time of publication)Welly Kids Standard Replenishment Pack (24 count) ($3.50 at the time of publication)I’ve been known to fill stockings with facial tissues and floss. This year I’m throwing bandages in the mix. Specifically, latex-free fabric bandages from Welly, which come in a variety of fun prints that could help take the proverbial sting out of minor cuts and scrapes. Choose from rainbows and unicorns; llamas, narwhals, and sloths; or one- and two-eyed monsters, among other motifs. If you already have a container to store bandages in, skip the tin and opt for a refill pack of 24, which is also available in a bright botanical set.—Tracy VenceMini cooking tools Photo: Sarah KobosGIR Premium Silicone Mini Spatula ($14 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. GIR Mini Whisk ($10 at the time of publication)For budding bakers and eager young cooks, kid-size kitchen tools are a practical yet unexpected little gift. The GIR Premium Silicone Mini Spatula has a narrow handle that was the easiest for little hands to grip when we were mixing and stirring during testing for the best tools for cooking with kids. (It’s the mini version of a spatula we love.) With its textured, silicone handle, the GIR Mini Whisk is similarly well suited to wee would-be chefs. Both are fully functioning, quality utensils, so you might find yourself grabbing for them too.—Ingrid SkjongUndies that’ll last well beyond next Christmas Photo: Hanna AnderssonHanna Andersson Classic Unders 7 Pack In Organic Cotton in girls and boys styles (about $30 at the time of publication)Star Wars Classic Unders 7 Pack In Organic Cotton or Disney Princess Briefs 7 Pack ($48 at the time of publication)The great stocking debate: Are those socks meant to be filled to the brim with delightful trinkets alone, or is the stocking a legitimate delivery vehicle for the staples a kid needs to get through the year? Your stance on the question is probably inherited (and may also have something to do with the size of your family’s stockings). We’re not here to convince you that underwear must come down the chimney. But if that’s already a thing for you, we think the long-lasting soft cotton briefs from Hanna Andersson—the company behind the iconic jammies that are also some of our favorites—will feel like something special. They come in solids and stripes, and briefs, boxer briefs, and hipsters. And right now you can get Star Wars and Disney Princess designs, for a markup price. No itchy tags, no pilling, no wedgies. A bonus: After your kid opens up a package of undies, the chocolate Santa they find next will seem even sweeter.—Kalee ThompsonThe future’s so bright … Photo: BabiatorsBabiators Sunglasses (starting at $22 at the time of publication)Sunglasses that are sturdy enough to withstand kid-dealt hard knocks are priceless for parents. And cool shades with a grown-up feel are a likely hit with kids. Babiators sunglasses tick both boxes. The nearly indestructible frames house lenses that won’t shatter and that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection. These shades come in several styles (polarized options included) and colors. We love the Navigator sunglasses, pictured above, which we recommend in the guide to our favorite beachwear for kids. The best part? Register these sunglasses, and if something goes awry within the first year, the company will send you a replacement pair for free (save for shipping).—Ingrid SkjongA handy headlamp Photo: Sarah KobosBlack Diamond Wiz Kids Headlamp ($20 at the time of publication)Kid testers fell for the rainbow lights on the Black Diamond Wiz Kids Headlamp. But there’s even more to the Wiz. Striking a nice balance between practical and playful, this headlamp is lightweight, durable, and easily adjustable. (And it is our pick for kids in the guide to the best headlamps.) Along with the rainbow lights, the high-quality Wiz headlamp also has red and white lights, plus a strobe mode. Its headband comes in three colors, and the price is more than right, so Santa may appreciate getting one as well.—Ingrid SkjongA warm hat that lights the way Photo: Doug MahoneyL.L.Bean Kids’ Pathfinder Lighted Beanie ($35 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. My kids—ages 6, 8, and 11—love these Kids’ Pathfinder Lighted Beanies, an unusual twist on the common Christmas gift of a new winter hat. A built-in headlamp gives the kids a sense of independence and adventure. Also, since they wear the hats all day (we live in rural New Hampshire), their hats’ lights are always there when needed. An added plus: These hats are pretty warm, and it’s really easy to see the kids when they’re running around the woods at night or even just when they’re in the yard after dark. When we’ve tried headlamps in the past, our kids seemed to just lose them, but no one has lost this hat … yet.—Doug MahoneyGoggles that make a splash Photo: Quinn DixonAqua Sphere Moby Kid Swim Goggles ($15 at the time of publication)In a stocking, swim goggles offer an abundant promise of fun—for the pool, the beach, and even the tub (a kid’s gotta practice, right?). These Aqua Sphere Mobys—a pick for kids in our guide to swim goggles—are tough, outfitted with a silicone frame and eyecups that won’t leak or squish a pint-size face. The distortion-free lenses are fog- and scratch-resistant. And the straps, which adjust easily (even for little ones) and spread wide on the back of the head, won’t tangle in hair. If you want extra glare protection, go with the blue or smoke lenses.—Ingrid SkjongA counterpoint to all that candy Photo: Rozette RagoQuip Kids Electric Toothbrush ($25 at the time of publication)On Christmas morning, the sleek Quip Kids Electric Toothbrush could fit right in, nestled between that practical underwear and a sweet treat. The Quip, our top pick in the guide to kids electric toothbrushes, has a timer that helps young ones remember to brush for the full two minutes (like all the best brushes do). Even though a dental-hygiene tool might not seem like a particularly exciting stocking stuffer, the Quip’s smooth, minimalist design packs an impressive punch that even the least-discerning child may recognize as a tremendous upgrade—especially when compared with the cartoonish designs of some other electric toothbrushes for kids. When I gave my daughter her Quip, she lit up and genuinely thanked me for her “big girl toothbrush.”—Nancy ReddWe love finding gifts that are unusual, thoughtful, and well vetted. See even more gift ideas we recommend.
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