2012 Holiday Gift Guide and Giveaway

When I first started blogging, holiday gift guides seemed like a fun little way to try out new products, work with great brands, and make carefully selected recommendations to my readers. I quickly realized that gift guides are really a way that bloggers torture themselves each holiday season by committing to far more reviews than they have time for and setting themselves up for hours of fighting with everything from image editing to hyperlinking.

With that said, I have found gift selection to be a huge challenge for my six year old son and eight year old daughter and so decided to put together a holiday gift guide that focuses on the challenges other moms like myself are facing.  My son is too old for some of the coolest gifts and gadgets out there that are aimed at three and four year olds, yet isn’t ready for some big kid stuff that is great for kids age eight and up. My daughter is heading swiftly into the tween mindset, but is still young enough to need some careful sheltering from her parents.

That’s right – we are stuck between Boppy and Bieber, and it can make gift-giving a nightmare.  

I hope that my journey to find fun gifts will also help some of you! So without further ado, I give you my 2012 Holiday Gift Guide and Giveaway!

Be sure to enter to win the giveaway in the girls’ section of the guide.

Toys for Boys


We are unapologetically huge Hasbro fans in my home, and KOOSH is our newest love in the long-term relationship we have with one of the world’s top toy manufacturers.  KOOSH ball launchers beautifully bridge that gap between pre-school boy and ready-for-big-scary-toys upper elementary.  Not only are the launchers easy to use, but they are also safe.  I know this because I’ve been hit once or twice with a flying KOOSH ball!  They are also available at a variety of price points that won’t break the bank, making them perfect for a spot under the tree courtesy of Santa or a wish list for grandparents or aunts and uncles.


This product from KOOSH combines launching balls with a slingshot, Angry Birds, and Star Wars, all in one product.  It is like the holy trinity of digital age boyhood and only costs $14.99.  Hasbro, I bow down to you in awe…


If you are looking for a great higher priced holiday gift (available for $39.99) for your boy age 5 and up, you need to check out this game from Hasbro.  Again Hasbro has blown me away by combining Star Wars and Angry Birds with a toy that forces my child to look up from a screen and play.  Kids use the pieces of this game to build an AT-AT, which every child of the 1980’s remembers fondly.  They then get to launch Angry Birds Star Wars characters at the AT-AT with a…wait for it…lightsaber launcher.  While I’ve included this on my Toys for Boys list, I’m fairly sure that quite a few of you have husbands who would love to receive this Christmas morning!


The Playskool Heroes line of products is appropriate for boys as young as three, but has something that will keep an older boys’ attention – the characters they love.  My son loves his Marvel heroes, but at six is not yet old enough for some of the more sophisticated Marvel products.  Playskool Heroes gives him favorite like Spider-Man, Hulk and Iron Man with more small boy charm than some of their big kid character peers.  And in case you don’t already have enough Star Wars in your holiday, there are even Star Wars Jedi Force Playskool Heroes!


The Imaginext line of toys from Fisher-Price bridges that little boy/big boy gap in much the same way as the Playskool Heroes.  These products tend to be a bit more detailed and their price points reflect that.  If your boy already loves Playskool Heroes and seems ready to move up to the next level of play, you may want to consider adding some Imaginext products to his collection.  Like Playskool Heroes, Imaginext is available in favorite characters such as Batman and Disney’s Toy Story.


Kre-O building blocks are very similar to and compatible with Lego blocks, but are at a budget friendlier price point and available in Transformers theme kits. My son loves Transformers, but some of the products geared to older boys on the scarier side of fun. The Kre-O Transformers are fierce yet friendly.  Crazy, but true!  They also combine building with action figure role play in a way that gets my little guy’s brain and hands working simultaneously. I love Kre-O!


My son loves Poptropica.com, a virtual world and adventure game for kids. He loves it so much, in fact, that he has even begun reading books about it. I love any opportunity for the online characters my children love to come off the screen, forcing them to look up from their devices, so I love these goofy little Poptropica figurines from Jazwares.  The 3 inch and 6 inch figurines make perfect stocking stuffers for tech-obsessed kids, and the Poptropica blimp is the perfect wow them on Christmas morning present for the digitally minded among us.


These powerful little cars by Moose Toys are the perfect holiday toy for boys ages six and up because you can buy just one stunt car for $5.99 and use it as a stocking stuffer, or you can buy several plus track sets for a larger grandparent or Santa gift.  Micro Chargers are tiny cars that “charge” for a short time and then shoot out to race across your kitchen floor, scaring your cat and entertaining your son.


Somehow these adorable little guys completely remained off of my radar until earlier this fall when I “met” Brok the Brachiosaurus at an event.  While they’re safe for kids as young as three, they are interesting enough to hold the attention of my six year old.  Each dinosaur also converts to a vehicle as the electronic display screen switches from dino eyes to a driver.  Remember all of that talk above about Star Wars and Angry Birds combining?  Well these cuties combine dinosaurs and vehicles.  This?  Is genius.


I have always loved cars, so Ridemakerz are especially fun for me as a parent. These cars allow you to make customized changes such as popping the axle down for a higher ride or popping some new rims on your wheels.  But unlike model cars or other toys aimed at older boys, these customizations are great for little fingers.  My six year old is able to customize his cars completely on his own, although as much as I enjoy playing with Ridemakerz, I almost never let that happen.

Tween Girl Gift Guide


My daughter has loved Harumika products for a couple years and continues to play with them often.  The recommended age for these fashion creation sets is six to ten, but I don’t see my eight year old daughter putting her Harumika away any time soon.  We have added additional pieces of fabric including our own scraps to her set, and she even uses her Harumika form to create ideas to come to life in a different sewing fashion set she owns. This is a great gift for girls who love fashion and creativity but are not yet ready to sew.


I played with LEGO bricks often as a child and never once asked that they come in “girl” sets or colors, and yet I have watched the LEGO Friends line ignite a spark in my daughter in a way that the “boy’ LEGO sets simply could not do.  My daughter loves the characters included with LEGO Friends, including the animals, and loves to first build the structures and then play with the figures for hours upon hours.  These beautifully detailed sets make a wonderful holiday gift for tween girls.


They’re back!  I was beside myself with giddiness when I rediscovered Shrinky Dinks at a toy fair earlier this fall and am especially happy to share that  Shrinky Dinks no longer require you to stand in front of the oven, waiting impatiently for your creations to magically shrink and harden.  The new Shrinky Dinks are now made in The Incredible Shrinky Dinks Maker, which retails for $34.99.  Shrinky Dinks has also gotten some great licensing rights such as Disney Princess and Barbie to go along with favorites such as fairies and horses.

GIVEAWAY!  One reader will win a Shrinky Dinks Maker!

 To enter to win simply tell me in the comments what your favorite toy was when you were a child.  This giveaway is open to U.S. residents age 18 and older and ends December 15th at 11:59 p.m. ET


I finally broke down and bought my daughter her first American Girl doll a couple months ago after many years of begging, and I cannot believe how much she plays with her doll.  I was absolutely right to wait and am enjoying watching her take great care of this one special doll in a way far different from how she interacted with dolls when she was younger.  While the dolls are beautiful and very special to little girls, what I really want to highlight on this gift guide is other American Girl offerings.

This year my daughter’s holiday dress will not only be American Girl, but she will have the matching dress, shown above, for her American Girl doll.  Christmas Eve is a magical night in our home, and I know that this gift will make the night even more magical for her.

There will also be American Girl books under the tree.  Our American Girl book journey began when I purchased The Care and Keeping of You, which I am reading with my tween to help guide those hard-to-have conversations.  We have since become hooked not only on the American Girl advice series including titles like A Smart Girl’s Guide to Liking Herself and Friends: Making Them and Keeping Them, but my daughter is also hooked on the historical fiction series.  I highly recommend all of the American Girl books and look forward to seeing more in my own home through the next few years.

All American Girl products can be found at AmericanGirl.com.


The Blingles Bling Studio is any tween girl’s dream holiday present.  Each kit comes with over 300 gems, a studio where they can create their Blingles, a gem pen, a glue roll, transfer slides, design templates, and an instruction booklet.  Girls use the kit to create “bling” for everything from their backpacks to bracelets to shoes.  My daughter loves to work with crafty kits and Blingles takes her craftiness to a whole new tween level.


I set out to create a mostly tech-free holiday guide this year, but my daughter is flying through books so quickly that we are running out of space on our bookcases and money in our wallets!  Many libraries allow users to “borrow” ebooks, and downloaded purchases are easier to store, read, and take with you on an ereader than traditional books.  Will we continue to buy paper books for our children?  Absolutely.  But I can no longer deny that my little reader needs a Nook library of her own!


I live in a board game loving house with cupboards and drawers and shelves overflowing with classics like Monopoly – two version! – and new games from our favorite innovative game maker, Gamewright.  We still believe that there is no better way to get all four members of our family together than sitting down at the table around a favorite board game.  Here are some that we love right now, perfect for boys and girls.

Hasbro Games:

Disney Where’s My Water? Game



Bop It! XT



The Game of Life


Gamewright Games:

Order’s Up!

Too Many Monkeys

Wig Out


Knock Your Blocks Off

Rory’s Story Cubes

Scallywags – one of our favorites of the year!

Sleeping Queens


The Big Fat Tomato Game

Some product was provided for review, some product was purchased, and some product was tested and returned.  Product was provided for giveaway. All opinions are my own.

A note about tech: While some of today’s top toys are handheld devices specifically for kids, you will not see them on this list because I believe they will likely make your children’s wish lists whether I recommend them or not.  Instead my goal was to offer some alternatives for parents who, like me, are looking to limit both screen time and budget this holiday season.  May you have a beautiful holiday with your families and find time to enjoy each other while enjoying fun new toys!








Written by: Amy

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