As a mother of a bigger than average- sized family and an occupant of a smaller than average home, I have learned a few tricks for giving my kids’ gifts that take up the least amount of storage space. I need the most playing power per inch I can get! And I don’t have room to waste on things that won’t last… We’ve owned and loved every item on this list for a least a year and most of them for five or more years. And……..you can find all of these on Amazon!
- Blutrack Track Set Every kid enjoys a good race track but they are so hard to store. Not this one! You can unroll it and use it on any surface, over the couch, under the couch, hooked to the window. Works with any size of car but the regular sized hot-wheels are the right size to race two cars against each other. Ages 4 and up, though I have never seen any age of human who didn’t love playing with this toy.
- Tiny Wooden Kitchen No matter where we have lived, there has always been a little corner big enough to fit this little kitchen. After 10 years of play, our 4th daughter has just begun to make us dinner on the tiny stove. We have added a few different foods and utensils over the years to make it “new” again, stored in a basket underneath. Ages 2-5.
- Apron There are so many cute options now for little aprons! I love this kind of gift because it comes with a promise that they will get to help in the kitchen. I wish there were more options for boys but here is one at least. And then about 300 choices for girls. These are cute because you can get matching parent/child aprons in multiple colors.
- Jacks My 7-year-old just got this little set for her birthday and it has been so fun to teach her how to play. I am proud to say I finally was able to scoop up all ten jacks after many failed attempts. I love the satisfying heaviness of these jacks. They come in a tiny wooden box and would fit easily in a desk drawer or closet shelf.
- Razor Scooter Our little scooters have got a lot of miles on them. We have them in every color and the best part is it folds in half to take up even less space. Recommended for ages 5 and older, up to 143 pounds.
- Baseball Bases One of the most perfect space solution gifts I’ve ever come up with. The bases are perfectly flat, taking up hardly any space, but have been so fun for our family. They can pack up easily to turn any park or parking lot into a baseball or kickball field.
- Play Mat This mat transforms any room into a whole town, but rolls up easily and slides under the bed when not in use. My favorite thing to do is park the cars in the parking spots. The little wooden buildings are fun to add on if you have the space to store them.
- Loving Family Dollhouse So a dollhouse isn’t exactly small but the sides on it fold up so it stores easily on the top shelf of a closet. We’ve had ours for many years but I save it for emergencies because I know that every time I get it out, they will play for at least an hour or two. The other reason it saves space is because I have added new dolls and accessories as gifts over the years, so rather than lots of different toys, the same toy has just gotten better and better. Ours doesn’t have a swing set on the side, though. That is super cute!
- Melissa and Doug Sticker Sets We are usually travelling around the holidays so I am always looking for things to do in the car. These sets are adorable, and bonus, they are thin enough to slide under the seats in the car. They won’t last forever but at under $4 each, I’m ok with that. There are lots of cute choices for both boys and girls, ages 3-10. Here are a few more options:
- Water Wow Wow is right! This is another perfect gift for if you’re going to be traveling. We own almost every one of these because when the little kids are using them, the big kids want one too. After you “paint” the pictures with water, they dry and you can do it all over it again. I have these stored in a bag just for car trips. Ages 18 months – 8 years, but have an extra on hand because even teenagers love these too. (I actually find it pretty relaxing myself.)
- Pitch Back This gift has gotten so much mileage at our house and it stores perfectly flat! There is a nice one with perfect reviews, but the one we got was less than $30 and it has held up really well. I have enjoyed trying to hit the strike zone and also having a break from playing catch 24-7 since my son can now play catch with himself if he wants.
- Small Games We don’t have room for a ton of giant board games but we are always looking for card games that don’t take up a ton of space. I just reintroduced Phase 10 last week and I had forgotten how much fun it is. These are a few of our all-time favorites that won’t take up a lot of space in the game closet, or in my case, the game shelf.
- Binoculars This is the only gift my 9-year-old wants for Christmas this year. They are pretty cool and can make almost any activity better, from football games to hiking. I opted not to get a kid version because they are almost the same price and also I’m pretty excited to try them out, myself.
- Ladders Game We got this for Christmas last year and it has been quite popular. I thought it would be just a kid present but it turns out this game can also get pretty competitive with a group of grown men. The whole thing comes apart and stores in a small, zippered case. It will be coming with us on every camping trip and BBQ for the rest of our lives.
- Kendama I was worried someone would wack themselves in the face with these when we got them a few years ago. They have stood the test of time and are an addicting little challenge for kids and grown-ups alike. It says age 12 and up but my 8-year-old had a lot of fun trying.
- Football Guys These little guys come in the smallest container and the field folds right up in there. My boys have spent many, many, many hours arranging them, until the girls swoop in and want to play. There are a ton of different choices for team colors… ours are just red vs. blue. We also have Baseball Guys, but I drew the line at Soccer Guys because we already have plenty of Guys. For ages 3 and up.
- Yo-Yo My 9-year-old got a yo-yo and trick book for his birthday this summer and we have all had fun trying out the different tricks. I once tried to google how to buy a good yo-yo and found there is a 12 step process to choosing a really good one. This is not a really good one but it worked just fine for our non-professional, beginner needs. Eventually both my husband and I “walked the dog” and my son thought we were magic. Actually he didn’t seem adequately impressed but we all had a fun time just the same.
- Schliech Animals These animals will outlast my kids. I love them all. They are good quality, heavy for their size and they always stand up. And the animal bin never seems to get full! They use them for everything from building zoos out of blocks to attacking the dolls in the dollhouse. I cracked myself up last year when my 5-year-old said, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas”. So I gave him one. This is a fun collection to start because there are sooooo many choices, and for every animal there is often a male, female and baby. They make some really awesome dinosaurs as well. This year we are adding the fox, moose, sea turtle, white-tailed buck and fawn to our collection.
- Marble Run Another gift that has stood the test of time at our house and appeals to almost any age. It stays in a bin up high in the closet whenever we have a 1-year-old. Ages 4 and up.
- Books I don’t think my kids have ever had a birthday or Christmas go by without getting some sort of book. I can pack a lot of books on a shelf and I love that my kids can always find something to read in our mini-library. A great resource for choosing books is to look up a Battle of the Books list. Every year, kids in many schools compete by reading these books and seeing how much they can remember from their reading. The books are listed by grade and I have been impressed by the quality and variety of choices for every age. They are often older books and can be bought in paper back for just a few dollars. These are a few choices from the list this year I was excited to add to our collection. For more book ideas, check out my recommendations for Kids’ Cookbooks and Read Aloud Books.
Kindergarten to 2nd Grade
- Lulu and the Brontosaurus
- Knights of the Kitchen Table
- I Survived the Joplin Tornado
- Can I Play Too?
- Last Stop On Market Street
- Strega Nona
- Little Elliot, Big Family
3rd – 4th Grade
- The Chalk Box Kid
- Wanted…. Mud Blossom
- Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
- Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
- Out of My Mind
- The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog
- The Million Dollar Shot
- The Best School Year Ever
- Alvin Ho, Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie