My soon-to-be 7 year old daughter is all about imaginative pretend play so much of her Christmas Wish List is dedicated to what I like to call “at home experiences”. Those gifts that will just carry her into another world and allow her to be creative and imaginative while also allowing us to take a break during the rest of the year while she plays.
This entire post is dedicated to ideas and experience for kids who are easily swept up into the world of imagination and what types of gifts you can give children like this for the holidays or for birthdays! We even have a special section for tweens/teens!
Complete One Box Play Sets:
These are EASY grab and go gifts that will provide hours of fun all year long and don’t require additional accessories to play with. However many of these offer loads of additional add-on sets and accessories and most come in a wide variety of prices ranging from just a few dollars to well over $100.
- Playmobile Play Sets – These are perfect for all ages and require minimal building.
- Harry Potter / Hogwarts Play Sets – My new personal favorite this year! Complete with lights and sounds, your kids can now act out their favorite scenes in Hogwarts, and create new ones! They also have a new Great Hall Mini play set out here.
- Disney Animator Sets – The best selection of these are at Target and they are perfect for young Disney lovers! They are small favorite Disney figurines that come with accessories in an enclosed play set container like a house!
- Dinosaur Play Sets
- LEGO play sets – These are of course the most well known but easily themed into brands like Disney and Minecraft, themed by types like animals, or themed by categories like Architecture, Creator, Friends, etc.
- Polly Pockets – Popular for decades, these tiny sets are perfect for on the go and I love that they come in their own storage containers so you don’t lose small pieces! These are usually my go-to gift if I don’t know a child very well.
- Barbie Play Sets – Perhaps the ultimate queen of play sets is Barbie. I absolutely love their career line of dolls which comes with everything related to that career. You’ll find things like a Vet Tech, Chicken Farmer, doctor’s clinic, entomologist, musician’s studio and more.
- Play Dough and Play Sand Play Sets – There are a few great complete Play-Doh and play sand sets that make a great “all in one” play experience for pretend! Check out this ice cream truck, dinosaur play set, construction site set (or another construction site set here), dentist play set.
Which is best? That depends on the child of course! Overall for younger children (ages 4-6) I like to stick to Playmobile because there is less of a building requirement than LEGO. For older kids 6+ I love Polly Pockets unless I specifically know they are into Barbies because they tend to grow with them as they get older.
Build Your Own Specialized Play Sets + Accessories:
This category includes smaller individual sets of pretty much anything listed in the “complete one box” category above as well. I like these “build your own” options because I can personalize it to my daughter’s interests and to be honest it’s cheaper up front when needing smaller costs.
I usually need a pretty good sized area though for storage to keep all of the collections straight!
- Melissa & Doug – Popular for it’s long lasting wooden toys, Melissa & Doug is connoisseur to individual pretend play sets for kids! From ice cream scoop sets, pretend coffee pots, dress up trunks, cleaning sets, and so much more, they’ve got just about everything covered in the wooden toys pretend play department.
- 18 inch Doll Sets (American Girl, Our Generation, etc.) – This is a rabbit hole and obsession of its own but primarily caters to children who like to play with dolls. Usually you buy a doll (ranges from $20-100) and then you purchase the accessories separately. You’ll find extras like horse stables, kitchen sets, baby nurseries, wheelchairs, slumber parties, cameras & travel, bunk beds, bike carriers and so much more!
- Play Kitchens – I highly recommend a play kitchen for your youngest of children. It’s a great investment that will last for many years and can be re-sold for a good price. You can build off of this by adding a market area, a working sink set, baskets, a cash register, play food, tea tables, and so much more.
- Train Sets – Another item I highly recommend for younger kids into transportation! You can use your train table for cars, dinosaurs, and any other whim that your child is into! As they get older you can use it to stack marble mazes on, faux grass and dinosaurs, slot car tracks, LEGOs and so much more!
Unique Imaginative Arts & Craft Experiences:
I really love to give practical gifts, or gifts that I know won’t just be tossed aside after the first five minutes. Sometimes I consider these “consumable” because they are items used for an experience. You can fit pretty much any science or arts and crafts kit in here but here are a few I especially love.
- Make your own book or order a custom plush based on your child’s creation. There are so many ways you can make your child’s imagination come alive! This Create Your Own Storybook is on my daughter’s wishlist! Origami and book art are popular choices here too. Scrapbooking is perhaps the most popular type of creative book-related art!
- Crayola Scribble Scrubbies – This is one of my absolute favorite pretend play art sets! My daughter LOVES these and they are very affordable running between $10-20! They are small white figurines that your kids can color with markers and then “wash” off in the included bath tub or whatever set you’ve chosen to buy.
- Jewelry Sets – Coding Charms, Flower Crowns & Bracelets, Metal Hand Stamped Jewelry
- Creative Art Sets – Ideas for this category are only limited by your imagination! You can consider ideas like a Face Painting set, fabric for sewing puppets and clothes, mix your own fragrance set, solar printing set, needle felting or embroidery, candle making kit, etc.
- Invest in equipment to encourage their expressive creativity such as a Cricut machine, sewing machine, a button badge maker, wood lathe (teens), glass working or even taxidermy etc.
Imaginative Role Play & Dress Up Sets:
- Classroom / Be a Teacher School Play Set
- Safari Guide
- Doctor White Lab Coat set
- Princess Dress Up Trunk
- 8 Pack Career Set
Don’t be afraid to hit up your local thrift store and piece together some fun and wild pieces! Look for big puffy outfits, faux fur, glitz & glimmer, hats, accessories like gloves and purses, and more! Young kids could care less if you have a secondhand “trunk” of dress up clothes!
Imaginative Creative Experiences for Tweens & Teens
Teens can be a really tough bunch to buy for! If you know your teen really well it is awesome to give them something they can experience or even grow into a new skill! Here are some unique ideas that might fit your special teen:
- Virtual Reality
- Button / Badge Maker
- Engineering / Soldering Kits
- DIY Make Your Own Guitar Kits
- Body Art Tattoo Ink kits
- Jewelry Making Kits
- Candle Making Kits
- Culinary Experiences
- Escape Rooms
- Weekend themed Getaway
- Terrarium / Vivarium / Fairy Garden
- Start-up Business
- Wood Working / Metal Working
- Canvas Art sets
How to Find the Best Deals on Gifts:
Buy early this year! As you’ve probably heard there are multiple issues with our supply chain/shipping issues in the USA so I’m taking the easy road and buying early this year!
- Join our (free!) Money Saving Deals Group on Facebook! I post deals there throughout the year but more heavily during the holidays!
- Make an Amazon Wishlist just to keep track of what you are looking for and so you can browse your entire list for sales at one time. This is great even if you plan on shopping around just to have everything in one place! Look at it often and note the prices!
- Keep an eye out for special deals. Target often has a “25% off one toy” type deal. Amazon will have “Buy 2 Get 1 Free Deals” or “Get $10 off $30 of books” etc. These types of deals will help your overall budget, especially on items that you can’t find on sale any other way.
- Buy in bulk. Utilize places like Costco or Sam’s Club to buy bulk gift cards or gifts that you can break into smaller gifts!