What To Buy Your Grandchildren This Christmas, According To A Grandma Of 4

A Grandparent’s Guide To Winning The Holidays

header_grandparents gift guide
Image: Rachel Hudgins Photography

As if figuring out your own holiday gift buying strategy for your children wasn’t stressful enough, when you field that phone call from Grandma on what she should buy the kids, it creates another layer of complicated planning. Whether she wants to splurge and shower your kiddos with expensive stuff you don’t think they need, or she’s demanding a list of gifts that feel relevant and age appropriate, you both need a holiday shopping plan. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” to pass along to grandparents:

  • When it comes to budget, be on the same page. Make sure your own parents are sticking to what you feel is an appropriate amount to spend on your kids. (Like, no real ponies, please.)
  • The holidays are not a competition. We all know the season should be about family and shared experiences as opposed to wanton materialism.  More gifts doesn’t = more love, obviously.
  • “Value” can be different than “cost.” Look for gifts that provide educational value, or support creativity, as opposed to something expensive that may be tossed aside.

Need some great gift ideas for grandparents to grab? We asked Valerie Ireland, a Scary Mommy mother-in-law and grandmother of four to weigh in with her picks. She is seriously committed about holiday shopping:

“I plan for months.  I read reviews. I check out toy stores and gift guides.  I start discussing it with my daughter and daughter-in-law long before they are ready to turn their attention to Christmas. It is a bit of a family joke.” 

Sounds like a lot of work, but Valerie enjoys Christmas much more as a grandma:

I don’t have that level of exhaustion I used to have when my kids were little.  I’m not Santa. I’m Grandma! I get to watch their beautiful faces as I sip my coffee.  It is truly one of my happiest moments of the entire year. I love them and I love toys!”

Here are some of Valerie’s top picks:

LEARNING RESOURCES Smart Counting Cookies

This is a fun compact toy at a great price point. It works well with restaurant or kitchen play. . The chocolate chips are numbered from zero to ten, which makes them good for counting. And sharing!”

$14.48 AT AMAZON

LEARNING RESOURCES Smart Snacks Shape Sorting Cupcakes

This is another popular one. Kids love doling these out around the room.  Promotes social interaction, sharing, color recognition. This gets used a lot at our house.”

$18.23 AT AMAZON

LEAPFROG Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket

My own daughter loved this, in another rendition, as my granddaughter did a generation later.  This gets used for years.”

$21.95 AT AMAZON

DITTY BIRD Interactive Children's Songs Book

An obvious choice for kids who love to sing along in the car.”

$16.49 AT AMAZON

HOT WHEELS Super Ultimate Garage Playset

You need some space for this but a few kids can stand around it at the same time, taking turns at sending their cars down the track. Huge hit.”

$169.99 AT AMAZON

KIDKRAFT Vintage Play Kitchen

I think is priced well for what this is.  This has longevity and durability! A pain to put together maybe but hey, that’s what dads are for!”

$91.98 AT AMAZON

MELISSA & DOUG Let's Play House! Condiment Set

“I bought this for the kids this year. It looks like those wire baskets found on diner restaurant tables.”

$11.50 AT AMAZON

LEARNING RESOURCES Serve It Up! Play Restaurant

My go-to toys are often from Learning Resources. Starting when they are toddlers, Learning Resource has lots of good educational toys.

I also got them this Serve it Up playset, which I mainly bought because of the cute menus.  They will have a ball with that.”

$24.99 AT AMAZON


“The best gift I’ve ever given. Boys and girls love that stroller.  They are sturdy and hold up under lots of active use.  They may cost a little more. But those are still in use three years later, when others have had to be thrown away.  A have a battalion of them for when cousins come over to play. I also have to keep extra baby dolls.”

$19.99 AT AMAZON

TOP BRIGHT Toddler Car Track

I give this to toddlers who are just starting to be able to stand at a toy.  Watch a whole new world open up.”

$31.99 AT AMAZON

FISHER-PRICE Imaginext Batcave

Fisher Price still makes great toys! I am so impressed with the Batman series.  They are sturdy, interactive, good-looking. The figures and cars are a perfect size.  In my experience, it skews a little young. Toddler into early childhood.”

$39.82 AT AMAZON

LEARNING RESOURCES One to Ten Counting Cans Toy Set

“Some people will hate me for this. This is an excellent counting toy with the appeal of play food. The cans are cardboard but ours have held up well.  Warning: you are constantly picking up pieces all over the room. Make the kids help!”

$36.99 AT AMAZON

CALICO CRITTERS Grand Department Store Gift Set

This would have been my own toy of choice, had it been available during my own childhood. I just bought the shopping mall.  I’m not sure who in my family has the space for it. It may stay with grandma and I’m okay with that.”

$119.99 AT AMAZON

OSMO Creative Kit For iPad

“I’m buying this kit this year on the recommendation of my daughter-in-law. It combines virtual interactive play with actual hand held pieces. Great for improving drawing skills.”

$67.01 AT AMAZON

Check out even more great holiday gifts inspired by Valerie’s picks!

SCIENTIFIC EXPLORER My First Mind Blowing Science Kit

This hands-on, 20-piece kit contains 11 activities and seven real chemicals: Red cabbage powder, citric acid, baking soda, three color tabs, crosslinked polyacrylate copolymer, vegetable oil, and corn syrup. Maybe this STEM toy requires a smidge of supervision, but the learning opportunities the come hand-in-hand with this Scientific Explorer activity kit will be appreciated by any seven-year-old and their supervisors!

$12.99 AT AMAZON


If you know a child who collects rocks, shells, and is fascinated with discovering treasures in the dirt or sand, then they will truly treasure this Mega Fossil Dig Kit by National Geographic. Not only does it contain a slab of sandy sediment that a curious kid can use the digging tools to make their way through, but the kit also comes with the Mega Fossil Learning Guide which will educate and inspire the dig along the way.

$26.90 AT AMAZON

SEGOAL Moon Lamp

This moon night light is unlike any other out there, as it was made through the unique process of 3D printing so that every bit of the lamp’s surface is an exact replica of the craters on the real moon, as seen from NASA satellite images. Talk about authentic! With touch-button and remote control directly from a phone, your girl might stay up all night changing the colors and modes rather than getting a good night’s rest.

$21.99 AT AMAZON

AMSCOPE Kids Beginner Microscope

With over 1,000 rave Amazon reviews, this 52-piece AmScope kit features all the things a kid could need to experiment their heart out. The sleek carrying box houses the starter microscope which features a rotating turret that provides six different levels of magnification. It’s the perfect gift for a budding scientist.

$39.99 AT AMAZON

THINKFUN Code Master Programming Logic Game and STEM Toy

This cool gift combines logic of coding and gameplay and it actually teaches programming basics. Code Master contains 10 maps, over 60 levels to solve, 12 guide scrolls, 20 tokens, and an instruction book that also contains the solutions. In this game, the avatar will travel through worlds in search of crystals. But through each level, only a specific coding sequence will help move you along. And if a player makes it all the way to the portal? Bill Gates, basically.

$17.84 AT AMAZON


You May Also Like: Best Gift & Toy Guides For Kids By Age

Although we only recommend picks we really love, we may earn a commission on purchases made through links from our site.
stroke red
LEARNING RESOURCES Smart Counting Cookie...
LEARNING RESOURCES Smart Snacks Shape So...
LEAPFROG Shapes and Sharing Picnic Baske...
DITTY BIRD Interactive Children's Songs ...
HOT WHEELS Super Ultimate Garage Playset
KIDKRAFT Vintage Play Kitchen
MELISSA & DOUG Let's Play House! Condime...
TOP BRIGHT Toddler Car Track
FISHER-PRICE Imaginext Batcave
LEARNING RESOURCES One to Ten Counting C...
CALICO CRITTERS Cozy Cottage Starter Hom...
CALICO CRITTERS Grand Department Store G...
OSMO Creative Kit For iPad
SEGOAL Moon Lamp
AMSCOPE Kids Beginner Microscope
THINKFUN Code Master Programming Logic G...
RAVENSBURGER Gravitrax Starter Set Marbl...