My friend Sarah of Clover Lane is hosting a Linky party on favorite toys.  She shares some fantastic ideas.  I love the classic toys, games and books that my kids have enjoyed over the years.  I remember being so proud one year that my kids did not receive anything that contained batteries.

You know, as a kid, I always wanted an Easy Bake Oven or the Atari.  Those were the things that I wanted to play with when I went over to my neighbor’s house.  However, my friends were already completely bored by them and never wanted to play with those things when I came over.  What did we do?  We usually fell back on classic card games, board games, jacks, or running around outside playing tag and hide and seek.

I have fallen prey to the begging for certain items “as advertised on TV.”  In most cases, they turned out to be a novelty that soon fell to the bottom of the toy box.   My focus has been to capture their interests and as soon as they are old enough, give them “the real stuff.”  That means real kitchen ware for the budding baker.  (Last year Annie got the Wilton giant cupcake pan.  She enjoys making it and it tastes great.  It’s always a hit at parties.)  Another example would be real tools, perhaps junior-sized.  For the budding artist, good quality sketch pads, paper, and Prisma colored pencils (not inexpensive.)  For the music lover, instruments, microphones, sheet music, CDs, gift cards.  For the sports enthusiast:  skateboards, skates, orange cones, balls, balls, and balls!  For the budding photographer:  camera, videocamera.  I’ve gone through my share of toy cameras and most are junk.  I’m not opposed to all electronics.  Years ago Annie got the Barbie Video Camera.  That was one of the best gifts ever.  All the kids have enjoyed making movies.  It truly is a creative tool.  Last year she graduated to a Flip Video and the creativity continues!

If you are familiar with my blog, you know that handmade gifts are huge in our house.  Some of my favorite gifts to make and give are listed on this post.

But books have been a mainstay gift item over the years.  There are books in every corner of my house.  I wish I had more bookshelf space because I’d quickly fill it!

With our love of the lake, boats, and sailing, tales from the sea have been a mainstay gift for my husband.  Endurance, the story of Shackleton, remains on of my favorite survival stories.

The out-of-print “Practical Navigator” was a gift to my husband during our early years.

Another set of books that are a hit with all the boys in our house are the “Greatest Stories Never Told” series  by the History Channel.   There are at least two more floating around the house – the original and one on scientific discoveries.  They are wonderful books because they are collections of stories which are quick and easy to read.  They made a nice gift for my history-loving nephew – even as a college-aged kid!

Here’s the Target bookshelf in the piano room.  It is filled with sheet music, yearbooks, dictionaries, fairy tales, to name a few.

Speaking of music, I consider sheet music books a great gift.

Miss Pink has her collections.

Since she is my crafty one, she has appreciated all the Klutz and American Girl craft books.  These are perennial favorites.  They are a bit pricey and don’t always look like “enough” to give as a gift, but some of my favorites, in addition to the ones shown below, include Foxtail, Fashion Design, and Chinese Jumprope.

My kids have always enjoyed scratch art sheets and/or books.  This one is about fashion design.

Annie has an interest in art and fashion so this collection of books and kits are keepers!

Scrapbook papers and photo albums are another hit.

Moving on to my 11 year old’s room.  He, too, has a stack of books.  Many of those are hand-me-downs, but he has added his own favorites, like the Wimpy Kids series.  Yes, that is a book about Guns on the bottom – something he bought.

We have encouraged his love of war history (among other things) with the top-notch Eyewitness Books.  These books are full of photos and information.  He will look through these books over and over again.

See that piece of foam?  That is left over from my window seat project.  That has become his most played-with object lately!

He is also a struggling reader, so we listen to books on tape as well as read together.  Currently, his favorites include “Nick of Time” and “The 39 Clues”.  I learned with my oldest son that you have to be creative with reading.  At the recommendation of the children’s librarian, we listened to “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen.  We were all captivated by this story.  Joey had to read the book even after listening to it.  We continued to read and listen to the entire series.  Recently, we lent it to my 30+ neighbor to read.  If you haven’t read a Gary Paulsen book, start here!  And if you need to interest a young boy in books, start here!

Or here:  Artemis Fowl!  Great to listen to and read.

Those Artemis books are actually on my daughter’s bookshelf.  This is only part of the bookshelf (the bottom was too messy.)  She has twin bookshelves on either side of her bed and they are packed!  She has just about every collection/series of books possible.  She loves, loves, loves reading – and has always enjoyed books.  I guess it’s no surprise she scored perfect scores on Reading and Writing on her ACTs!  (When you have kids on both ends of the spectrum, it’s ok to brag, right?)


I won’t show you a close-up of our downstairs bookshelf.  It’s become a hodge podge of sheet music, coffee table books, encyclopedias, classics, travel books, etc.

The Guinness World Record books are classics for anyone.  They are a great gift for a teen boy.

These new interactive-style books are hits in our house.  We received the “ND Football Vault” as a gift last year.  Everyone enjoyed pulling out the ticket stubs and other memorabilia tucked inside various pockets.  My son liked it so much he wanted to find a similar-style book for his music-loving brother and bought him the “Lennon” book.

Even I got to enjoy a similar-styled Jane Austen book!

Just for good measure, I will add that we also enjoy a good computer game now and then.  I enjoyed playing all (but this last one) of the Myst games with my son.  I loved that they required you to think and explore.  No guns or guts here.  And my entire family enjoys the Nancy Drew computer games.  It’s filled with interesting puzzles, challenges and intrigue.

There you have it!  I hope this has inspired you to include books on your gift-giving lists.  If you have ideas you would like to share, please let me know.