Last-minute (simple) Christmas gift ideas

Okay, maybe not last-minute. But there are only six days left to shop on Amazon in time for Christmas delivery, so I thought I’d share what we’re getting for Christmas gifts, along with a few other ideas of things we love around here. Aside from Etsy, Amazon is my favorite place to buy gifts en masse.

As I’ve said many times, simple living isn’t about having nothing. It’s about being intentional with what you bring in to your house, so that everything you have, you love. It’s about embracing quality over quantity. And it’s about appreciating the beauty of little things.

Here are some of my Amazon gift ideas. If you order this week, you’ll still have time to put them under the tree.

For Crafters

Handmade Home

Amanda Soule shares beautifully simple projects for you and your little ones to craft together. 

Kid Made Modern

I love Todd Oldham’s style, and my daughter loves crafting, so this would make a great gift for any hands-on kid in your life.

Brother Computerized Free-Arm Sewing Machine

I bought this sewing machine this spring, when we returned to the States.  I love it!  It’s simple, lightweight, durable, and easy to use.

Melissa & Doug Standing Easel

A chalkboard on one side; a whiteboard on the other, and scroll paper down either side.  What’s not to love?  Our kids dig it.

Large Moleskine Sketchbook

Moleskine notebooks are durable and made of high-quality paper.  Pair this with some good pens or pencils, and you’ve got a great gift for any budding artist.

For Cooks & Foodies

How to Cook Everything

This is my main go-to cookbook — I use it several times a week. Mark Bittman has written a modern-day classic. A simple home doesn’t need many cookbooks, but I think this is one of them.

KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer

The classic cooking tool for generations of modern-day cooks, this gadget does so much.  Comes in a bajillion colors.  You can even find it refurbished for a slightly smaller price.

Bodum 8-cup Stainless Steel Thermal Press

This is a lovely French press for entertaining, and it holds a ton of coffee, too.  Heavy and durable, it keeps coffee warm for hours while staying cool on the outside.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Quite possibly one of my favorite all-time books, period.  Barbara Kingsolver is a master wordsmith, and her journal of living off the land for one year will change your life unlike many other books.  A must read.

Nesting Melamine Mixing Bowls

I use these bowls daily.  They’ve withstood numerous drops by little hands, and they’re a snap to clean up.

Cuisinart 2-Quart Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker

Kyle got me this for Christmas last year, and I’m so glad he did.  Enjoy ice cream without additives from store-bought.  If you keep the bowl insert in the freezer, you’ll have ice cream ready to eat in 20 minutes.

For Little Ones

Wood blocks
You can’t go wrong with this classic toy that encourages hours of open-ended play.
Green Toys Trucks

We love the Green Toys brand! They’re made of 100% recycled milk jugs, and are super durable.
$14.99 – $23.94

Tool kit

This baby will last a long while and allows plenty of room for creativity. Definitely go for wooden here — much more durable.

Wooden  magnetic “paper” dolls

My daughter got these when she was around three years old these and still plays with them.

Leapfrog Fridge Phonics

I admit it — my kids learned their letters and sounds at an early age with help from this toy.  It’s one of the few battery-operated toys in our home I’m thankful for.

Wooden Cutting Food

Both our kids and kids that come over spend hours with this set of food you can “cut.”  Great for many ages, so it’ll last for years of play.


Amazon Kindle

I’ve been on the fence on this one for years, but I finally admit that I want one.  Hello, cutting down on book clutter.


This is Kyle’s and my joint Christmas present this year.  We don’t have cable and barely watch TV, but we love our Netflix and the occasional Hulu show.  Now our laptops will be free with this nifty device.

Flip Video Camera

This camera is perfect for tossing in to your purse or diaper bag, just in case your kids do something cute.  Which, face it, odds are pretty high.

Canon Powershot Digital Camera

We’ve bought this camera three times.  The first one was lost in the airport in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; the second one was stolen on a ferryboat in Istanbul.  Kyle’s ready to lose our current one so we can upgrade again.

Laptop Tray

If you’re like us and work from home, but in so small a place you don’t have a designated office, a laptop tray is the next best thing.  This one is sturdy yet stylish.

Family Fun

Apples to Apples

This game has become an extended family classic, as well as a favorite when friends come over to hang out.  Great fun.  They also have a junior version.

The Game of Things

Playing this game, too, has become a recent ritual in our extended family.  It’s sort-of like Balderdash, but with ideas instead of words.  Hard to explain, but it’s a blast to play.

Toy Story 3

If you’re in to family movie night, this new release is a great one for many ages.  Our two-year-old covered his eyes a few times, but he still enjoyed it, and my parents laughed their hearts out.

Bocce Ball set

This is an old school lawn game originating in Italy, but it’s become quite popular worldwide over the years.  Great for all ages.  Croquet‘s a good choice, too.

The Chronicles of Narnia box set

Every family should read this series out loud, together.  CS Lewis’ classic  is an attention grabber for young and old alike.

Movie Tickets

We go to the movie theater maybe twice a year, tickets are so expensive.  So it’s especially fun to get them as gifts.  I love the gift of time, and it takes up much less space, too.
price varies

I’m happy to say that other than stocking stuffers, we’re done with gift giving. I love shopping online and can’t imagine dealing with store crowds. Now I’ll be spending this next week baking cookies with my kids, watching our favorite Christmas flicks, and driving through town, looking at Christmas lights… Some of my favorite things.

Who’s left on your gift-giving list?

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Thanks for the great ideas!

    I posted an instructable for an easy DIY family photo calendar:

    Just insert your personal photos and print it . Done in 30 minutes, pretty ok on the cost side.

  2. Good Ideas- We love the tug boats by green toys!

  3. I love Apples to Apples its such a fun game, I don’t think i’ve heard of The Game of Things but i def. want to find out more about it.. = D thanks for the ideas

  4. Great list! I’ve been doing a lot of caregiving and running late this year as far as thinking about gifts goes. You helped me today.

  5. Ikea has a good wooden easel for about 1/3 the price of the M&D one, too. 😉

  6. Tsh, Thanks so much for this great post. I just ordered the laptop tray for my husband for Christmas. I actually ordered it from Target – the shipping was alot cheaper than Amazon. Blessings!

  7. We have a lot of the same favorites. Good choices!

  8. Ooo, I want a laptop tray for myself! 🙂
    Thanks for recommending the How to Cook Everything book, I think I am going to get it for my hubby! He’s cooks more than me, but still needs some educating, lol!

  9. Oh, we love Apples to Apples! Great list! Can I forward it to my husband? 😉

    Oddly enough, I’ve still got my kids left to shop for. But inspired by today’s post over at Simple Organic, I’m considering a non-material gift. Perhaps we’ll take a train ride up to Quebec City for fun. The boys would love that!

  10. Especially love the family fun stuff. Didn’t know Apples to Apples and The Game of Things, but I’m a real sucker for those kind of party games!

  11. We love Apples to Apples here too. Lately we’ve scored a whole bunch of nearly new games from local thrift stores, so we’ve gotten to try lots of new ones. Cranium, Scattergories and Hive are the new favorites here. Oh, and my kids love the new game “Do Tell” too. That’s a great one for families to play together. 🙂

  12. This is a great list! I’m in love with the laptop tray! Unfortunately, it’s not available in Germany.
    I still have to get gifts for two people: My dad, who said he doesn’t want anything as my parents are in serious decluttering mode. So maybe he’ll get something that he can use up, like yummy jam. And the second one is my husband. He’s getting a barbecue he has long coveted. But shhh, don’t tell him.

  13. Great ideas! We have a Roku and it is really nice. We like to watch old episodes of Whale Wars, American Pickers and Parks & Rec.

  14. Good God, I’m so glad I found your blog. Such a treat to find you in my inbox!

  15. I love shopping on-line and think as far as gift buying goes, it doesn’t get any easier (or simpler). I love that french press carafe – who knew?

    We just bought our daughter a Kindle, I’m sold on the idea from a simple living standpoint. One gadget, many, many books at your fingertips.

  16. LOVE LOVE LOVE the Kindle! Best present I ever bought myself. And, you can gets tons of free books for it — I read voraciously and haven’t spent more than $50 or so and have a Kindle full of books… did I mention I LOVE THIS??? 🙂

  17. Oh… and BTW… you can get the Kindle Wi-fi version for about $135. The 3G version can download books anywhere (even while riding in the car) but how many times are you not in a Wi-Fi zone anymore? I have the 3G version but I don’t think I’d miss anything if I had the Wi-Fi version.

  18. Thank you so much for this! I have also been eying the amazon countdown for Christmas delivery, and sweating as I tried to come up with something for kids older than my own. I’ve gotten itunes in the past, and that went over pretty well, but I love the fandango idea.

    On the Kindle note, I love it and want one and definitely see the merits to limiting the acquisition of books, but I also love the “book clutter” we have about the house. We inherited an extensive collection of books, and although I would never purchase such a library on my own, I am grateful for it. I love finding my children incorporating geography books into their pretend world or referencing a favorite art book as they paint. There’s a spontaneity and discovery at play that doesn’t come with an e-reader.

    • I know, that’s my biggest hesitation with the Kindle. I don’t think I could replace the current library we already have — it’d just keep it from getting bigger. And I think we’d keep buying traditional children’s books. Those are just too precious to me. There is something cozy about being surrounded by books, no?

  19. I discovered Christmas shopping on Amazon this year and I’m never going back! It’s been soo nice. And i have noticed a lot of the items have free shipping at Christmas…all of mine did but one. I love that wooden tool box, even though I thought I had all my Christmas shopping done I might have to hurry and place an order for that one. 🙂

  20. Such good ideas! I especially love the Green Toys idea…I hadn’t heard of that brand before. Shopping online is the greatest, isn’t it? I love skipping the hassle & crowds of the mall.

  21. These are great ideas! What are you doing for stocking stuffers?

    • Earlier in the fall I got some “classic” toys like Silly Putty, those balsa wood airplanes you put together, a Slinky, etc. Each kid gets like 2 of those, then a small book, a magazine/coloring book/activity book, pens or crayons, a bit of candy, and fruit. Thankfully, our stockings aren’t big. 🙂

      • We do similar stocking stuffers. This year we found animalz, which we love, at Ocean State Job Lot for $2. They are so sweet and simple that we got each of our 3 girls a couple of them.

  22. Great tips!! Good to know on the sewing machine too!

  23. We are trying to do mostly homemade- but it has been great depending on the Net for other things- keeps me out of the mall!

  24. Just family, co-workers, and teams from the nonprofits I work with.

  25. Great ideas. But don’t forget the little, locally owned shops (a dying breed for sure). They may not have the prices and you have to leave your house but if we don’t support them we are left with an online life and I just don’t think we were created for that—even when it comes to shopping. There are relationships built in small shops not to mention a more vibrant, dymanic and healthy local economy. I could just cry when I see the remains of our downtown core. Maybe I’m dinasour and I need to move on….?

  26. You have some great ideas here, thanks! I have never seen a laptop tray before, but I imagine it would be very useful and good for your neck too!

  27. Nice long list of ideas – easier than trawling through the Argos catalogue

  28. Informative list. It is surely better than good old cards and candies. A few of your selections, like the sewing machine, are very useful. Thanks.

  29. Apples to Apples game rocks! A small confession … we bought this game for my daughter a few years back and I had no idea really what it was all about. But long story short … wasn’t long before us adults were asking the kids where the game was to play with friends over some drinks.

    So if anyone is looking last minute for a great fun game for the kids or family, highly recommend buying one. Lots of laughs by all who play

    Merry Christmas … only a few more sleeps!

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