My favorite gift ideas from Amazon

My favorite places to Christmas shop are Etsy and other cottage industries. My second favorite? Amazon. I can’t remember the last time I Christmas shopped at a brick-and-mortar store.

I love shopping online because I’m not a fan of crowds and of being overwhelmed by stuff—if I can’t see it, I don’t know what I’m missing (same goes for my kids, too). And I don’t really miss the decor and ambience because I make up for it ten-fold at home with lights, candles, and Pandora (or Spotify) in the background. Give me pajama pants and a laptop any day.

Unfortunate news—a lot of Etsy shops have stopped taking Christmas orders. Makes sense, since these are usually handmade products. Good news—there’s still plenty of time to shop Amazon in time for December 25.

If you don’t like stores, like me, or if you just don’t feel like fighting the crowds, traffic, and weather, here are some of my favorite gift ideas for Christmas, all on Amazon.

A note about Amazon Prime: If you sign up for Prime, you’ll enjoy free two-day shipping year-round… including Christmas. I also love it because we can instantly stream a lot of movies on Amazon for free, and as of recent, you can also borrow thousands of Kindle books. That’s right, there’s now an Amazon library! It’s $79 annually, and I renew every year. I think it’s worth it. Alright, moving on…

So here are some of my favorite gift ideas—along with a few new items I’m getting the family this year:


Car Carrier
I’m a big Melissa & Doug fan… We got this car carrier for Reed last year, and he and Finn love it. It’s durable, it’s simple, and like most M&D toys, it’s wood. I’m a sucker for wooden toys.

Stacking Construction Vehicles
Also wooden, these are vehicles and puzzles, all in one—you build them by stacking the parts on a base. Also interchangeable, our kids have fun creating unusual vehicles. They come in a set of four, and there’s also a set of emergency vehicles.

Latches Board
If your little one likes fidgeting with latches and locks (and who doesn’t?), this board is perfect. It helps develop fine motor skills, and guess what? It’s made of wood.

Not a week goes by when our kids don’t play with this game. My almost 7-year-old and almost 4-year-old both love Zingo, and I love a game they enjoy together. (Heck, I like playing with them!)

LEGO Ultimate Building Set
My kids are just getting into LEGO (yep, the plural of LEGO is LEGO, in case you were wondering). This set includes 405 open-ended pieces for all sorts of creative play. Don’t write this off as a boy toy—my daughter loves them, too (though she’d probably swoon over this set).

Art Kits & Supplies
Any sort of art supply collection is a great gift idea for kids of all ages, but this one in particular is great for siblings. This kit unfolds to a two-sided easel and includes all sorts of supplies.

Mini Microscope
I first saw this microscope recommended on Facebook (Meredith telling Arianne, actually), and at $3, you can’t beat this stocking stuffer. This pocket microscope is great for any kid who likes to explore—just take it with you and whip out when the need arises (bugs, flowers, dirt… you name it).

Wood blocks 
You can’t go wrong with this classic toy that encourages hours of open-ended play. Building cities, castles, landscapes—our kids play with them daily.

Leapfrog Fridge Phonics
I admit—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.


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 Mixer
I love mine. I’m not big into gadgets that serve only one purpose, so this baby now holds a special place in my heart. Lots of you wanted one, and you can find all sizes and colors on Amazon.

French Press
We had a traditional coffee maker at the beginning of our marriage, but were soon converted to a French press. Simple, durable, minimalist, and in my opinion, makes better coffee, a French press is great for any coffee lover.

This was Kyle’s Father’s Day present this year, and we both love it. We mostly just drink bubbly water, but we also have a collection of syrups, so it’s fun to occasionally whip up an Italian soda. We’ve even made root beer!

Like everybody else, I jumped off the bridge this year, and I’m so glad I did. I adore my Kindle—perfect for cutting down on clutter and for travel (two things I’m passionate about). Our local library also started lending out digital books, so now I can sync my Kindle! Perfect.

Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker
Kyle got me this 2-quart Cuisinart for Christmas a few years ago, 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.

John Adams
This 7-part miniseries is required viewing for all Americans, in my opinion. Based on David McCullough’s book, it’s not only is it masterfully produced and brilliantly acted, but the story line must be told and remembered. I try and watch it at least once annually. (Note: It’s not for younger crowds.) A great, great series.

Dyson Ball
Yeah, so it might be strange to gift a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. But if you know someone who needs one, this is a great vacuum. Dyson gave this to me earlier this year when I tweeted that ours broke—it’s small but powerful, and I can switch from our wood floors to our rugs with the touch of a button. Our kids actually fight over who gets to vacuum.

Organized Simplicity

C’mon, you know I had to mention my own book. Seriously, though, it’s a great gift for Christmas because a lot of people want to start the new year fresh—part one is my thesis of sorts as to why we don’t need so much stuff or to live in big houses, and part two is a 10-step process of how to declutter, clean, and organize. It’s on Kindle, too.

iTunes Gift Card
I know some people don’t like to give gift cards, but I like to receive them, so I figure some people must feel the same. iTunes is great because you can get so much there now—music, movies, TV shows, and audiobooks. (Psst—I asked on Twitter for good tween and teen gift ideas, and this was the number one response.)

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.


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.

“Cheater” Chopsticks
Everyone in the family is getting one of these in his or her stocking this year. Our kids love chopsticks, but let’s face it, there’s a learning curve. This will make Asian food even more fun.

Quite the old-school game, croquet is fun for all ages, and it gets the family outside. Bocce Ball‘s a good choice, too.

Harry Potter: Complete 8 Film Collection
As is usually the case, the books are much better. But the movies are fun, too (we tell Tate to close her eyes during scary parts), and now that the saga is complete on film, the box set is a great gift for any Hogwarts fan. The paperback box set of books is reasonably priced, too, for seven books.

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.

I’m happy to say that other than stocking stuffers, I’m done with gift shopping. That means this week I’ll be watching holiday movies, crafting with my kids, and enjoying what I love most about the season. If you’re ready to get there, too, I say skip the stores and jump online.

(Disclosure time: This post has some Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on them and then buy something there, I’ll get a little percentage of that which helps me run SLM. Just wanted you to know that.)

Who’s the hardest person to shop for on your gift-giving list?


  1. Micha

    Thanks for all the great ideas. I like shopping at amazon too, you really get everything!

  2. Southern Gal

    I love your ideas. There are many I need to grab before Christmas to finish up. Thanks!

  3. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I never thought I’d go there, but I am thinking hard about a kindle!

    This is a great list….but the item I’m going to chase down now is the low-budget Cheater Chopsticks! We definitely need some of those at my house!

  4. Brittnie (A Joy Renewed)

    Thanks for the great ideas! We are in need of a new vacuum and are considering getting a new one for Christmas. Is it weird that I am REALLY excited about it? Ha-ha. 🙂

  5. Betsy

    These are great ideas! I’m going for the John Adams mini-series. My husband is the hardest to shop for because he’s a man “who doesn’t need anything.”

    I just broke down and bought two kindles. We live overseas, and the bill for my son’s literature class this year was big enough to convince me!

    • Tsh

      They’re great for overseas living. If you have a library card at a US library, you might even want to look into syncing your Kindle—that way, you can check out books at your “local” American library!

      • Katherine A.

        I couldn’t figure out how to just comment, so I replied to this comment, even though it is not related.

        I’m just wondering, when you post your disclosure about providing affiliate links, are you supposed to do that? As in, does amazon require that you do that? Have you ever done a post that flat out says, “If you do this, I’ll make a little money.”

        I’m just trying to figure it out for my own blog to know if it’s legal to have a post that says, “I will make money if you click on my links.”



  6. Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook

    We love the Melissa & Doug latches board, too! We have an older one, purchased years ago for our oldest son. It’s taken quite a beating, so we purchased the new model just last week. It’s bigger than our old one — I think our youngest son will love it. Bought an extra one for my nephews, too 🙂 xoxo

  7. Jen D

    My grandpa & uncle! I made most of our gifts this year but I never know what to make men! The rest of my shopping I did @ etsy & amazon, too. You’re right- it’s so much less stressful. I’m done & almost finished wrapping. :). Side note: my etsy shop is still open for Christmas shopping. I make gifts for moms & babies.

    • Tsh

      Awesome! Thanks for letting us know.

  8. Fran

    Thanks for these awesome recommendations! I as needing some more suggestions for Grandma. 🙂

  9. Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

    We had wooden blocks like that when I was a kid, and all 5 of us played with them all the time. Such a great toy.

    And, I’m already done with all Christmas gifts! All store-bought gifts have been purchased and just need wrapping. All online gifts ditto. All homemade/cookie gifts have been made and delivered. I’m feeling quite smug. 🙂

  10. Abby

    Just went and added that microscope to the cart I was just filling at Amazon. 🙂

  11. Caroline Starr Rose

    My husband has read McCullough’s John Adams four or five times. I got him the mini-series for his birthday a few years ago. Amazing.

    We love Apples to Apples! It’s such a creative way to get your mind working and is super hilarious to play with two squirrely boys.

  12. BethB

    I have to respectfully disagree on the latches board. I love M and D toys but I’m not sure what they were thinking on this one. More than one family in my acquaintance has had a child unlock the door and leave the house after mastering the latches board. That’s not exactly behavior I want to encourage in my children! 🙂

    • Katie N

      I was always nervous about this so I steered clear of this toy and will continue to do so. I am pretty selective about teaching my kiddos things that might get them in trouble — maybe planned ignorance (for a time is a good) thing after all!

    • Tsh

      I think it just depends on the kid. I’ve know plenty of people who have this and have never had that problem… Perhaps it has more to do with the child’s sense of exploration, and those who are already intrigued will be given the “keys,” so to speak, if they have this board? Interesting… Either way, thanks for the heads up!

  13. Stacy

    I’ve been considering a french press…..good to know you love it. 🙂

    • Tsh

      I can’t imagine life without it. 🙂

  14. Karen F

    great list! i love shopping on Amazon – the prime membership is so worth it for me, with the amount of shopping I do there. And it usually has the lowest prices, too.

  15. Emily @ Random Recycling

    I second the SodaStream. I got it for my husband 2 Father’s Day ago and we are still using it all the time.

  16. Sharon

    lol! I wondered if you’d mention your book. I finally purchased it this morning as a gift to myself 😉 From Amazon. Can’t wait to dive in!

    • Tsh

      Fun! Yeah, I felt kinda weird mentioning it, but hey, it really does make a good gift. Hope you like it!

  17. priest's wife

    except for the handmade items we have made- we are exclusively Luckily for the economy however, the malls seem to be full with people who still buy at normal stores

  18. Lynda

    I love etsy shopping and Amazon is super convenient, but I just found out that a locally owned toy shop in my area is closing. The owner mentioned several reasons for the decision, one of them being the increase in online shopping, which definitely made me think. I’m with you Tsh, if I don’t see it I don’t want it, but when local businesses close we lose a great resource. I haven’t emptied my Amazon cart, but I am considering options that will also be good for my community.

    • Tsh

      Yeah, I know there’s always that issue. It’s a tough line to walk…

  19. Stephenie

    Yes, I agree that it is a fine line to walk. I try to balance it by shopping sometimes at small local shops or farmers’ market, and sometimes online because I will do anything to avoid the mall.

    • Tsh

      I like to buy our stocking stuffers at local stores. I was just at a locally-run toy shop today, and I was reminded of how fun it is to shop at those little gems. Definitely a good idea to do both.

  20. Gloria

    Like the new look. I get you in reader and hadn’t seen it yet. Also, thanks for the great list! All super ideas. PS Tried writing through your contact section today and could not get it to go through. Anyone else have issues?

    • Tsh

      Hmm, I haven’t heard anything. Sometimes it ebbs and flows. You can always try again…

  21. charis

    we love lego too (didn’t realize there wasn’t an “s.” just so everyone knows for saving $, the same set of lego pictured above is only $20 at target, while $45 on amazon. (i love a deal).

  22. Adonia

    My son also like lego too, but for this christmas i will give him leapfrog lepPad…

    Do you know about it?

    • Tsh

      Yep, I’ve definitely heard of them! 🙂

  23. Susan

    Hi Tsh,
    Which Kindle do you have? Thanks!

    • Tsh

      I have this one: the Kindle 3G. It was almost a year ago; had the touch screens been available then, I probably would have gone for those (same price). But I still love mine!

  24. Joy

    I really like this list – especially the kid stuff! I have a request, if at all possible. 🙂 I have no clue what to get my husband for Christmas and gift lists in magazines and online are no help – it’s either drinking, golf, or electronics. Do you have any ideas, or sites you could point me to?

    • Tsh

      Hmm… I’m no help in the gold arena. What sort of drinking? I gave Kyle a Metrokane wine opener kit a few years ago (a great brand, Houdini), and we use it all the time. If it’s more the beer route, we have a number of friends who brew their own homebrew, so maybe some tools for that? Never done it personally, though.

      Electronics… Depends on what he doesn’t yet have, I suppose. iPhone? Or speakers/charger for an iPhone? I guess there are a lot of options in the electronics route, depending on his interest.

      I’m with you, though… aren’t men so hard to buy gifts for?

    • Alissa

      I think Joy is looking for ideas that are NOT drinking, golf, or electronics. =) The mags really do limit the men’s ideas. My husband is getting all biking gear, but I’m struggling to add some variety. Tsh mentioned the John Adams books or movie serries.

      Some other ideas (pretty much all book related):
      Kindle or other e-reader
      Hiking or other outdoor guide for your area,
      “Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids”
      Historical Atlas of the United States
      I’ve seen some awesome t-shirts on Etsy – I think Kara linked to the “Mr Darcy” shirt on Simple Kids – you can search for something related to one of his hobbies (bikes, guitars, music, etc)
      Games – Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, etc

  25. christina

    so excited, I’m ordering the ice cream maker now. My Husband wanted to buy one this past summer (we live in the desert). And the mini series is right up his alley too!
    Thanks so much!

  26. LA Acting Class Gal

    I am loving the mini microscope and the cheater chopsticks. I think both will be appearing in my stockings this year.

  27. Jessica

    Some little gifts from Knock Knock would fit this list quite nicely. Very cool list. I might pick up the art kit. Thanks.

  28. Alissa

    I have never thought about how a french press might actually simplify our kitchen – get the giant coffee maker off the counter. Hmmm… maybe I need to amend my wish list!

    • Tsh

      It doesn’t even need to be a fancy one, like the one above. The one we’ve had for years is $20 and fits in our cabinet.

      • Courtney

        we live in Africa where power just isn’t consistent, so a French press is required! But when we’re visiting family in the States (like right now), we miss our press LIKE CRAZY. It really does make much better coffee.

  29. Dana @ Cooking At Cafe D

    I love Etsy!
    (I just put my 2 shops on vacation for the holidays – so I can have time for my own shopping!)

    The most challenging person to buy for is my adult nephew.

  30. Emily

    Great list! However, as I sure you realize, the reason Amazon is so cheap is that they don’t have to pay store overhead… and their price cuts do undermine our downtown stores. I agree with you that the malls can be a nightmare, but Christmas is a great time to support our main street small business! You’d be surprised what you can find in those places you might have never checked out.

    • Tsh

      Yep… I agree!

  31. Marcia (123 blog)

    Am I going blind or what?

    I can’t find the Kindle version of your book – Amazon only displays a hardcover/ spiral-bound copy.

  32. Joann

    I just love my Kindle. Read your book on it, in fact, s-l-o-w-l-y and savored it. It’s a perfect recommendation!

    I have the Kandle by Ozeri light for my Kindle and it’s fabulous!

    The chopsticks are wonderful. Great suggestion. I’m considering them.

    One of my daughters just loves her hand-held microsope. She’s very inquisitive and appreciates, with wonder, so much.

    This year a small telescope tops our list as a family gift. The kids love the app that displays and identifies the current stellar configuration so it’s a natural progression to satisfy their curiosity.

  33. Fawn

    I LOVE Amazon. It by far the name that comes up on my debit card statement the most (well, Amazon comes in slightly after gas and groceries :)). But I’ve never used Amazon to purchase more than books and music. I just love books. I have to check them out for more things now.

  34. Ellen S

    I did a majority of my shopping at Amazon and etsy too. I’ve been debating about getting the prime membership. The John Adams miniseries looks really interesting. My husband and I don’t usually exchange gifts anymore but this might be something small that we’ll both enjoy

  35. Karina

    Just to tell you that I loved your Blog. It is inspiring for me to see that a mom blogger is doing so well on the Internet. Maybe one day I can do it too if I keep working as hard as you seem to do!

  36. Faith

    You forgot to mention the Amazon MOM program!!! Free PRIME membership for 3 months, and if you buy diapers, baby, kid, or mom stuff, it will extend your membership. We’ve had “Amazon Mom” Prime for over a year now making usual purchases at discounted prices. (It is less expensive to buy diapers via Amazon Mom than it is to buy at the big box Costco/Sams stores. Amazon Mom gives an extra discount on diapers & they deliver them to your front door! It has been a fantastic option for this crazy busy family. PLUS, the FREE 2-Day shipping is AWESOME for Christmas/birthday gifts! 🙂 Just search “Amazon Mom” on the homepage.

  37. Meredith

    THANKS! I used several of these ideas and am done Christmas shopping.

  38. Andrea

    I love your gift ideas. Thanks. I have to echo some of the above comments. It is vitally important to shop local (with everything) when you can. I need not got into economic theory and systems but as we witness the economy en route to massive fail,, it’s even more important. I aim every year to shop local at Christmas and usually can do it. I even avoid all the big box stores. Really, it’s doable. It does take more time, you have to actually get dressed, maybe even hire a sitter, use gas, etc but the positives far outweight those negatives. Money spent at a local shop —-turns to gold! Sort of.

  39. Wegweiser Tim

    I like this Mini Microscope. Nice tool!!

  40. Natalie

    Agreed with some of the above statements about supporting locally. I am little disappointed with the giant plug for Amazon. I think there are a million other small businesses that can be supported instead, especially on a site like yours. 🙁

    • Tsh

      Thanks for commenting, Natalie. Most of the time I go out of my way on this blog to single out, highlight, and emphasize shopping locally and supporting small businesses. I do with my own wallet, and I love it when I can use my platform to encourage others to do so as well.

      There are also times, I find, when things are just simpler when I shop online—as a busy mom of littles running a business from home and homeschooling, I just don’t have the time or energy to fight the crowds during Christmas. That’s what this post was about—encouraging others to stay sane by shopping online, if it means peace and less stress during the holidays. Amazon simply has tons of options, so it’s my default choice in those situation.

      I continue to be staunchly in favor of small businesses, both in my real life and on this blog. Thanks for reading!

  41. Shannon

    I am glad you included your book – I have been wanting to get it for a while, and this inspired me to do it (aka shop for my husband). Looking forward to reading it and de-cluttering my house and life as a result!!

  42. anita

    Such a great list. And I actually bought that melissa & doug car carrier for my son 🙂 Love Amazon!

  43. Kelly @ Ahimsa Mama

    Ouch – it’s hard for me to support Amazon love! Yes it is convenient, yes the Amazon Prime seems to be very popular, but Amazon seems to be on a mission to put small local businesses (especially book stores) out of business. They are also currently requiring small publishers and self-published authors to sign an agreement of exclusivity with Amazon. Shop local – or at least don’t shop mega-conglomerate! 😉

  44. Mrs. R.

    Thank you for the reviews, the pocket microscope is perfect for our daily explorations! The only review I would like to add to is the one for the John Adams mini series. This HBO miniseries is sadly lacking historical accuracy and should be viewed as such. If you are a homeschooling mom I strongly suggest you NOT use this is any way in teaching your child. This is not the first time HBO has pushed falsehood as truth and I daresay it will not be the last.

  45. Sarah

    This was a great and helpful list last year. Thanks! Would you consider doing another for 2013?

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