Let me begin by saying this post is not sponsored in any way, shape or form. The goodies I'm going to mention were gifts for our girls, either purchased by us or family members (or perhaps created in Santa's workshop). What they all have in common: their incredible value, in terms of time the girls have spent enjoying them.
With holiday season approaching, there are lots of great gift ideas out there, and while some may seem perfect at first glance, they just don't pan out. Maybe they're impractical, or breakable, require too many batteries, or just seem like a better idea to the adults than the kids. (Or appear much more fun in the commercial than in real life!)
My daughters are now 4 and 6, and while every little girl is of course different, I can share my experience and tell you what items they have actually loved: they were thrilled to receive them and have played with them more than enough to get our money's worth.
My daughters have spend hundreds of hours (easily over a thousand hours combined) playing with this. Frannie received it for Christmas when she was two. It was a garage sale item from a teaching friend whose daughter had long outgrown it. While in good condition, it was clearly not new, but no one cared.
It came with the dishes, fake food, and shopping cart/basket which have been essential for the fun. Toddlers love pushing the cart around, and cousins even older than my girls still enjoy "doing the dishes". (Wouldn't it be nice if that lasted!)
While it does take up a bit of space, newer and trendier designs (faux or real wood, stainless steel looking appliances) are available which may be more pleasing to the eye.
Barbie House (ours isn't actually Barbie brand)
Again, we're talking hundreds of hours of play. The girls have received many brand-new dolls for various occasions, but also have a bin full of dolls, clothes, accessories, furniture handed down from me, and some from my aunt before me. They received the house three years ago and has been a hit (almost) ever since.
I can't even imagine the hours upon hours it must have taken Santa to assemble this item, but I have to tell you that he made a bit of a mistake when he set it up for Christmas morning. The house was strategically located in the family room with the included furniture placed carefully in the rooms of the home. Where he went wrong was by putting some of Frannie's dolls in the house to add to the display. This confused her greatly, as her focus went straight to the dolls, and she couldn't understand why Santa was giving her dolls she already had. (We have great video footage of her confusion.) Once that was cleared up, it was all good from there.
Other Dolls and Houses
Really, the girls have loved any and all figurines, especially when there's some sort of house (Strawberry Shortcake, etc.) or car (they have some great remote control vehicles for both the Strawberry gang and My Little Ponies). As you can see in the photo below, I love the Ziploc bag system for keeping dolls, clothing, accessories, small furniture, etc. together, which also keeps things easily portable for taking on road trips, to Grandma's, etc. (Or - poor Frannie's teacher - school.)
Because I hate clutter, when people ask for gift ideas for my kids, I always suggest that they add to collections they already have (like another Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake character instead of a new theme).
Little People Stuff
My six year old is just starting to grow out of these gems, but we have the castle and house with the accompanying people and accessories, and these have been very well-loved. They're also nice to keep for younger visitors. When we were kids, we had the original Fisher Price castle, which is still kicking around now for children who visit my parents. (Its claim to fame is that a mouse once fell down the trapdoor into the dungeon, and you can still see where it chewed the front grate to get out!)
We also have the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set (Frannie's gift from her grandparents when she knocked her front teeth out at 19 months of age) which is kept in storage with all of our holiday decor, and surprises them every November when I pull it out again. Oooh, that time is coming soon!
Frannie hit them earlier than Maggie, but from wooden puzzles right through to a 100 piece Star Wars version, these have been very popular. I suggest you pick characters they're into (or presumably will be into soon). I also find that offering to do a puzzle "with" them (placing the occasional piece while I read a magazine on the side) is a great motivator to get them going. (I'm not a terrible Mom, really, but sometimes I just don't want to "play".)
Little Tables and Chairs
We have a Winnie the Pooh set in our downstairs family room, and a little white IKEA set which started in Frannie's room and is now in Maggie's. These tables have been used for countless tea parties, snack times, crafts, colouring, forts, or as the base for a doll house.
From a tambourine with a bank logo on it to toy guitar and keyboard (kids can play their own music or push buttons to play prerecorded tunes), musical instruments are a huge hit at our house. Last year the girls even got battery operated microphones on stands which have already seen lots of love.
Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you with your holiday shopping. Anyone out there with older girls who can give me some ideas for the future? This year we're cutting back on "stuff" as much as possible in favour of things like tickets and "experience" gifts, but they still need to have something to unwrap under the tree! They're little girls, after all!