Remember the days when kids hung their stockings by the chimney with care, and the gifts (oranges? coal?) they discovered inside them the next day were the sum total of the Christmas presents they were going to get that year? LOL those days are over, parents! Sorry. Alas, we seem to have escalated our gift-giving so that very little will fit in those ornamental stockings anymore. But it’s still fun to honor the tradition of stocking stuffers, or to give children small trinkets for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or whatever you feel like celebrating.
Some children, especially those on the younger side, may actually appreciate a number of small stocking stuffers more than they would one or two big presents. They may like the act of opening gifts (and comparing their stash to their siblings’) just as much as they like the gifts themselves. And older kids, while they may mostly covet big-ticket items, still get that zing of satisfaction and surprise when receiving something small. We parents, meanwhile, really get a kick out of watching them open each present, big and small. But also, we’re not made of cash. For these reasons, we gathered this list of toys and gifts for kids — stocking stuffers or otherwise — that are all $15 or less. Okay fine one is $15.95.
What works as a good stocking stuffer for kids? Of course that depends highly on the kids. But we think the best gifts are fun (no school supplies!), work well on their own (unless they’re related to a bigger gift under the tree), inspire the imagination, and have a chance of being played with again in the months after the holidays. We don’t love cheap trinkets that will wind up broken and in a landfill in a few days.
Not all of the stocking stuffers we’ve listed here will literally fit into a stocking, by the way. But do all of you actually have working fireplaces? Didn’t think so. Some will work perfectly in a bright red, felt sack adorned with your kid’s name, and some will be right for a metaphorical stocking instead.
We also did our best to find the stocking stuffers that will suit a range of ages. And whether you’ve got a kid who sticks to gender norms or one who purposely avoids them, there is also a gift for them here. Sports fans, artists, scientists, and fashionistas all have something in this list too. The prices of these items are so darn reasonable, you’ll also feel like you didn’t fall into the hollow trap of consumerism for the holidays. Squint and it could be almost like those good-old days of simple stockings filled with oranges.
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A version of this story was originally published in November 2020.