Whether you’re looking for a unique gift for the over 5 years old crowd or you need suggestions for making your holiday journeys a little less stressful, we’ve compiled a list of ideas that does both. From adorable Bluetooth speakers to LEGO Buckingham Palace, we’ve got your shopping needs (and wants) covered.—Salwa Jabado and Alexis Kelly
The decision to buy a My Audio Pet is easy—these golf-ball-sized speakers put out great sound and are awesome travel buddies—the tough part is choosing among the adorable designs. They are oh so cute and squeezable—squeezing the button on the speaker allows you to take a selfie from across the room on your mobile device. The Bluetooth pairing is simple and it comes with a USB cable to charge it up. A handy lanyard keeps these mini-speakers from getting lost.
Perfect for: Family dance parties on the go and family selfies.
Point and Click
Our kids are always asking us to take a picture of [insert random item here] or to take another selfie. Now, with their own VTech Kidizoom Camera Pix, which comes in pink or blue, budding photographers and travelistas will be able to take pictures of everything and anything they see. The 2-megapixel camera is the perfect size for little hands and it has a digital zoom lens and a plethora of photo effects, including a collage option, as well as four built-in games.
Why we love it: It’s fairly indestructible and reasonably affordable, unlike our iPhones.
Visit the World With LEGOs
At one point or another, most kids go through a LEGO phase. Why not use that interest to ignite a love of travel? LEGO Architecture’s new for 2016 sets include models of New York City, Buckingham Palace, Venice, and Berlin with popular landmarks like Venice’s Rialto Bridge, New York’s Empire State Building, and three sections of the Berlin Wall with graffiti. The sets are for the 12-and-over crowd, but any age can gaze upon the completed sets and imagine themselves seeing the actual places one day.
Go for Broke: Legos can be expensive, but the inspiration lasts a lifetime.
Entertaining and Educational iPad Use
We’ve all been there—handing your kids the iPad so you can finish your dinner in peace or survive the last leg of that horrendous flight. And, we’ve probably all felt a slight pang of guilt in using technology to quiet our children. Well, good-bye guilt, because Osmo Coding is fun and educational as it teaches problem-solving and logic. The completely portable (and compact) blocks are used—on planes, trains, tables—to create commands that lead strawberry-loving Awbie on adventures. It works with most iPads.
Why we love it: Kids will be occupied, entertained, and learning something.
Oversized Map Coloring Poster
The designs in Pirasta’s Really Big Coloring Posters are anything but boring; in the Let’s Color America poster, there’s a ukulele-playing pineapple (Hawaii), a cowgirl lassoing a sea serpent (Texas), and the Statue of Liberty holding an ice cream cone and slice of pizza (New York). What’s more, they are created by individual artists and printed in the U.S. with vegetable ink on recycled paper. The posters really are big; at 5 and ¼ feet long by 3 feet wide, there are lots of details to color and discover, making them great wanderlust conversation starters.
Perfect for: Surviving the winter with kids; it’s a bonus that it’s one-of-a-kind wall art once you color it in.
Design-Heavy Cardboard Animals
Imaginative kids seem to have more fun with the cardboard box than the gift that comes inside. Enter Amsterdam-based design firm, Studio ROOF, who made their name with a cardboard play house. They’ve upped their game by creating beautifully designed punch-out “Totem” animals, such as the Fawn. Each animal will bring a touch of whimsy to your nursery or child’s room. Constructed from heavy duty recycled cardboard, these are sturdy enough for actual play. Stay tuned for the gorgeous People of the World collection, coming to the U.S. in January.
Go for Broke: One animal is sure to be lonely; assemble a menagerie.
New York in a Bag, Literally
Contained in a skyline adorned cloth bag, Muji’s New York in a Bag is a wooden 14-piece set that has mini versions of the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Guggenheim Museum, and UN Building, as well as tiny taxis and limos. Kids will have fun recreating trips to the Big Apple or dreaming of one.
Why we love it: The cloth bag makes it easy to pack and tote and is a great, unique souvenir (or gift) from NYC. Plus, it pairs perfectly with the Play Tape.
Our kid tester loved the LilGadgets Untangled Pro Headphones (which come in black, blue, green, purple, pink, and white) because the headset fit comfortably on his head and didn’t slip off. The ear pads also stayed on. We loved them because a separate cord is provided to plug into the device if wireless is not allowed (on planes) or the headset loses its charge. There’s even a SharePort cord that connects two headsets so kids can listen to the same thing at the same time.
Why we love it: Proceeds of each purchase help fund anti-bullying programs as well as efforts to decrease the environmental impact of each purchase.
Road Trip 2.0
Long road trips call for multiple car games, especially in holiday traffic. The 14 ½ x 10 inch wooden U.S.A License Plate Game from Melissa & Doug gives the classic game a facelift. When you see a state plate, just flip the mini wooden license plates (images look like each state’s actual license plate). Kids will learn the 50 states in no time.
Why we love it: Compact and educational with pieces you won’t loose.
Puzzling the U.S.
Smithsonian’s 100-piece America's Landmarks Discovery Puzzle highlights the country’s major landmarks like Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Nevada’s Hoover Dam, Pennsylvania’s Liberty Bell, and Florida’s Everglades. The 10 x 8 inch puzzle, which comes with a separate fact sheet, encourages kids to learn about the U.S. while having fun; it’s perfect for kids five years old and up. For a more worldly view, check out the 100-piece Endangered Species Discovery Puzzle.
Why we love it: It’s a family-fun activity that makes learning fun and may inspire your next trip.
Travel Music Box
Fair warning: these music boxes contain small parts that little ones might want to put in their mouths. However, they may forget about putting anything in their mouths while they watch the yellow cab circle around the Empire State Building or the gondolier paddle around a Venice scene. Papyrus’s line of destination themed Wooden Music Boxes are truly unique and inspire young and old to dream of traveling to Rome, Venice, Paris, San Francisco, or London.
Perfect for: The travel dreamer who has everything.
Travels With Lily
Lily and her best friend Zeborah (a stuffed Zebra) travel the world—by plane, train, boat, and even camel—and you can join them! Armed with Lily’s Sunny Yellow Suitcase, kids will love getting ready to travel with personalized luggage tags, a “passport” activity book, and cards with suggestions like packing a picnic lunch Paris-style. The series also includes a picture book, matching game, a doodle book, and alphabet flash cards. We suggest pairing the picture book, doodle book, and travel suitcase for a gift that’s the piece de resistance.
Perfect for: Adventurous, imaginative kids who dream of visiting exotic places with their best friends.
The Wonderful World of Books
Lotta Nieminen’s wonderfully illustrated Walk This World takes readers on a grand journey, as each page focuses on a new country and the people and places you might see there. There are more than 80 flaps that keep young readers engaged, and older readers will love locating clues that help identify the destination. There’s also a beautiful Christmas version worth checking out.
A Cool Book of Maps
In a world of ubiquitous GPS, inspire a love of exploring with this Maps book by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. Each of the 52 countries represented with these beautifully drawn maps includes fun facts like regional names, plants, animals, and food. Pick a new country to learn about at bedtime and dream of future travels there.
Make it a Theme: Buy a Pirasta What a Colorful World Really Big Coloring Poster.