11 Unusual Christmas Toys That Will Excite Your Kids

Tired of looking at all the same “top toys” and not seeing anything your kids will like?

Looking for something new and different to give the kids on your list?

Or maybe something that you loved yourself as a kid?

We’ve got some ideas for you…

My Kids’ Adventures asked top parent bloggers and experts on the web to tell us what favorite “unusual” toys they have at their houses.

In this article, we’ll share their best out-of-the-box gift ideas—and with 10 to choose from, you’re sure to find something perfect for your child.

Find the perfect out-of-the-box gifts your kids will play with long after the decorations are taken down.

Why Give Something Unique?

If you’ve started your holiday shopping, you’re probably seeing the same toys over and over. Every year has its “hot” item, its best-seller that’s nearly impossible to find.

But what happens when you manage to get those “top” toys? Your kids (and you, too) may be drawn in by the marketing and social excitement, only to find that the actual toy is not so cool after all. It may break or be relegated to the back of the closet within weeks.

Every child is unique and enjoys playing in different ways, so of course the “hit” toy will not be a fit for every kid. Do your children have their own unique ways of playing? I’ll bet they do!

So think outside the box. In fact, throw out the box altogether and find some fresh new ideas below for gifts that fit your kids’ personalities.

To help you find the perfect unique gifts for your kids, we asked the experts. The editors of My Kids’ Adventures reached out to men and women parent bloggers from across the United States and beyond to ask, “What’s a favorite ‘unusual’ toy at your house and what makes your kids love it?”


Find something special that will make your kids react with joy—like these kids.

The responses we got were a crazy mish-mash of super-cool stuff for kids. Check out their responses for a wide-variety of toys and our ideas for bringing them home below.

Where possible, we also include links to online sources so you can shop online and spend time having fun with your kids instead of fighting holiday crowds at the mall.

As different as the responses were, you’ll notice some recurring themes: vintage, active, science and other kinds of gifts. Use the categories and the concepts behind why these toys have become favorites to find a unique toy that will perfectly suit your unique child.

Happy shopping!

#1: Vintage—Puzzletown

Meagan at The Happiest Home is a mother of five who blogs about family, home and life. She said,

“Right now I’d say the most unusual toy in our house is a vintage toy from the 1970s called Puzzletown.

It’s this town you can build from pieces that fit together in lots of different ways. It features Richard Scarry characters, and it was my absolute favorite toy when I was four or five years old.

I have many happy memories of lying on the living room carpet playing with it! We had all the sets that made up the town–the farm, the doctor’s office, the shops, etc.–but somehow they got sold in a yard sale or given away when I was a kid.”

farm

Puzzletown is a favorite from Meagan’s childhood. What toy from your childhood could you share with your kids?

“Not long ago,” Meagan says, “I decided I only have one chance to live vicariously through my kids, and bought the farm set on eBay for my four-year-old daughter, Clara, and she loves it just as much as I did!

It’s so much fun to see her put it together in different ways and create worlds for the characters using her imagination. She’s already asking for another set for Christmas, so I’ll keep an eye out on eBay and at thrift stores.

I know a lot of people put vintage toys on a shelf to look at, but I love the idea that you can give toys another life with another child to love them.”

Try this at your house: What was your favorite childhood toy? Chances are your kids will love playing with it, too. Check on eBay and craigslist for vintage toys or scan the web for new versions of old favorites.

#2: Educational Adventures—Geyser Rocket Car

Steve Spangler from Steve Spangler Science makes science fun for kids and adults. You may have seen his articles teaching My Kids’ Adventures readers to make slime or walk on eggs. Just imagine growing up at his house!

“The Spangler household is filled with nothing but prototypes and unusual toys. From Potato Launchers to a pile of Insta-Snow to the electrifying Energy Stick, my kids are my toy testers. Although it’s hard to pick just one, my favorite toy is the Geyser Rocket Car. This racecar harnesses the power of the classic exploding soda and MENTOS® experiment and turns it into messy learning fun.

soda rocket

Put wheels on a classic Mentos experiment to get a rocket car—explosive fun!

Just make sure you don’t launch them inside. My wife doesn’t enjoy soda dripping from the light fixtures, and I’m guessing most moms will do more than raise an eyebrow.

Take it outside, warn the neighbors to park in their garages and let ‘er rip.


Imagine one of these in your driveway!

With all this fun, don’t miss the science lesson hidden deep in the nucleation points. This car demonstrates Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When the soda erupts in one direction (action), the car rockets in the other direction (reaction).

The Geyser Car brings my family and friends together for an afternoon of silly, raucous fun.”

Try this at your house: There are lots of science kits and experiments that will bring out your child’s inner mad scientist. Learn how to make your own science kit here.

#3: Get Moving—Archery

Cas McCullough, from Mumatopia is mum to three boys and resides in Australia. You’ve probably seen her Minecraft Treasure Hunt and Backyard Angry Birds articles on My Kids’ Adventures, too!

She suggested an archery set:

“An unusual toy at our house is my 13-year-old’s archery set. He wanted one after reading The Hunger Games.

archery

Make sure kids understand archery safety rules first. Get younger kids a toy version with foam or suction-cup darts.

We have a designated archery zone on our property and strict rules. For instance, he’s not allowed to load the bow when people or animals are within 50 meters. Don’t want any arrow injuries.”

boy aiming at target

Kids love to aim for a target. Photo by Amy Spreitzer Windsor, via Wikimedia Commons

Try this at your house: Cub scouts start archery at age 8 and they love it. You can look for archery lessons in your town. Or perhaps you can set up a safe shooting area in your yard. Learn more about the best archery set for your kids.

If you’re not interested in getting bracers and arrows, consider toy archery sets made from suction cups or foam.

#4: Vintage—Woven Play Mat

Lindsey Johnson, the food blogger behind Café Johnsonia, immediately thought of a play mat her father-in-law made for her husband when he was a boy.

“The mat is made of a durable woven fabric, kind of like a really thick interfacing. My father-in-law painted colorful streets, houses, businesses, parking lots and other things to make the mat look like a little town. There’s even a house that looks like the one my husband lived in as a child in Brazil.

My kids use it in all sorts of ways. They get their wooden blocks out and build more buildings, but mostly they get out all of their cars (and sometimes the My Little Ponies and Lego people) and have fun playing Town.”

play mat

Make a mat depicting your town for hours of close-to-home fun.

Try this at your house: You can buy a commercial playmat, but it’s easy (and more unique) to make your own personalized mat. Get canvas from a fabric store and paint roads, houses, animals and lakes for a fun city your kids will love. Do what Lindsey’s father-in-law did and replicate a home like yours and perhaps add in other family members’ homes as well.

#5: Homemade—Paper Swords and Duct Tape

Marcie Taylor at Surf City Family blogs about families and life in Huntington Beach, California.

“I have two sons, and while they are totally into video and PC games, they do have unusual toys that they make themselves—like paper swords and something called the ‘bean bag of death’ which is a bean bag wrapped in duct tape.”

swords

Give kids a stack of newspaper and a roll of duct tape and challenge them to make something out of it for hours of creative fun.

Try this at your house: Teach your kids to upcycle items around the house by looking at websites like Instructables or Pinterest. Do a search for activities you think will capture your children’s interest. Sometimes they just need an idea or two to launch them on a creative journey of their own and may come up with their own “bean bag of death” idea.

#6: Get Moving—Mini Trampoline

Kirsten Nelson from Parenting by the Minute is a parenting coach and mom who has shared some of her creative kids’ ideas like glow-in-the-dark bowling and mummy tag with us at My Kids’ Adventures.

Kirsten suggests a mini-trampoline.

“It’s an unexpected device that is a great toy. It’s the perfect extra-energy-expender that encourages physical activity (and silliness). It’s an irresistible diversion that helps to reduce bickering among siblings, which is especially handy during winter breaks from school when it’s too cold to play outside.

trampoline

A mini-trampoline is a great way to get kids (and parents) moving. Just try to walk by one without bouncing!

It’s a real sanity-saver in our house. I put it in the middle of a walkway so my sons have to bounce when walking past. It becomes a part of an indoor obstacle course, and it’s a great excuse for me to sneak in some exercise too.”

Try this at your house: A mini-trampoline would be a great addition to a looped obstacle course. What a great way to have kids get some wiggles out during the long winter months!

#7: Pet—High-Tech

Danielle Smith from Extraordinary Mommy blogs (and vlogs) about lifestyle and parenting. She suggested this high-tech toy:

“Easily our favorite unusual toy is Ubooly. He’s unusual in that he’s a ‘smart toy’ that talks, laughs, listens, plays games and tells stories with both of my small people. Ubooly’s entry into our home actually pacified my daughter who had been begging for a hamster (a live one!).

ubooly

Ubooly is an electronic pet that doesn’t make a mess or need a walk—it just needs a phone or tablet.

This little guy operates with a smartphone or tablet (user-friendly!) and I can’t count the times I’ve hidden around a corner to listen to my little ones talking away to their friend, Ubooly.”

Try this at your house: It’s tech + imagination + learning + peace of mind for parents. You can customize Ubooly’s interaction for your own children.

#8: Educational Adventures—Electronics

Mike Stelzner, the founder of My Kids’ Adventures, and his kids enjoy playing with Snap Circuits.

“I love this toy for my kids because it takes me back to my RadioShack days when I was a kid fiddling with electronics. This one is super-easy for even young kids to learn how take make circuits and experiments that include light sensors, sound effects, moving parts and a ton more.”

snap circuit

Snap Circuits include modular pieces your kids can snap together to make real, working electronics.

Try this at your house: Kids will be eager to play with this as soon as the paper’s off. Be sure to check the product description or packaging to see what other equipment or accessories are required. Some need a computer, smartphone or (of course) batteries! Be sure to have everything on hand before gifts are opened, so the kids can play right away.

#9: Get Moving—Indoor Swing

Joel Henriques, at Made by Joel, is a creative dad and designer extraordinaire. He suggests an indoor swing.

“This swing is a lifesaver for when the kids need to expend some energy indoors. We’ve had it in the playroom since the twins were 2 years old, and now at 7 years old they still play with it every day—spinning, swinging, hanging upside-down and doing circus tricks. It’s great!”

child in swing

Kids climbing the walls? Encourage them to swing from the ceilings instead.

Try this at your house: Joel’s kids use the HABA Chilly Swing Seat, but there are lots of different kinds of indoor swings. Trina at LaLa LOVELY has blogged about indoor swings several times.

Of course, you’ll need to make sure the swing is properly installed. You may need to talk to a contractor to identify a sturdy framing member and the hardware needed. In fact, if you don’t know what “sturdy framing member” means, definitely call a contractor first.

#10: Imaginary Travels—Backpack

Kim Vij from The Educators’ Spin On It has 10 years of elementary school teaching experience and is a mom of three kids. She says:

“For younger kids, one of the most unusual toys would be a toddler-sized backpack with wheels. Our toddler backpack has traveled the world both literally, and figuratively within the walls of our house. I love seeing all three of my kids’ creativity in the things that they pack inside and the destinations they choose. Plus it works perfectly for weekend getaways when they want to pack their own things.”

backpack

Whether their imaginations take little ones to school with their siblings or around the world, a rolling backpack like this one by Skip Hop will help them get there.

Kids love to pack for trips (imaginary or real) and act like grownups. You can include toiletries, like a travel toothbrush. Or add a paper that says “packing list” and help them think about things they’ll need for the trip.

Try this at your house: Look at a map together. Choose a place and imagine you’re going to visit there. Talk about what you would need to pack if you visited there in December. What if you visited that place in June? You can do some research online and make dinner, learn some of the language and customs or play a game.

#11: Pet—Dog

This isn’t really a toy, but it’s a great plaything your kids will love—literally—so we’re bringing it to you as a bonus:

Susan Merrill from iMom and author of the Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt article for My Kids’ Adventures has five kids (teens and older now) and she’s had lots of experience with toys through the years. She submitted this creative suggestion:

“My Favorite Unusual Toy…
Is Katiebug.

Katiebug never needs batteries.
Katiebug is always available.
Katiebug works well inside and outside.
Katiebug never breaks.
Katiebug comes with lots of features.
Katiebug adjusts well to different user preferences.”

dog

A dog can bring your kids years of fun and companionship. Just be sure your family is ready for the responsibility before giving one as a gift.

Try this at your house: Who wouldn’t want a Katiebug of their own? A pet is a lot of work, so make sure to plan for the months and years beyond Christmas morning before you give a living creature as a gift.

If you’re already thinking about getting a pet, it can be fun to wait until the holiday and deliver it as a gift. It can make your special day even more memorable. Even the easiest-to-care-for animal, like a fish, is fun to receive as a gift.

Some Final Thoughts

We hope this list of unusual and unique toys has inspired you to find the perfect out-of-the-box gifts for your family this year. Finding that truly special something for your kids—that gift that they’ll play with long after the decorations are taken down—will bring smiles, create adventures and make memories for your kids.

What do you think? These are just a few ideas of unique things kids at these households like to play with. Share with us creative or unusual toys your kids like to play with! Leave a comment or photo in the box below.

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About the Author, KJ Ammerman

Kristin Ammerman is a mom, creative writer and the evangelist of fun for My Kids' Adventures. Her three kids love that their mom's job includes trying out new family activities. Other posts by »


  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Great ideas – I especially love the play mat idea. I can think of hours of fun and it would be easy to put away and not take up much space. If you make it yourself, it would be a great keepsake to pass down too! 😉

  • jane

    Last year I bought a bilingual music CD for my niece and nephew to entertain them during the Holidays and give my sister a break. Turns out they all loved it…singing and dancing over and over again. My sister got a kick out of them saying words in Spanish too! I think it was called Singalingo or something like that.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, KJ! What a fun collection of cool stuff! Swords and arrows are big at our house. We once made light sabers of foam pipe insulation and PVC pipe handles wrapped in different colored duct tape for birthday party favors. They were a huge (soft) hit!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    Thank you, Crystal! I agree the play mat is cool for so many reasons. And it can be customized depending on your kids toys or personal favorites. Like for a child who likes boats, you could have lots of lakes or even an ocean :)

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    Thank you for sharing this musical option, Jane! Actually, this combines music, language and dance. Creative gift idea!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    Wow! I’m impressed (and would love to see a pic)! Where do you come up with these amazing ideas?

  • Kathleen Gooch

    I just bought a playmat for my grandkids. It’s fun, but I think a longer, narrower canvas mat would be easier to store and fit better in the room. I couldn’t hold out so the kids are already having a blast with it,

  • Amanda Shaw

    Thanks for these original ideas! Santa already visited our house, but the kids did love the more “practical” gifts—suitcases, alarm clocks—more than any toy!

  • Danielle Smith

    KJ – Thank you so very much for including us in your list – our love of Ubooly is legendary :) We are definitely seekers of the unusual and imaginative (And tech!) when it comes to toys in our home. This is a great collection.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    We have a long narrow playmat at our house and it does work well. But, no matter the shape or size, kids seem to love them! I’m glad to hear the grandkids are enjoying it :)

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    Thank you, Amanda! I hope your kids like packing/unpacking as much as mine do. The suitcase will be a hit all year :)

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    I’m so glad you shared an “unusual toy” for this article, Danielle! I’d never heard of the Ubooly before and it’s definitely a cool toy! Thank you!!

  • Myra

    Awesome post! My kids will love to read this. Great thanks for sharing. I bought a swing set recently from http://www.kiwiplay.co.nz, which is really great fun.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    These look like awesome swing sets! I hope your kids have lots of fun!

  • Michelle Hilbrand

    I have been searching for that vintage farm set from my past but never knew what it was called. I’m so thrilled to have found this post so I can get one on ebay!!!

Check out the Parenting Adventures podcast with Michael Stelzner
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How to Entertain Your Kids for Hours With Adventure Tubs