Whether you’re a real aunt, an honorary aunt, a godmother, or a lady who for some reason buys gifts for children who aren’t her own, you understand the desire to be the cool aunt. Now, I’ve never been the cool anything, but I am my nephews’ and niece*’s youngest, most childless aunt – so I do know a thing or two.
Of course, this guide isn’t just for cool aunts — it’s also for fun uncles, awesome parents, great grandparents, and good great-grandparents. These gifts are sure to cement your cool relative status. Best of all, most of these items are kid-powered, and there’s not a licensed character in sight! That should help cement your cool status with the kids’ parents, too.
[Click on the pictures to go to a place that sells the gift, but be aware that most of these are available from multiple vendors, so you may want to hit up Google to do some price comparisons.]
Buddy Bounce Ball
This fits ages 6 and up… which I assume includes adults? Because I kind of want this. I also know that this would have devolved into an instrument of sibling torture when I was a kid but you know… not my kids, not my problem. Warning: reviews are only so-so, I just think it looks cool.
If you have a family with at least two tots, this looks like a great bet – and a good way to get kids moving when they’re stuck inside. Check out the Spiro Hop for bigger kids.
I’m not sure what the deal is with this but kids are kind of obsessed with it lately? Also, it seems less horrible than a lot of toys out there. For a throwback toy that uses a similar skill set, why not get them one of those potholder sets with those fabric loops? My 6-year-old nephew got one a few months back and he loves it.
This is so perfect for the creative kiddo in your life. They can write and illustrate their own books, then they get a hardcover copy of it. Kids can make their book on paper or online, and there are even instructions and story web planners, in case the child is one of those people for whom story webs actually work, I guess?
Puppets and Puppet Theater
This gift encourages creative play, plus is just really cool. There are tons of different setups out there, so search around. I love that this is a gift you could buy for a preschooler, but they could still play with it when they’re in fourth grade.
Crafty Auntie: They sell fabric puppet theaters that hang from a tension rod in a door frame, which is really useful if space is at a premium. If you have solid DIY capabilities, you could definitely make one of those yourself!
Your Favorite Children’s Book (On CD, optional)
I could do a whole post on children’s literature (heck, I could do a whole blog on children’s literature), but a safe bet is often to get a kid whatever book was your absolute favorite at their age. If there’s a long car trip in their future (like, maybe to visit you?), you could consider getting a book on CD, or whatever the modern version of that probably is.
Sure, in a lot of climates your favorite kiddo would have to wait a few months to use this, but in my estimation, your very own zip line is the very definition of “worth the wait.”
I’m sure there are specs for the kind of space you need to put this in, and you’ll want to have it installed by somebody who you trust with the well-being of your niece or nephew’s spinal cord.
However annoying this gift may sound to the kids’ parents, it’s a lot less annoying than an electronic toy that has a bunch of beeps and plays the same song over and over. I love music sets for toddlers and preschoolers, because they get a kick out of them while developing some pretty important skills, like how to keep rhythm during a song so they’re not that one guy at a concert who can’t clap in time.
Crafty Auntie: A lot of these instruments are sold at the dollar store, believe it or not. The quality is questionable, but I know 3-year-olds to ruin even the best-made toys, so really every gift is a crap shoot. You could round up a bunch of these yourself and present it in a nice basket or a plastic carrying case with a handle.
Foam Bungee Jumper
This is like a more balance-friendly version of a pogo stick. I’m all for getting gifts that allow kids to be active inside, since many kids will be inside for the next 4 months or so. This foam jumper supports up to 250 pounds, so maybe you’ll get to take a turn on it, too!
A Super-Special Aunt-Kid Outing
You know the kid, so you make the call. Maybe there’s a good children’s theater nearby, or a science museum, or a professional sports team. This can make a more memorable gift than a toy that they’ll break or lose.
Didn’t you love making forts in the living room when you were a kid? Now you can share the magic! I suggest searching on etsy if you want to buy one. There are some really cute options out there!
Crafty Auntie: The photo above links to a sewing tutorial. It’s not too complex, but you can make it even simpler. Buy a drawstring bag or backpack, and include a few sheets, clothespins, and clothes line inside. It’s sure to be a hit!
I’m usually not one to buy weapons for small children, but Katniss Everdeen makes it look so FUN! Obviously, scale the level of intensity to the child’s age. I love this one for little kids – it’s super safe and it seems to have something to do with math? Which is nice.
Black Apple Doll
There’s a reason that dolls have been a classic gift since the first person realized that you could make a tiny effigy of a person, give it to a child, and somehow not be creepy. I love these Black Apple dolls. You can buy them on etsy, but they are SO easy to make.
Crafty Auntie: Click the photo to go to the templates – although, you can probably just freehand. A big plus is that you can make the dolls look however you want. My niece is Puerto Rican, and I try to hold off on the little blonde girl dolls as much as possible (until they make a Leslie Knope or Tami Taylor doll). I made a few of these for little Miss M. a couple years ago, and they were so cute that I wanted to keep a little effigy for myself.
Rory’s Story Cubes
Great for kids or adults! Roll the cubes, and tell a story joining all nine pictures. It’s a “non-competitive” game but I’m sure you can find a way to make somebody the winner if you’re not a “non-competitive” family.
Mustaches and Tattoos
Hand to God: fake mustaches and temporary tats are a hit with children. If your little angel is more of a little Hell’s Angel, give this gift a try.
THIS IS SO COOL. Kids can build and design their own miniature rooms, including furniture. I loved my dollhouse as a kid, but mostly for the interior design aspect. Those little people were like an upwardly-mobile suburban couple, always renovating their kitchen or redecorating their living room. Roominate just cuts to the chase and goes straight to the building and decorating, although of course some little dolls could live in here when it’s done.
No OH MY GOSH do not actually give a puppy as a gift. Don’t do this. It’s not a good idea. But seriously… look at these freakin’ puppies, though.
* In the interest of full disclosure, I have five (soon six!) nephews and one niece. I know. Just call me Aunt Molly Weasley. But I still think I’m qualified to talk about girl gifts because I … you know, was one and stuff. The kiddos range in age from almost 3 to almost 7.