What to gift?
It’s that time of year when we are bombarded with advertisements everywhere we look (or listen). While we try to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas and focus on how we can give rather than receive this time of year, it’s still hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. For the last several years we’ve made an intentional effort to maintain a minimalist Christmas gift experience for our family. As much as possible we’ve tried to prioritize experiences and handmade items. Our kids took it to a fun new level this year when they decided to start painting sticks, rocks and pinecones as presents…they will be one of a kind!
I’ve read so many great pieces of advice over the years. Recommendations range from choosing one gift for the mind, one gift for the body and one gift for the heart to choosing something they need, something they want, something to read, something to wear. We haven’t decided on one “formula” for our family, but we evaluate each year to see what is most appropriate and meaningful. We do try to limit the number of gifts so that each one is more valuable and so the majority of Christmas is not spent focusing on gifts at all, but rather the people we are spending it with!
So when we do purchase gifts, we look for natural, eco-friendly products that promote health and creativity. Here are some of our top gift picks for the year, in rough categories:
Please note that many of the links in this guide are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through these links, the price will be the same for you (and in some cases you’ll even get better deals!) and we’ll receive a small commission that helps support our blog and our family. Many thanks!
There are so many options to choose from, but we’ve found over the years that many of the cheap plastic toys break or potentially contain harmful chemicals, so as much as possible we aim for toys made of natural materials that encourage play. We want them to develop great imaginations, learn useful skills and enjoy playing, so we narrowed this list down to our very favorite items that we either own (or have on our list for this year).
Kids Cook Real Food – great online video courses to teach your kids all the skills they need to gain confidence in the kitchen. We try to do at least one lesson each week and give our kids lots of opportunities to practice their skills throughout the week. I’m so impressed by all they can already do in the kitchen at such young ages!
Magna Tiles – these were some of our kids’ favorite toys at their preschool in Denver and provide hours of fun and creativity. We love to see their building skills progress as they develop better spatial awareness.
Stainless Steel Play Kitchen Pots and Pans – our kids love to make food and play restaurant in our kids’ kitchen, so we love giving them sturdy pots to play with!
Art Supplies – we incorporate art projects into every homeschooling unit, so we go through a lot of art supplies in our house. This Christmas we’re getting new supplies (shh…don’t tell!) and are excited to get these natural earth paints and natural beeswax crayons.
Sports Equipment – any and every sport receives a warm welcome in our house, so equipment is always at the top of our son’s list. Even at a young age we’ve decided to prioritize getting our kids “real” equipment rather than plastic versions. We’d rather they start learning proper technique and form, which you really develop best when you have the actual equipment in your hands. We won’t go through all the sports, but since hockey is usually at the top of the list, anything by Bauer is generally a great bet!
Books – they have been our go-to gift even before we had our own children. We both love reading and want to inspire all the kids in our life to develop a love of reading as well. Most of the time the books are well received, although we still laugh about one Christmas several years ago when our nephew groaned as he opened his present and said “it’s not going to be a book again, is it”? Our kids can always count on at least one book under the tree!
Hanna Andersson – my mom has started the wonderful tradition of getting matching Christmas jammies for all the grandkids. We love that most of Hanna Andersson‘s products are 100% organic cotton – so soft and so cuddly!
Swaddle Blanket – for anyone expecting a baby (or with a little one now!), these 100% bamboo swaddle blankets were our favorite. It was so helpful to have a large enough swaddle blanket to really wrap up our babies tightly and keep them cozy while they slept.
Onya Baby Carrier – we used a lot of different wraps and carriers for each of our kids as we loved to get outside adventuring and walking as soon as possible. This great ergonomic pack allowed us to easily carry our little ones on either our front or back. We still use it for our littlest one as we’re out working on the farm!
Mom or Dad dates – it’s so important to spend quality one-on-one time with each child (especially now that there are three!), so we often try to gift experiences that allow each child to have that special time. It doesn’t have to be expensive – some of our favorite memories have been going on hot cocoa dates or to the park!
For the chef and foodie
Thrive Market Membership – a great way to get organic and non-GMO food delivered directly to your door, for less. Essentially a Costco meets Whole Foods meets Amazon model. Pretty fantastic – especially now that we live almost 3 hours away from the closest natural food store!
Anything Le Creuset – this is our favorite line of cookware. It’s pricey, but such amazing quality and beautiful colors!
Electric Tea Kettle – we received a cordless electric tea kettle for our wedding over 11 years ago and have used it multiple times each day since that time. It is probably one of the most used kitchen items we own. Unfortunately after 11 years our kettle is showing signs of being on its last legs, so we’re purchasing this clear glass one for Christmas this year!
Espresso Maker – while not an inexpensive item, easily some of the best money we’ve ever spent. It was my anniversary, Christmas, Valentines all in one gift to Steve six years ago (when I was expecting our first baby and he was working nights as a paramedic). Steve worked as a barista through grad school, so has high expectations when it comes to coffee…and this passes his test, yet is easy enough for me (a non-coffee drinker) to be able to make him a great cup of coffee in the morning.
Instant Pot – we use this electric pressure cooker many times each week on everything from hard-boiled eggs to whole chickens to yogurt! We have this older 7-in-1 model, but I’ve heard great things about the newer Instant Pot Ultra model also.
Vitamix blender – we literally use this every day in the summer to make our smoothies and it has held up really well for several years of heavy use!
Chocolate – need I say more? And if it’s a gift, I think it’s okay to splurge a little to get a really high quality, indulgent chocolate bar. My latest finds are the Salty Hu chocolate bar and the Alter Eco. Divine.
Homemade goodies – we love planning ahead in the summer months when produce is more abundant and preparing months in advance! Over the years we have made jams, salsas, hot sauces, BBQ sauces, limoncello, and many others. The only year that proved a bit questionable was the sweet and salty pickled plums…you can’t win ’em all!
For the farmer (or gardener)
Hori hori knife – hands down the most used tool in the garden. It has both a straight and a serrated edge, so it’s perfect for digging up weeds, planting bulbs, separating perennials, cutting through roots…pretty much anything. Everyone who has a garden should have one of these tools.
Gloves – good gloves are a must for any farmer or gardener. I’ve tried several pairs over the last decade and still haven’t found my magic pair. After reading a lot of reviews I’m hoping these bamboo gloves find their way into my stocking this year (hint, hint)!
Felt Wool Hat – it took a little convincing, but Steve eventually helped me come around to the idea of these great 100% wool hats. The brim helps protect your face and neck from sun exposure while also keeping you dry in case of a downpour! They are breathable and crushable, so a great versatile hat for any season.
Seeds – the foundation of a farm or garden. It’s important to find high quality growers selling non-GMO, organic and heirloom varieties to produce the highest quality plants. As much as possible we also try to use companies sourcing seeds grown in similar climates and altitudes. A few of our favorites are: Seeds Trust (CO), Botanical Interests (CO), Grow Organic Peaceful Valley Farm Supply (CA) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (MO).
Sloggers – these are my go-to slip on shoes to go work in the garden or gather eggs or basically do any outdoor task. Super easy to get on and off (which is a huge plus since I’m normally carrying at least one kid when I head out the door), durable and cute design options. I, of course, have the chicken print.
Hand Salve – let’s face it, your hands get beat up working on a farm or in a garden. We typically try to have a few homemade salves around at all times, but we’re always changing up the recipe trying to find that elusive perfect salve. The homemade hand cream from Prairie Homestead is pretty close!
Insulated overalls – Steve’s top pick by far. In his words “priceless in the winter.” Carhartt is the gold standard (and we own plenty of their apparel now!), but there are other brands producing a similar quality at a more affordable price. Steve’s current pair are a great product by Berne.
Other gifts for grown-ups
Hydro flask insulated water bottle – this is an amazing water bottle that truly keeps water cold (or hot!) for days. I’ve had mine for several years and have slowly purchased more of their cups and water bottles for all of us!
Himalayan Salt Lamp – it has a soft, soothing glow that we use as a night light at home.
Portable Bluetooth Audio Speaker – Steve loves listening to music pretty much 24/7, so a couple years ago I got him this great speaker that is really lightweight and portable with great audio quality. He can take it outside while he’s working or I can take it when I go teach my REFIT classes!
Unbox Love – this is essentially a date night in a box. You can sign up for just one box, 3 months, 6 months or ongoing. Several years ago we purchased these for all the couples in our family for Christmas and had fun seeing pictures and hearing stories from the fun dates! We also love giving this as a wedding gift to help the new couple continue to make fun memories together as they prioritize dating after they’re married!
Pact apparel – we first discovered this company a few years ago for their undershirts and have been impressed at how soft, comfortable and affordable it is for 100% organic cotton items!
Candles – sometimes it’s just nice to have a simple candle burning with a light aroma. Unfortunately so many candles are laden with chemicals and artificial fragrances! We look for soy or beeswax candles scented with essential oils or natural fragrances. We love the unique scents and creative containers from Paddywax as well as the candles we have from rareEssence. It’s on our list to try making our own candles next year!
There are probably more items I could add to this list, but these are the current favorites that are top of mind! What’s on your Christmas list this year? Are you making gifts? Coming up with creative ways to give experiences? We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!