Having trouble finding gifts for that special boy in your life?
Fret no more!
I have complied a list of Classic Toys to Encourage Bonding With Boys.
This Christmas, be sure to give your son a gift that you can use, together, throughout the entire new year.
0 – 12 months
Bonding with infants can be challenging because they cannot verbally communicate with you yet. Pay attention to their nonverbal behavior as they try to communicate their needs to you.
Balls – babies love to learn to roll, throw and catch soft balls.
Music CD’s – a soft lullabye CD for quiet times together and a crazy fun one for dancing and laughing together. My all-time favorite music CD is Close Your Eyes, a beautiful collection of classic lullabyes, sung by our very favorite preschool teacher, Susan Lee.
Books – one of our favorite authors is Sandra Boynton because she encourages us to be silly together.
Bath Tub Toys – any toys for the bath tub encourage play time with your tiny tot.
Puppets – use your imagination and get silly! Be sure to watch your son for nonverbal cues of tension though – some babies are scared of puppets.Toy Kitchen – little boys can cook and play pretend, just like little girls. In fact, they love it! (Especially if they have a daddy that cooks – they love to model their parents.)
One to Three Years Old
Building a relationship with your toddler requires a lot of play time and a lot of patience! These gifts can get you started.
Sleds – try sledding on a calm night! It adds a magical feel to outside play.
Trains – our absolute favorite is the Thomas the Tank Engine Wooden Railway. This is the perfect age to introduce your son to years of imaginative fun!Cars – Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Disney Cars are all great for some quality time together.
Trucks – big ones, little ones, pick ups, semi’s, trailers….the options are endless!
Balls – toddlers love to play any game that involves a ball. This is a great time to introduce them to your favorite sport.
Music CD’s – my favorite for silly fun is Jim Gill. Be sure to put your dancing shoes on – it’s more fun if mom dances too!Board Games – I have learned that toddlers are not too young to learn the mechanics of playing a board game. Try Don’t Wake Daddy, Pop the Pig, Don’t Break the Ice, Memory, Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders or Sorry Sliders.Books – It’s so important to make reading a part of your day! Grab one of these favorites: If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, The Monster At The End Of This Book, Barn Yard Dance, Tickle Time, Pajama Time, Daddie’s Boat, or Mighty Dads.
See and Say – toddlers are getting to the age where they can operate this toy on their own, but it is still fun to learn the animal sounds with mom!Shape Sorter – as your son gets older, he also manages to match the shapes without your assistance. But it’s still fun to have mom’s support!Record Player – as a toddler, it is still hard to manage some of the fine motor skills needed for this toy. To play, he still needs mom’s help! Fisher Price Pop Up – he’s getting good at this one now! Your son will like to show you what he can do.Snow Man Kit – okay, I admit, this one is more for mom than for the boys! How fun is it to actually have a corn cob pipe, a button nose and two eyes made out of coal?!?
Play Dough – there is no way little Jonny is tackling this mess without mom’s help! It’s a perfect toy for a wintry day and tactile play!
Crayons & Coloring Books – a great activity when you need to quiet things down around the house.
Paint – I’d start with water colors. I started my toddlers out in their high chairs; clean up is easier that way.
Bath Tub Paints, Crayons and Markers – who needs clean up when the mess is in the water?!? Bath time is a great time to spend some quality moments with your son.Bath Tub Basket Ball – kids love playing with balls in the water! This is a great way to entertain your munchkin in the bath.
Three to Four Years Old
Preschoolers take play to a whole new level! Because they talk a lot, take special care to be fully present and in the moment while laying with them.
Legos – this is a great age to get them hooked on Legos! Legos is one of those classics that stimulates brain development. You can’t go wrong!
Card Games – you can teach your son how to play War, Slap Jack and Go Fish. Or, purchase a game of Go Fish or Uno.Lincoln Logs – my 19 year old son sent me a snap last week saying “They still make these things?!?” We love them!!Sleds – of course! Preschoolers are at the perfect age for outside play!
Trains, Cars, Trucks & Monster Trucks – the preschool years are so fun! This is a great time to set up extravagant car or train tracks! They are old enough to play without destroying and can play with you rather than along side you. Their imaginations are bubbling over at this age!
Marble Racer – this toy is amazing! You build the tracks for the marbles to roll down and watch them fall. This toy teaches basic engineering, physics and problem-solving skills.Balls, balls and more balls!! You can never get enough. There are so many balls (and corresponding sports!) to choose from. Balls teach coordination, but playing a ball game with your child also teaches social skills and sportsmanship.
Music CD’s – of course, your music doesn’t have to be in CD format, but listening to, singing along with and dancing to fun music together is a great way to build a relationship. Personalized CD’s that add your child’s name in the song also are great at helping your son establish his identity and build his confidence.Board Games – again, another fun perk of the preschool years! Board games teach social skills and sportsmanship, just as sports do. They are a great way to forge a bond with your son. It’s time to perfect the games of their toddler years, but you can also add in new ones, such as Connect Four, Memory, Battleship, Sorry, and Twister.
Books – the preschool years are a good time to start reading longer books as well, such as the Magic School Bus and Scooby Doo. Kids this age think bookmarks are really cool. Other good ones are Peef the Christmas Bear, Snowmen at Night, and I Love You Forever.Movies – this is an age where it is so much fun to snuggle up and watch a good movie. It’s tricky, finding the right movie though. My preschoolers don’t like anything too intense (they were scared by The Grinch!) so something like Cars works well. It’s important to remember that we, as adults, are desensitized by so much in the media, and children cannot yet distinguish between reality and make-believe. So do choose your movies wisely. Watch your child for any nonverbal behavior that can signify discomfort and follow his lead.
Snow Man Kit – finally! They are big enough to help roll those balls!! The snowman kit is really cool, but it is definitely fun to go on a scavenger hunt and find tree branches for arms, an old hat & scarf and a carrot nose.Puppets – puppets are fun at this age too. They love watching you perform and are starting to make the puppets move themselves as well. It’s a tricky skill to master!Ice skates – the holidays are a great time to introduce your son to skating!
Coloring Books & Crayons – coloring with your son can almost be therapeutic. The motion itself is very calming, but it also offers a good time to visit about his day or whatever else is going on in your lives.
Paint & Other Crafts – Kids this age really get in to crafting. Anything artistic and age appropriate would be a great gift. The time spent together will teach you more about your child – his likes, dislikes, passions and talents. It will also help him learn more about himself by trying out different hobbies.
Nerf Guns, Toy Knives, Swords & Light Sabers – My boys love to play Star Wars or any other military game. These games help boys develop their imaginations and team work skills. Just be sure to follow your child’s lead when you play – take care not to set up the game for him.
Tool Box, Tool Belt & Tools – Boys love to imitate those around them. It is how they learn. Tools help them to be just like dad, and it is a great chance for dad to teach while playing.Kitchen & Store – add a little toy scanner or shopping cart to your kitchen. Preschoolers take pretend play to a whole new level, and often like to play restaurant or store with the kitchen setup. Build a tent around it or use cardboard boxes as a drive through for some added pizazz!
Puzzles – preschoolers can move on to more complicated puzzles as their problem-solving skills and cognitive development are more advanced. Puzzles are another great quiet activity for those cold winter days. Just add hot cocoa for some great bonding moments!
Farm Sets – these are so much fun! They come with the animals, outbuildings, trucks, tractors and fences. They even have little bales of hay! You can spend hours on the floor with your son pretending.
Five to Ten Years
Your child will grow and develop a lot during these years. Hold on tight and spend as much time with him as you can – he won’t be little much longer!
Legos – I asked my husband, “What would you say Legos teach?” His response: patience! I couldn’t agree more. Legos definitely teach your son how to master his emotions. But they also teach the importance of design, following directions, and planning. Although Legos can be a solo gig, they are more fun when you have mom or dad working along side you. While you quietly build things, your son will talk.
Card Games – Add Skip-Bo, 21, Crazy Eights and so many more to your card collection! As your son masters the skills you can add in more complicated games. It’s a great way for the two of you to bond, and it’s something he will some day do with his buddies, so you might as well introduce him!
Lincoln Logs & Tinker Toys – what your son does with such toys will become more and more extravagant over the years. Just like the Legos, he is now old enough to play by himself, but it will mean the world to him if you get down to play too.
Sleds, Snow Fort Kits, Snow Man Kit & Snow Ball Makers – it’s time for ExTreme outside play! Step it up a notch with a snow fort kit and a snowball maker! Digging forts below ground (in the ditches) is always fun too!Trains, Cars & Trucks – they never grow tired of it (only mom does).
Action Figures – when I was a kid, it was GI Joe and She-rah. My older boys played with Spider Man action figures. Action figures were less poplar in their time. But the isles are full of them now! Our current favorite: Star Wars.
Board Games – this is the age to cut loose! Your son is ready to play nearly all children’s games and some adult games. Make a family game night a regular part of your winter routine. One of our favorites: Monopoly.
Movies – this is also a great age to expand your movie collection. Kids this age can understand the difference between fantasy and reality. A regular movie night is another great way to bond! Our favorites: Star Wars, Toy Story, Shrek and Harry Potter. A great Christmas Classic: Home Alone or Elf.
Books – during the elementary years, don’t stop reading to your child! Sure, he can now read by himself. But grab a blanket and cuddle up! It’s time to start those chapter books. Don’t under-estimate your son; it’s very possible that he can comprehend higher level readers, such as young adult novels. I read the first two Harry Potter books to my oldest when he was in Kindergarten (he finished the whole series on his own after that), and now he is an exceptional reader.
Puppets – still a popular choice at this age! Set up a stage and help your son create a puppet show for family and friends!
Ice Skates – a must-have winter-time skill! What a great way to spend some quality time together on a beautiful winter day.
Fishing Pole – yes, I know, it’s winter. But some of you live in warm climates. And for those of you up north, there are ice fishing poles!! Coloring Books, Crayons & Markers – they never grow old. Buy a brand new one and make it a challenge to finish the book – every page – together by next Christmas.
Paints & Crafts – Crafting Kits are great fun at this age! Another idea is their very own scrapbook. As I worked on their baby books or elementary school years’ scrapbook, my boys would sit right next to me and scrap as well. Print off some photos of their favorite memories. It will make a great book and a wonderful time to ‘remember when’!
Play Dough & Floam – yes, your son is old enough to play without you now. But don’t sit this one out! Playing with your kids is about building that relationship, and with boys, it is so important that you keep their hands busy while talking with them. They are much more likely to open up then.Nerf Guns, Toy Knives & Light Sabers – one year, Santa brought our boys replacement darts for their (very old!) dart guns. We spent Christmas morning having an all-out dart war – all over the entire house! All six of my boys played, plus mom and dad, and my oldest son’s steady girlfriend. It is a moment none of us will ever forget.
Monster Trucks – these little trucks are a classic. Want to step it up a notch? Get your son tickets to a Monster Jam near you!!Puzzles – your son’s ability to piece together puzzles will grow quickly throughout the elementary years. Be sure to keep up by continuously supplying him with harder and harder puzzles!
Tools – start the early elementary years out with great-quality toys, but as he moves closer to his teen years, you can start adding in his own tools, such as a screw driver set, an axe, hammer or pocket knife. Use these tools together and be sure to supervise him closely. These are great moments for dad and son to bond.
10 to 12 Years Old
These are the hardest years to develop a relationship with your son. He will withdraw from you and hang out with his friends more. You need to take great efforts to build your relationship with him. Always show him love and respect.
Board Games & Cards – Cards are always a great stocking stuffer! You can teach your son so many different card games that he will be sure to play in to adulthood. Our favorite board games are Risk and Monopoly.
Movies – a fantastic idea for bonding with your preteen son! There isn’t much talking going on during a movie, but if you choose a comical one, you can share a few good laughs! Our favorite at this time of the year is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – that movie will even bring my 13 year old out of his room!Sporting Goods – ice skates, basketballs, baseballs, fishing poles, and etc. are all great ideas for this age. This is when boys really start to get in to their sports. Don’t automatically think “balls” when you think sports – trap shooting, dirt biking, snowmobiling, fishing and hunting are good examples of sports not involving the typical ball. Expose your son to as many different sports as you can and let him develop a taste for his favorites.Models – your son is ready to tackle the more complicated models at this age. Although this is a solo gig, try to spend some time putting the models together with him. Boys at this age don’t talk as much as they used to, so you will need to go out of your way to find the time to get to know your preteen son. Remember: the key to communicating with your older son is to keep his hands busy!Robotics – again, this is something your son can do on his own or together with you. If it is an interest of his, try to encourage it with more complicated sets (or by creating his own!). A lot of high schools have robotic teams and summer camps, so he may be able to pursue that in the near future as well.Tools – gone are the days of pretending! It is time to get your son his own set of tools and get him outside with you or dad. Not only will he learn invaluable skills but working along side mom or dad is a breeding ground for bonding experiences! You will open doors for conversations that you thought would never happen.
Guns – airsoft, bb guns, paint ball guns or his first hunting rifle are all good choices. Boys often (gulp!) learn to shoot at this age. If you are going to have fun with airsoft, bb or paint ball guns, be sure to buy the proper equipment and use safety precautions. If you are going to get him a rifle, be sure to sign him up for fire arm safety.Knives – a pocket knife, deer knife or fish cleaning knife would all be good choices. A pocket knife or Swiss Army Knife is pretty cool for a boy this age. if he hunts or fishes, then he will enjoy those knives as well.
13 years to 19 years
It’s time to think “adult” with your teenage son. What do you or your husband like to do when spending time with your friends? That is likely what your son will like to do as well, so shop accordingly.
Cards & Board Games – your son can play nearly every game that you play at parties and get-togethers (there may be some exceptions, as some games are decidedly more ‘adultish’ than others). A few of our favorites are Things , Catch Phrase, Scrabble and Cranium.Movies – your aspiring adult can now watch a lot of the movies that you yourself enjoy, which makes movie night that much more fun! Be sure to choose your titles wisely, however, because most movies are dotted with inappropriate scenes. Keep your boy’s age, maturity level, and your family values in mind when choosing a movie.
Sporting Goods – by now your son has decided on his favorite sports, and may even have some that he excels at. Feed his passion and show him you care about his interests by giving him a gift related to his favorite sport. Some great ideas are ice skates, hockey sticks, baseballs and bats. Keep in mind that not all sports require a ball; hunting, fishing and snowmobiling are great examples of ball-less sports. Be sure to spend time with him playing his favorite sport!
Guns & Knives – your son may like to hunt or shoot guns for sport or he may enjoy paintball or airsoft guns. Knives are also used as a sport or for hunting and fishing. They are all great gifts that encourage bonding, particularly because it’s a good idea to be around when your son is going to shoot!
Models – your son can work together with you on all sorts of models – cars, trains, semi-trucks, pick-ups, planes and rockets. He’s going to be gone soon, so don’t waste a moment! Work with him on his models.
Tools – keep building your son’s tool collection. Not only will he need it when he’s out on his own (soon!) but working together is a great way to spend some time together.
Work Clothes – if your son likes to help you out in the shop, work on cars, do some woodworking – anything like that, then the proper clothing is necessary. He will need these items as he moves out on his own, but for now, use them to encourage him to come hang out with you. The best way to communicate with your son is to spend some time together, but keep his hands busy.
There are many different ways to build a relationship with your son and even more gifts to use doing it. The key is to spend time together, do something he loves and be fully present in the moment. Listen while he talks, bite your tongue if need be, and always show him the same respect you would show a friend.
Happy Holidays – and remember, the best gift you can give your son is your time!!