By Steph | Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom:

2015 Gift Guide: Gifts That Encourage Learning and Creativity

Now that we've had this whole parenting thing under our belt for over seven years (I know. We're surprised, too), it's safe to say our lives our pretty inundated with toys. While we are not curmudgeonly, we are selective and thoughtful with the gifts we give our girls during the holidays. But after close to a decade of buying toys and being gifted toys, it adds up. TO SO MANY TOYS.

Over the past few years, we've started purging our toy collection, weeding out toys they've outgrown and coming to terms with toys they just plain don't play with. It's been helpful, as what remains are the toys the girls truly enjoy.

So our focus when buying gifts is not only the "fun factor," but the enhancement factor. No, I'm not looking for toys that promise to raise my daughter's IQ 20 points. Rather, I research and seek gifts that encourage learning and creativity while also falling into categories of their interests. Chica loves to doodle. Bug loves challenging her knowledge in a competitive way. Quiz her on what she knows, and she thrives.

There is room in fun for education and imagination. So these are toys that I not only don't mind buying, but I know adds something special to playtime.

Here are a few things on the Learning and Creative Toy List that will be under our tree:

CODE MASTER

In Code Master, your Avatar will travel to an exotic world in search of power Crystals. Kids learn how to step through code and understand the logic and sequence behind a computer’s actions. Kids will be entertained while developing an understanding of computer programming principles. For all 60 levels, you’ll have to use programming logic to help your Avatar collect the Crystals and land at the Portal. Think carefully, in each level, only one specific sequence of actions will lead to success. Available exclusively at Target and Amazon. (Ages 8+)

COMPOSE YOURSELF

Created by maestro cellist and composer Philip Sheppard – who recently scored the Star Wars trailer!), Compose Yourself is a set of musical “building bricks” that encourages anyone with any musical ability to “play with” music just as they would with a construction kit. The digital music game features a deck of transparent cards and access to an exclusive website to compose, share with friends and family, or download/print your own custom sheet music – featuring more than a billion melody combinations. Available exclusively at Amazon. (Ages 6+).

LASER MAZE JR.

Your mission: Expertly transport the laser beam to the rockets so that it can safely return to earth! Younger players can now experience the fun of the award-winning game Laser Maze with an age-appropriate design and challenge for grade school children with real lasers. Available on Amazon and neighborhood toy stores. (Ages 6+).

LEGO CLASSIC LARGE CREATIVE BRICK BOX

No specific instructions. Just a bunch of colorful bricks and anything your imagination can come up with! I love that the classic LEGOS are simple and require kids to dream. Stored in an adorable lego-shaped container, this 790 piece set contains a variety of colors and pieces for building anything and everything. The Classic set is the perfect complement to other Lego sets but is just as fun on its own!

ART SUPPLIES

It's the simple things. And simply putting together a gift basket of fun art supplies is the gift that keeps on giving all year 'round! For younger kids, consider a ream of paper, stickers, crayons and a stamp set.

For older kids, upgrade to professional sketch pads and a proper art set.

SCHOOL ZONE LITTLE SCHOLAR TABLET

The Little Scholar Tablet is pre-loaded with over 200 premium educational apps, e-books, videos, and songs! Curriculum areas covered are math, reading, spelling, science and more! Includes a BRIGHT BLUE easy grip protective bumper, front and rear facing camera, and the A+ Reporting app for parents to track children's progress. No Wi-Fi needed with this kid-safe learning environment. Ages 3 to 7. Grades K to 1.

PERSONALIZED STORYBOOKS

While reading can be a fun endeavor, all kids need a little push and motivation. This is especially true of new and emerging readers. And there are few things more inspiring than seeing your own name and story in a book!

Mabel's Labels now offers personalized storybooks. We have the My Adventures with Disney's Frozen for each girl. The books incorporate fun facts about each girl: their names, where they live, their birthday and even a few of their friends names! The personalized items are woven into the familiar story of Frozen. There are several different story options, including Cars, Frozen Fever, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Paw Patrol, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Barbie, Ninja Turtles and Sophia.

And a bonus!

MABEL'S LABELS

We tend to lose things. Like. A LOT. So I wanted to throw out the lifesaver that is Mabel's Labels. Mabel's offers a variety of peel-and-stick labels that can withstand anything a lively child throws at it. The labels are waterproof, so you can stick them on containers that are thrown in the dishwasher AND you can stick them on clothes (!!!) and run them through the washer. Say what? They're also microwave safe.

They're literally amazing.

We have personalized labels for both Bug and Chica, and they come in all shapes and sizes, suited for whatever we need to stick them on. Mabel's also makes Bag Tags, which are metal with a clip. Attach them to book bags, gym bags, sleepover bags, suitcases, etc.

Label all of your school items for 2016 and maybe those educational toys too ;)

*****

As we continue to do our holiday shopping (which most likely will happen up until the last minute), I'll be sure to add any new toys and games I come across to the list.

Happy holidays!

Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom: 2015 Holiday Gift Guide