We are very quickly running out of days before Christmas. If you still have a few small presents, or stocking stuffers to buy, let me suggest a trip to your local supermarket. You probably need a few last minute chips, and crackers anyway, so why not maximize your time, and finish up your gift list, too.
The junky little toys that hang on the aisles might, at first glance, appear to be cheaply made, wastes of money - and in truth many of them are very cheaply made - but they can also turn out to be surprisingly entertaining, inexpensive, and sometimes even educational, if not long term, toys.
Searching the grocery store aisles tonight for our favorite, but hard to find, holiday crackers (we really like those butterfly crackers from Pepperidge Farms) I passed a number of such toys, that my own children (ages 8-17) and their friends, have especially enjoyed, and thought maybe I'd share them here, in case anyone is looking for ideas or inspiration.
Ja-Ru Toys' Dino World Fossil Kit. These are some of the best little dino-digs we have ever done. The digging material is well formed, and held together, but not rock hard, making it pleasant to excavate the tiny little skeleton pieces. I have seen reviews elsewhere that speak of missing bones, and disappointed children, but we have always had complete skeletons (except when we lost a piece during a recycle experiment - and that only led to more imaginative play).
Grab-A Bubble 3-D. Not only are the touchable bubbles weird, and interesting, but the 3-D prism might be handy for all sorts of science experiments, later on.
Tricky Worm/Magic Worm puppets. You can finger knit your own, but the store bought variety is always a big hit, too. This one is good for teens, as well as the elementary aged set.
Finger Lights. Just click the link to see some of the fun and learning these can create.
Fake Mustaches. They don't last long, but they're fun while they stick around. We gave some as a white elephant gift at a home school Christmas party, last week. One of the teenage girls there opened the package, and it wasn't long before she, and a group of her buddies, were trouping around the room, proudly sporting them.
Grow Snow. Add a touch of tonic water, and a UV light, and you can even make it glow.
Or, for small gifts, you might peek at the toy aisle (or Christmas gift shelf) for Singing Tubes...
...or in the produce, or floral section of the store for a Venus Fly Trap.
I'm always amazed at how many stores have them in among the apples, and carnations.