Learning Toys and Games For A Shop Small Xmas!

In years past, I have been that person who unashamedly shops for presents in the $1 section of Target or buys a last minute Starbucks card for a friend. This year feels different though. I don’t know if it’s COVID’s influence, where we are all finding ourselves at home more, less inundated with the glitz and glam of the season, or if it’s just the stark reality of our everyday vote becoming more and more apparent, but I want this year to be different. 

A friend recently pointed out that we don’t just vote on election day. We vote every day with our purchases and how we allocate our time and money. So very true. 

There are 3 things I’m focusing on this Christmas for our young family. 

  1. Open-ended toys with multiple uses. 
  2. Books, because who ever has enough books? Amiright?
  3. Cooperative and Family games we can do together. 

I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to make a commitment this year to shop small and to wrap presents sustainably (with used chip bags, fabric bags, scarves etc). The only problem with this is…WHY are small businesses sometimes so expensive!?!? For those that can afford these shops (and many can, which is awesome!) please do shop at these places and support these businesses. I do understand that it takes a lot more time, effort, and overhead money to produce quality items in a small business. And if we all decide to shop smart, we don’t need to buy SO many things for our children. To me, shopping smart means picking gifts that are open-ended, and therefore we don’t need so many! A few smart buys can be enough for a looooong time! 

Before I list out some small businesses and gift ideas I’ve been putting together, I also want to say that shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops, is A-OK! I plan on looking at these places for some gifts this year to keep costs really low. And re-using items that have been pre-loved is so much better for all of us. You can wash/disinfect just about anything once you’re home! 

With all that said, here’s a list of small businesses with some affordable gift ideas for each, if you’re like me and you’re starting to think about what you, grandparents, friends, and family will be bringing into your home this Christmas. 

Area Ware

Blockitecture: I love these! They are a bit pricey (for our family) but the open-ended play possibilities are so great! Plus, they are from a small business putting out quality learning toys. Win. 

Darlyng and Co.

Black-owned business with super cute cape and mask sets for kids. So many possibilities!

The Black Toy Store

So impressed with this shop. So many great resources here. 

I Never Forget A Face Memory Game: So good! It’s like Guess Who? only not lacking in diversity! 

Building Bath Pipes: Affordable and SO open-ended! This is at the top of my list for Xmas this year as I have 2 boys who LOVE their bath. 

Garden Growing Kit: This one supports a black-owned business but if you need a few more affordable items, you could totally DIY this kit for a rad present!

Preschool Peg Board Set: Super impressed with this preschool/baby peg board set. SO many possibilities with this one! And not too pricey! 


Play Silks: Etsy is like the ultimate place for shopping small. Affordable play silks…is it just me or are these THE most open-ended play thing out there!

Mama May I

Color-Sorting Bowls: A handmade toy shop run by a mom and educator with an understanding of Montessori and Waldorf methodologies. These stacking bowls have endless possibilities and because they are wood, they will last through multiple children! 

Wild Republic

This company is committed to nature and conservation. They make realistic looking animal toys and stuffed animals. My son absolutely loves little animal toys like this Ocean Bucket Set.

Second-Chance Toys

This organization isn’t selling toys, but they are giving plastic toys a second-chance and keeping them out of landfills. Maybe it’s a good time to donate toys that aren’t being used anymore and keep them out of the landfill. 


Better World Books

I usually shop books used from Amazon, thrift stores, and Little Free Libraries. I also recently found out about this great website for used books, where proceeds benefit literacy and libraries.



This list includes mostly cooperative games (where everyone is working together to win) and a few other family-friendly options. You can find all of these on Amazon. 

Acorn Soup (for very young kids)

Farm to Market Game

This, That, and Everything (I have my eye on the “Places” edition!)

Space Escape


What Do You Meme Family Edition

Sushi Go (I fell in love with this game a few years ago! Too cute!)

Hanabi (A great cooperative game that’s small and easy to travel with)

Well, I think that’s it for now! I hope you got a few ideas and think about joining me for a Shop Small Xmas!


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