My Magical Mermaid; Boden winter hat; reusable juice box; hair clip; Freshly Picked moccasins; EOS Lip Balm; bubbles; Sesame Street tee shirt; Frozen Band-Aids; Shopkins; Essie nail polish in A Cut Above; My First Girl Power book
Because, really, for kids, half the fun is just the unwrapping part. So why not wrap up stuff they actually need? Here's some (mostly) non-crap ideas to get you started.
1. Cool office supplies: I got this pack of fun scissors for my daughter after her teacher recommended it. It's good for art projects, but also helps build fine motor skills. Glitter glue is another good one. A cute pad of paper is another winner. They're good for doodling when you're traveling, out at a restaurant, or just bored at home. You can do something fun like this, or seriously, they'll likely get just as excited about some brightly colored Post Its. These things are fun for arts n' crafts time, but even better: You can pick them up last minute at the drugstore. Score.
2. Fun socks: I feel like half my life is buying socks since they lose them constantly. Pick up some cute ones, and voila: you have a fun but useful stocking stuffer. I got Sesame Street for my son. and this Frozen set for my daughter.
3. Crayons: Like socks, these seem to disappear in my house. What's better than a fresh new box anyway? We did some glittery ones for my daughter last year.
4. Resusable juice boxes: Each of my kids is getting one of these this year. They are both obsessed with juice boxes, but we really try to limit juice because of the sugar. (They're considered a "treat" in our house.) Love that you can fill these with milk or water to make something healthier more fun, and that there's no waste. (Note: I almost got them different colors but then thought of all the fights that would surely ensure, so they are both getting a lovely gender-neutral orange.)
5. Fun Band-Aids: I haven't met a kid yet who didn't love character Band-Aids. Last year I gave my daughter a box of princess Band-Aids, and judging from her reaction, you would've thought I had stuck a $100 bill in there. Try it. They'll be excited about getting something Barbie/Frozen/Spongebob, and you'll be excited that you just crossed one more item off your Diapers.com list.
6. Nail polish: The kiddie polish with princesses or whatever on the label is usually thick, goopy crap. Spring for a grownup-quality shade you love...so that you can steal it later. (This is a pretty, glittery pink, and Mint Candy Apple is one of my all-time favorite shades.)
7. Hair accessories: This one is a no-brainer for little girls. And there are so many options. I usually get a few handmade felt hairclips off Etsy (this PB&J set is SO cute), and this year I'm going to add a pack of Emi Jay hair ties (and then I'll probably pocket a few for myself-shhh!). You can do something fun like this Frozen hair accessory collection, or just a big, brightly colored pack of hair bands from Goody (yay for drugstore stocking stuffers!).
8. Belts: You keep meaning to buy your kid a new one, I know. Now's your chance. Try to make sure it's at least a small step beyond utilitarian black or brown, and boom--it's a stocking stuffer. I want to get my daughter a pretty glitter one (glitter belts goes with everything, she loves them because she finds them "fancy," and she grew out of her last one). This one would be really cute for a little boy.
9. EOS lip balm: Any good balm will do, of course, but EOS makes lip balm fun. I find that kids really love the ball shape and they love applying it, too. It's also just a really great way to soothe their constantly, inevitably chapped mouths.
10. Soft shoes: When my kids were younger, I loved throwing a pair of soft shoes into their stockings. Robeez are my all-time favorite (so many cute styles and they really stay put on little feet), and the mocs by Freshly Picked are just gorgeous. (The gold! The metallic pink!) Also, if you have a baby, these cozy booties are AMAZING. My kids lived in them when they were younger. These are also awesome--and cheap. If you want to do shoes for older kids, you could do fun flip flops or slippers.
11. Underpants: Try throwing a pack of character underwear into your (potty trained!) kid's stocking. My daughter will likely be getting these (she already has Frozen and lots of Princess). These are fun for boys.
12. Bubbles: To quote Knocked Up: "I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles." 'Tis true. You'll never have enough of them, so why not give each kid a fresh new bottle?
13. Bath toys: They get moldy and gross, so you need to replace them frequently anyway. No time like the present, no? I love bath squirters for younger kids (my son is getting these Thomas the Train squirters). My daughter actually recently got this My Magical Mermaid, which just launched, and she LOVES it.
14. Small books: Think board books for babies or a paperback for an older child. I got this one and this one for my son. My daughter is getting this Girl Power book.
15. Fun t-shirt: Get a tee emblazoned with your kid's favorite character (or another cute design if you're a "no character clothes" mom), roll it up, tie it with a ribbon (or wrap it tightly in paper), and you're done. Old Navy always has great options that are pretty cheap (they also go on sale all the time). I'm getting my daughter this one, and my son this one.
16. Winter hat or mittens: By this point in the season, your kid has likely lost them anyway, so stock up again. I like this one, this one, and this one.
17. Shopkins: If you have a kid over the age of four, he or she is either already obsessed with Shopkins, or will be soon. (You've been warned.) They're straight-up toys, yes, but they're small, they're relatively cheap, and your kids will go nuts for them. They're also portable and therefore excellent for entertaining bored little ones on the go, so that's the usefulness right there. We'll be arming ourselves with them on the plane.
18. Ornaments: I've started an annual tradition where each of my kids will get an ornament (ideally personalized with their name and the year) in their stocking. The goal is that each year's ornament will be something representative of that time in their lives--and something that's not a total piece of junk. I ordered this handmade Elmo for my son since he's currently OBSESSED and this handmade Frozen ornament for my daughter because...obvs.
I'd LOVE to hear your ideas now! What's your best non-crap/non-candy stocking stuffer for kids?