In some ways, it can be easier to choose Secret Santa gifts for kids than for adults. Gift guides are packed with gift ideas, and there are thousands of things you could buy online (or even in the toy aisle of your grocery store). Gifts for kids are everywhere during the holiday season.
But when there's such a huge variety of options available, identifying the perfect gift for your recipient can be difficult. Not every kid wants something with Disney princesses or Star Wars characters on it. Especially if you don't know the child's interests or personality well, where are you going to start?
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Thinking about gift ideas in terms of categories might help organize your planning before your Secret Santa gift exchange happens. Even if you're shopping for someone you don't know at all, you'll find at least one Secret Santa gift idea here that they'll truly love—or at least, something you can get a gift receipt for.
Secret Santa holiday gift ideas for kids
1. Playable gifts: toys and games
There's a tabletop game, card game and/or video game for kids of every kind, from animal-obsessed toddlers to STEM-loving tweens and sci-fi loving teens.
Choosing a board game or video game that the kid in question will a) love and b) not already own can be tough, but taking a chance and picking something that looks fun to you could end being a big hit. Handheld games that can be played by a single player (like BrainBolt, or one of the many updated versions of Rubik's cubes) can also make great Secret Santa gifts for kids.
When in doubt... trust in TikTok.
If you have no idea what kinds of toys and gadgets kids are currently into and can't ask any kids in your life for guidance, turn to social media for ideas about toy trends. The trends change, but there's always something going viral on TikTok (and other sites). You might get ideas for cool gifts that you didn't even know about, like a set of Popdarts or a galaxy star projector that blankets an entire room with stars.
2. Creative gifts: art, books and more
Kids of all ages and personalities can appreciate Christmas gifts that let them tap into their creativity. Ideas for creative gifts include:
- A set of watercolor paints and canvases, or other general art supplies
- A make-your-own-book set, for little ones who dream about being authors or comic book artists one day
- A kids' journal, along with sparkly pens and stickers
- A few age-appropriate paperback books, plus silly bookmarks and a cute reading light
- Modeling clay, or if you have the budget, a child's pottery wheel
- STEM activity kits that let kids build their own contraptions
For kids who love to watch tutorials online and/or make their own videos, you might also think about gifts like a kid-friendly digital camera with tripod, a bluetooth karaoke microphone or a child's makeup set. (Just run these ideas past the child's parents first; some might not want to encourage their kids' TikTok and YouTube habits.)
3. Consumable gifts: food, drink and tools
Food gifts can be tricky for kids, especially if you aren't familiar with their dietary restrictions and preferences. But if you know the child well, these kinds of gifts can be a big hit. Think beyond actual food and drink, too. With the rise in popularity of family-friendly cooking shows, many little ones are eager to get their hands on kitchen gadgets.
Some food/drink gift ideas for foodie kids include:
- A decorating set for cookies or cupcakes
- A stainless steel water bottle decorated with their favorite animal or sports team's logo
- Silicone molds in funny shapes
- A subscription box with snacks from all over the world
- A fun gadget like a shaved ice machine or mini waffle maker (for older kids)
4. Experience gifts: things kids can do
Gift vouchers for a museum, aquarium, movie theater, arcade or other popular kid-friendly places can sometimes be the best Secret Santa gifts. Kids get a memorable experience without adding more clutter to their bedrooms. If your budget allows, attach a little cash to the vouchers with a note explaining that it's for buying snacks or souvenirs.
No idea who's going to get your gift? No problem.
If you're participating in more of a "white elephant" gift exchange than a traditional Secret Santa exchange, you're going to need a gift that any kid there could love. Here's one classic solution: Pair a gift card for Walmart/Target/Amazon with one or two small stocking stuffer-type items. That way the recipients get to choose something they'll love, but won't leave the gift exchange empty-handed.
5. Budget-friendly gifts: $15 or less
Whether your gift exchange has a strict budget, or you're trying to put together a gift basket of multiple small items, these are a few low-cost gifts kids might love.
- A multipack of Play Doh, and/or a few Play Doh accessories
- Mini Lego sets
- Gift packs of stickers or temporary tattoos
- Packs of cards
- Kids' bath bombs with toys inside
- Eggs of Silly Putty
- Easy DIY gifts using upcycled items, like sweater mittens or twisty candles for a TikTok-loving teen
Choosing the best gifts as the Secret Santa to a kid might feel daunting, but it should be fun! At the very least, it's a great excuse to spend some time trying out all the coolest toys at the toy store—just for research, of course.