There’s something unique about that Christmas morning feeling as a child. The excitement, the presents, the bleary eyed parents. This Charlotte Mason gift guide can help take the guesswork out of how to find quality toys and more for your little ones.
Charlotte Mason Gift Guide
I only really remember having one thing on my Christmas list as a little girl. I desperately wanted an American Girl doll. Year after year I held out hope and year after year it wasn’t in the budget. Instead, my parents bought me an off-brand doll and my mom handmade a whole wardrobe of clothes.
Even though it might not have been what I envisioned, it was still special because of the thought that was put into the gift. This Charlotte Mason gift guide focuses on gifts that are thoughtful, beautiful, and help children develop mentally, emotionally, and physically. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be good.
What Makes a Good Charlotte Mason Gift?
Montessori and Waldorf have their own specific toys, but Charlotte Mason is different. The philosophy behind the CM method instead gives us a few guiding principles when choosing gifts.
Miss Mason said children’s belongings should be “pleasing and suitable.” Her idea was that toys and books should cultivate and grow, not spoil a child’s taste. As an educator and former nanny, I’ve sadly worked with too many children whose imagination and creativity are dulled by the endless overstimulating toys and media. They’re no longer perceptive to the beauties of nature and life and have a hard time entertaining themselves without an iPad.
An article in the Parent’s Review, a CM publication from the 19th century, talks about the best kinds of toys for children.
“In choosing toys for the children, how important it is to bear certain points in mind; one special thing to consider is, to give when possible something out of which the child can make other things, or can do something more with.” – Parent’s Review Vol. 17
The article goes on to explain that “finite” toys do the work for the child, while “suggestive” toys employ creativity. If we give our little ones an electric race track it’s fun for a while to see the cars zooming around on the track, but it eventually gets old.
A toy car without a battery-operated engine requires the child to physically pick it up, move it, and play with it to engage. They make revving noises with their mouth and run the car up and down homemade or imaginary roads. The car can fly, jump off the sofa, and be whatever they can imagine. These toys encourage open-ended play.
Choosing a Charlotte Mason Inspired Gift
I’ve divided the guide into categories so you can easily sort out what works best for your family. Many of the groups are meant for a wide variety of ages and you can scale the gift up or down depending on your child’s age and skill level.
For example, if you’re gifting your six-year-old a sewing set I prefer to use embroidery floss and large embroidery needles at that age. Older children can have patterns or even their own sewing machine. Do what makes sense for your kids.
And just because the focus is on quality and imagination doesn’t mean we have to ignore technology. My oldest has the brain of an engineer and we’re doing our best to cultivate that. In today’s world that involves STEM toys, like build your own robots, snap circuits, and legos.
Boys Become Men
I mentioned Montessori toys earlier (and you’ll find some in this Charlotte Mason gift guide). The educational philosophy behind the Montessori method is very different from CM though. Maria Montessori was an educator at the same time as Miss Mason, and Mason had some things to say about Montessori’s approach.
Montessori focused on taking an adult environment and refashioning it for the child. She created their own little world for them, and in a lot of ways, we see that in today’s toys. Instead of giving children a toy kitchen set with pretend pots and pans, Mason would have given the child an apron and had them help in the kitchen.
“When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s level.” – Charlotte Mason Vol. 6 pg. 94
Charlotte Mason inspired toys instead make it easier for the child to participate in an adult environment, treating them as an equal person. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dressing up as a fireman, having a play kitchen set, or playing mommy to a doll. However, children should also be welcomed to participate with children of all ages and adults as we do life.
Finding the Perfect Charlotte Mason Gift
Browse through the options below and see what floats your boat. I’m not dividing by gender because maybe your son wants some kitchen pans and your daughter wants a bow and arrow. Some of these are affiliate links which means the cost is the same to you but I make a little from your purchase to keep the coffee pot around here full. Lord knows I need coffee.
In case you’re wondering, I did eventually get an American Girl doll for Christmas, but I’ll always remember the love that was put into my doll’s homemade wardrobe. Hopefully, this list will help you find something just as special for your own little ones.
Charlotte Mason Gift Guide for Little Ones
These toys are geared more towards preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary age. I prefer toys that are made out of quality, non-toxic materials like wood and fabric. Plus they look really nice sitting on the shelf and contribute to the beautiful atmosphere of the home I’m trying to cultivate. It helps offset the look of the dirty dishes in my sink at least.
- Sewing cards
- Rainbow wooden kaleidoscope
- Play silks
- Fabric play scarves
- Wooden train set
- Wooden puzzles
- Safari wood puzzle
- Busy board
- Rocking horse
- Hobby horse
- Radio flyer wagon
- Hand puppets and puppet stage
- Make your own felt puppets
- Alphabet tiles or magnets
- Playdough (with animal cookie cutters, small rolling pins, and other accessories)
- Kinetic sand fossil set
- Lincoln logs
- Egg Sidewalk chalk
- Solar system chalk
- Magna tiles
- Learning tower
- Calico Critters
- DIY Kaleidoscope kit
- Porcelain tea set
Handicrafts are a fundamental part of a Charlotte Mason education. Instead of flimsy crafts that you don’t know what to do with and eventually end up in the trash, handicrafts serve a purpose. These are a great way for children to learn fine motor skills and create gifts for friends and family members!
- Yarn, crochet hook set, how to crochet book
- Yarn, knitting needles, and beginning knitting book
- Soap carving kit
- Wood carving book, tools and basswood.
- Modeling Clay, child-safe sculpting tools and how to make clay figures book.
- Pottery – Clay and pottery wheel set
- Sewing kit – embroidery floss, needles, scissors, etc., for beginners. Regular needles, thread, pins, etc. for older children. Sewing kit organizer.
- Cross stitch – Hoop, embroidery floss and needles, beginner cross stitch and embroidery book.
- Fox cross stitch kit
- Embroidery kit
- Needlepoint kit
- Origami paper and book
- Paper sloyd for primary grades book
- Wood burning kit
- Leathercraft kit and beginner leatherworking tools.
- Wooden building kits
- Wood airplane kit
- Jewelry making kit– or make your own with wire cutters, chain, leather thread, beads, etc.
- Weaving loom – Here’s a small loom for younger children, and a bigger weaving loom for older ones.
- Foraging basket making kit
- Felting – Making Natural Felt Animals book, felting kits.
- Rug hooking
- Calligraphy set
- Candle making kit
Nature Themed Charlotte Mason Gifts
It wouldn’t be Charlotte Mason without nature study! Here are loads of ideas to pique your child’s interest and get them outside and into nature more. Some of these are better suited for older children or should be used with supervision (like the knives and fire starter kit). There are options for both outdoor and indoor play, when the weather isn’t cooperating.
- Pocket microscope
- Gem and stone polishing set
- Geodes to break open
- Fossil excavation kit
- Binoculars (this pair is especially good for birdwatching)
- Bolga basket for toys, gathering and foraging, etc.
- Flower press
- Pocket knife
- Outdoor adventure kit – flashlight, compass, whistle, magnifying glass, bug box
- Bird call whistle
- Gardening set – gloves, watering can, and trowel set. Herb garden seeds.
- Terrarium starter kit or bottle terrarium kit
- Grow your own crystal
- Bug kit – Bug box, butterfly net, magnifying glass
- Nature journal that will hold up to watercolor
- Butterfly growing kit
- Ant farm
- Ladybug growing kit
- Bird feeder (we have this one on our back door)
- Meteorology weather center
Charlotte Mason Gift Guide to Adventuring
Boys and girls alike need a little adventure in their lives. These toys and supplies are suitable for both indoor and outdoor play and are a great way to develop bravery, chivalry, self-sufficiency, and a sense of adventure. We’ve set some common sense ground rules in our home for these toys, like don’t shoot your brother with an arrow in the face.
- Beginner play archery set
- Slingshot kit
- Rubber band gun
- Wooden sword and shield
- Tent and enamelware mess kit
- Firestarter kit (magnesium and flint), or bow drill firestarter for older kids or with supervision
- Knot tying kit
Miss Mason believed in giving children quality materials and supplies when it came to learning. “Boxes of cheap colours are to be avoided. Children are worthy of the best.” (Vol. 1, p. 313). As an art teacher, here are some of my favorites that are good for students, but still high quality.
“Art, when rightly directed, is educational, for it trains not only one faculty, but all the faculties together; it trains the hand and the eye, and it trains the head and the heart; it teaches us to see and to see truly; it teaches us to think–that science can do; but it teaches us also to admire and to love; it disciplines the emotions.” (Mr. Collingwood, The Fesole Club Papers)
- Watercolor pan paints and watercolor pad
- Twig pencils
- Mixed media paper
- Sketching pencils
- Watercolor pencils
- Prismacolor colored pencils
- Charcoal and charcoal paper
- Oil pastels
- Chalk pastels
- Acrylic paint
- Paper doll kit
- Drawing table and chalkboard
Active and Outdoor Fun
The more we can encourage movement, the healthier and happier our kids will be. I have a sensory swing and gymnastics rings hanging from my living room ceiling, next to the mini trampoline and the treadmill. You may not want to turn your living room into a gym, but there are plenty of fun ways to incorporate active toys in and outside the home. A friend of mine has gymnastics equipment (tumbling mat and balance beam), lining her hallway. Instead of walking down the hallway her kids tumble and flip!
- Sensory swing – we have this one in our living room and the kids use it all the time!
- Doorway gym
- Zipline with seat
- Balance beam
- Pogo stick
- Mini trampoline for indoors
- Tumbling mat
- Mud kitchen
- Jump rope
- Fishing pole and supplies
- Walkie talkies
- Classic wooden sled
Charlotte Mason Gift Guide to Games
Family game night is always a hit at our house. Many of these games are classics we know and love, but you’ll find some newer ones too. I love these because they really encourage creativity, thoughtfulness, and positive collaboration. You won’t find crude jokes, plastic parts, or a game that gives you a pie to the face (sorry if that’s your thing).
- Ravensburger Puzzles (my kids love these!)
- Mineral or wildflower puzzles
- Ecologies card game (ages 8+)
- The Garden Game
- Camelot board game (this one is hard to find but worth it if you can)
- Hit the Habitat Trail board game
- Trekking the National Parks
- Science and nature memory games
- Wildcraft herbal board game
- Cat’s cradle
- Jumbo checkers
- Bird bingo
- Bug bingo
- Match a Track – match 25 animals to their paw prints
Instead of just giving our children stuff, let’s open the door to life for them. This will depend on what’s in your area, but here are some ideas for fun experiences to have as a family within a range of budgets. Here’s a tip: If relatives are asking what to get your children for Christmas (and they’re already swimming in stuff!), give them a few options from this list. Snap a picture of your kids enjoying their trip, frame it, and gift it to their relative. Grandparents and others prefer to give items where they can see the joy on the child’s face in opening the gift, so a framed photo solves that problem.
- Get a musical instrument and take lessons
- Zoo membership
- Tickets to the aquarium
- Art or science museum
- Trip to local history museums and reenactments
- Go roller or ice skating
- Go hiking
- Go geocaching
- Travel to the ocean
- go camping
- go to a waterpark
I grew up in a family of musicians with a strong history of making music and singing. As a child, I learned how to play the piano, flute, guitar, clarinet, violin, and a few other instruments, all with varying success. Music opens up a whole other world for us to explore and you never know which instrument your child will fall in love with. I haven’t included anything too loud and obnoxious here so you shouldn’t get terribly annoyed as they’re learning.
- Panda drum
- Make your own harmonica
- Lap harp
- Turtle Wingo shaker (good for little kids)
- Handmade rhythm instrument kit
- Guitar for older kids, child size guitar for younger ones
- Hand drum
- Moleskin music notebook
- Living books on musicians
The Charlotte Mason gift ideas in the nature and outdoor sections are also part of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). This section includes items that involve more of the technology and engineering side. There are a lot of flashy STEM toys on the market that really don’t require much mental or physical effort on the child’s part. Remember that Charlotte Mason inspired toys foster creative thinking, not do all the work and entertain!
- Snap Circuits – learn electricity and engineering
- Crystal radio kit
- Kiwi Crate science subscription box
- Build a solar robot
- Marbles and marble run
- Magna tiles
- Rubix cube
- Build your own puzzle music box kit
What items on this Charlotte Mason gift guide are your favorites? Leave us a comment and be sure to share this post with a friend!