At its initial writing, this list of stocking stuffers for kids had over 75 entries — and each list item encompasses a number of variations or options, making for hundreds of stocking stuffer ideas. I’ve left it open-ended so I can add to it over time, and I hope you’ll find it useful as a master list.
The list was written with kids from about preschool age through tweens in mind. If you’re looking for ideas for babies or toddlers, they’re addressed separately. If you have teens, stay tuned, because that list is coming!
This is, perhaps, the most obvious stocking stuffer of all. As an old stand-by, I couldn’t leave it out, but candy isn’t the only food category that’s suited to filling stockings. (Looking for a bit of a twist? Instead of — or in addition to — the child’s favorite candy, consider stuffing the stocking with a nostalgic variety from your own childhood.)
Dried fruit comes in both chewy varieties and crispy freeze-dried varieties. There are some surprising flavors available, too (see below). Or, although it isn’t quite “dried fruit,” fruit snacks can go in a stocking.
Squeesable fruit pouches are a favorite among the younger kids. Some older kids might be less impressed with them, but some don’t grow out of them. (If your kids have, they might welcome fruit or applesauce cups in their place — something that doesn’t feel like drinking the food.)
Granola bars, protein bars, etc. can be a healthier alternative to candy bars. (How much healthier depends on which ones you choose!) Kate’s are one of my personal favorites, for having very “clean” ingredients but still tasting more like a treat than health food. (The “Grizzly Bars” flavor are my very favorite.)
Need even more protein-heavy stocking stuffer food? Jerky or meat sticks work well. Meat sticks are softer and generally easier for kids to eat. Keep in mind that most mainstream brands (like what you see at checkout counters) contain gluten, so if your kiddo is gluten-free, you’ll want to be sure to find a brand that’s gluten-free.
Many cookies and crackers come in snack-sized packages and make fun crunchy snacks for stockings. (Chips come in snack sizes, too, of course, but are likely to be crushed in a stocking — except for Pringles.) Look for Goldfish crackers, Cheez-Its, Oreos, Combos, etc. Don’t overlook the dollar store for these smaller boxes of goodies!
Get ready for cozying up on cold winter nights by including hot cocoa packets or herbal tea bags in the stockings you stuff. (If you’re splitting up a box of tea bags, make sure the brand you choose is individually wrapped.)
Honey sticks make a great addition to the herbal tea bags. Especially if you choose flavored varieties, many children also enjoy these as snacks — the natural equivalent of candy.
Small games, like card games or travel games, make excellent stocking stuffers. Wordless games like UNO and Go Fish are especially good choices for non-readers.
Game pieces or accessories also make good stocking stuffers, if you don’t want to do whole games. Consider items like basic sets of cards or dice, specialty dice, “gaming” dice, card holders, or a Card Caddy. Basic playing cards are a versatile option, ranging from super-inexpensive sets at the dollar store, to a variety of designed backs to suit any aesthetic, to amazingly gorgeous art cards (probably better saved for older recipients).
Matchbox (or similar) Cars
Die cast cars are a perfect size for stockings and, of course, come in a plethora of vehicle styles. You can buy individual cars or sets. Unless you’re looking for a specific style, you can usually find these for a dollar or two each. If you have younger kids and are concerned about small parts, or if you just prefer natural materials, you can get small wooden cars instead.
To go with the cars, there’s road tape. PlayTape is the name brand option. There are generics, too, although we haven’t tried them. This is basically wide masking tape with roads printed on it. There are stickers to add curves to the straight stretches of road formed by the tape. (A similar accessory to small cars is road signs.)
Bubbles are pretty self-explanatory, but keep in mind there are different bottle styles. There are traditional, standard bottles, and there are also the longer, wand-style bottles. (These long, slender versions usually come in a very long version as well as a mini version.) A related stocking stuffer idea is bubble wands.
Chalk is another largely self-explanatory filler option. We like to buy the boxes of sidewalk chalk at the dollar store, but sometimes this isn’t available during winter months. You’ll pay a little more to get it online, but can also find it that way. Chalk paint for the sidewalk is also a thing, although I’d recommend it for grade schoolers and not the youngest children. (It’s messier than regular chalk.)
Kids seem to love glow sticks. And parents love that these eventually get thrown out so they don’t have to make permanent space for them. This is another item we usually buy from the dollar store, where we can get a tube of the narrow style for $1. But if you buy them online, you have additional options, including multipacks with a variety of connector styles, minis (pop them inside a punching ball for extra fun!), and the more classic size.
Newer isn’t always better. While your kids enjoy their tablets and e-readers, don’t overlook the classics: tops, jacks, pick-up sticks, marbles, jump ropes, etc.
Nesting dolls are a fun toy. Most people are familiar with the traditional Russian matryoshkas. What you might not know is that nesting dolls are also made in numerous other variations, like fairy princesses and animals. You can even buy blank dolls so you can paint your own (or your kids can paint their own).
Entire costumes are a bit big to fit in stockings, but a little can go a long way when using costume accessories to make believe you’re someone else. Think animal tails, masks, silly glasses, fake mustaches, sheriff badges, tiara etc.
Education, Movement, & Exploration
Coloring, Activity, and/or Puzzle Books
Whether full-size (8.5×11), purse-size (6×9-ish), or mini (like Dover’s mini acitivity books), these present numerous options. (Full-size coloring books may need to be rolled to fit in a stocking, so you might not want them to be too thick.) Detailed, not-so-detailed, color-by-number, paint-with-water, educational, themed, “stained glass” coloring pages…there really are a lot of choices. The dollar store is a great place to check for inexpensive options.
My kids enjoy word searches even before they have the skills for tougher puzzles like crosswords or sudoku. Mad Libs are also a really fun activity option for kids who can read. And don’t rule out workbooks as a potential stocking stuffer — especially for younger kids who are excited about learning what the big kids know.
Some of the more obvious drawing supplies include crayons, colored pencils, and markers. These all have basic versions available, and many also have additional versions — like twist-up or metallic crayons, watercolor pencils, or neon markers. For older or artistically-inclined kids, you can lean more toward the professional, though, with drawing pencils, charcoal, etc.
Art or Craft Supplies
These can be basic art/craft supplies like stickers, paint, rubber stamps, ink pads, etc. or they can be supplies for a specific art or craft the recipient enjoys and wants to learn: crochet hooks, knitting needles, yarn, embroidery floss, quilling tools, artists’ watercolors, scrapbooking adhesives, beads, etc.
Craft stores and the dollar store often have stickers, stamps, ink, punches, and other art and craft supplies for a dollar or so.
All of my kids love these. They’re ribbon streamers they can trail behind them as they run, dance, twirl, etc.
Book or Magazine
There are so many options in this category, where do I even start? A book or magazine can be one you know your child will just simply enjoy. It can be a specialized or hobby magazine for a subject he’s interested in or that you think he might enjoy learning about. It can be a book introducing a new hobby or craft. A set of instructions for something. A book that naturally pairs with something else in the stocking — like a book of jump rope rhymes to accompany a jump rope or a song book to go with a musical instrument.
Keep in mind that whatever you choose needs to either be a fairly small book, or it needs to be flexible enough to roll. A large hardcover won’t fit in a stocking!
Does your child collect something small, like stamps or coins? Fill his stocking with something to add to the collection. Or try products specifically intended to be collectible, like baseball cards, Magic the Gathering cards, or TeenyMates. A related stocking stuffer idea is sleeves or cases to hold and protect the collectibles.
Buy “real” Playdoh, alternative brands like Aroma Dough (which is gluten- and allergen-free, if that’s a concern), or make your own, play dough is a classic and versatile option. If you already own play dough, you can throw in tools for working with it. If your kids are old enough to manage it, kinetic sand, play foam, and Silly Putty are all viable alternatives.
A compass may seem like a stocking stuffer best reserved for older kids, but my children took an interest in compasses at a surprisingly young age, thanks to video games. An older child may also appreciate a pocketknife.
A calculator makes a good stocking stuffer, and can be a serious gift or a silly one. Very young kids like to pretend calculators are cell phones. Older kids can actually use them. The dollar store often carries calculators, and that might be an especially good choice for younger kids who aren’t going to really use them.
Who doesn’t like a magnifying glass? They’re awesome for getting a closer look at bugs, leaves, or your sister’s eyeballs.
Small Science Kits
Crystal grow kits and other small science kits can make good stocking stuffers. Check the dollar store for these — and check for age-appropriateness.
Decorative Baking Supplies
There is vast potential for decorative food items that are small: cookie cutters, food coloring, sprinkles, decorative cupcake liners, frosting piping tips, etc. Of course every child won’t have the same interest in all of these things, but even those who aren’t big on cooking might enjoy colored sprinkles or a cookie cutter in the shape of something they love. (Cookie cutters can be used on cheese, sandwiches, etc., not just on cookies!)
Small Kaleidoscope or Teleidoscope
What’s the difference? A kaleidoscope contains small objects that tumble around and form the patterns. A teleidoscope forms patterns based on whatever you look at through it (a cross between a telescope and a kaleidscope). Both are typically referred to as kaleidoscopes, so you’ll have to determine which one you’re looking at based on its construction. For a fun twist (pun intended) go with a kaleidoscope you can fill yourself.
A gyroscope is a fascinating physics toy. Similar movement toys are also intriguing, and include rail twirlers, Jacob’s Ladders, and balancing toys. Or for something else that spins, you can go with a simple fidget spinner.
Pocket Nature Guides
Pocket guides to rocks, birds, plants, etc. are handy tools for young explorers. Most are small paperbacks, but the Pocket Naturalist guides from Waterford Press are a series of laminated pamphlet-style booklets.
Small musical instruments like harmonicas, ocarinas, recorders, and various percussion instruments make excellent stocking stuffers. If you have a child who plays a larger instrument, accessories can be used as stocking fillers: guitar picks or pick holders, replacement strings, tuners, reeds, rosin, etc. Obviously, the options depend on what instrument the child plays.
Bug Exploring Gear
Because bugs are small, tools for investigating them are also typically small. Special “tongs” for catching them, magnifying boxes for looking at them, and temporary habitats for observing them are all available. (Sometimes you can find whole bug investigation sets — even at the dollar store, if you’re looking at the right time.) Sprouting lids for mason jars also make great breathable lids for bug-catching.
Kids often enjoy planting things and watching them grow. If you look at the right time of year, you can find tiny planting kits at the dollar store, with mini plant pots, seeds, etc. Or just get seed packets. Radishes are especially good to start with, because they’re fast growers. (Many varieties grow from seed to maturity in just 3 weeks.) Another interesting option is unusual varieties like “cheddar cauliflower” or purple carrots. And of course there are flowers.
Or just include the gardening supplies: small empty pots, garden trowels, shears, gloves, etc.
Dry Erase Goodies
Some kids can write…a LOT. And that means they go through a lot of paper. Consider putting dry erase goodies in their stockings to cut down on the paper while still allowing them to write. Dry erase pens, sleeves, cards, or slates provide drawing space without using up paper.
Flash Cards or Other Cards
Flash cards and reference cards fit nicely in a stocking and are available on a variety of topics to suit nearly every child and any age.
Small Building Kits
There are so many kinds of jewelry! Earrings, necklaces, Silly Bandz, make-your-own, slap bracelets… And although they’re not exactly jewelry, temporary tattoos, kid-friendly nail polish, and stick-on earrings all basically fall in this category.
(Claire’s is a great place to look for inexpensive costume jewelry for kids.)
Hair paraphernalia spans from the functional (brushes, combs, etc.) to the functional + aesthetic (clips, ponytail holders, etc.) to the purely aesthetic (e.g. hair chalks). All of these are small enough for stuffing stockings.
Socks or Slippers
I don’t know about yours, but my kids are constantly losing socks — meaning they could really use socks every time winter rolls around, regardless of how many pairs they’ve had in the past year. Basic functional socks are an obvious option, but there are also fun printed socks, pampering cushy socks, and slipper socks. (Full slippers are probably a bit big for a stocking for all but the smallest of children — with the smallest feet.)
Gloves, Hats, or Scarves
Of course when we talk about gloves, hats, or scarves, that brings to mind cold-weather gear. And those make excellent stocking stuffers. However, don’t forget about warm weather, or other types of hats. Sun hats, doo rags, costumey hats, etc.
Bigger kids probably won’t appreciate getting underwear in their stockings. Young kids, though, who are proud of growing up and becoming like the big kids might be very excited about getting undies in their stockings. You know your kids.
Sunglasses work well as an accompaniment to — or alternative to — hats and gloves. They come in a range of sizes and styles and at a variety of price points.
Functional & Miscellaneous
I know, it’s just a stocking stuffer. They don’t have to be $20 bills or anything! A few $1 bills or maybe a $5 are just fine as stocking stuffers. (Folding them into origami shapes can make that even more fun.) Or even using change, with a purpose — an assortment of coins for young children learning denominations, quarters for the snack machine for older kids, or foreign currency for the fun of it.
A $5 gift card can be quite significant, especially to a young child. Some places our kids especially enjoy having gift cards to include: fast food restaurants we eat at, the frozen yogurt shop, the craft store, Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, and Steam.
Yes, a cleaning cloth. I know it sounds crazy, but our kids love their Norwex cloths. The little ones love being able to clean, and the big kids love being able to carry their own along in their purses, backpacks, etc.
Look for the travel-size Envirocloths, the travel-size makeup cloths, the baby body pack, or the kids’ cleaning supplies (kids’ Envirocloth, window cloth, or dusting mitt). The first three are particularly small, while the kids’ cleaning trio are, obviously, specifically for kids.
Somewhat more “functional” than the drawing supplies mentioned earlier, pens, pencils (standard or mechanical) and their accessories also fit nicely into stockings. Refills, sharpeners, erasers, grips, and, if you’re using fancy pens, nibs are all workable stocking stuffers.
Small flashlights fit beautifully in stockings, and all the kids I know love them, from the babies up the grown-up “kids”! Look for them in end caps and bins at the hardware store.
Band-Aids and alternate brands now come not just in basic tan, but also in a wide variety of fun prints. We’ve always thought of Band-Aids as “Band-Aid-colored,” not flesh-toned, but if your child has darker skin and thinks of Band-Aids as “white,” he might also appreciate the darker-toned bandages by Tru-Colour.
(Wraps for sprained ankles, etc. also come in designer colors, although they aren’t as broadly-useful. If you have a child prone to sprains, these might make good stocking fillers, too.)
Accessories for Electronics
Today’s kids are tech-savvy. They have tablets and gadgets and, in many cases, cell phones. Flash drives, charging cords, cord wraps, etc. all make great stocking stuffers.
Sand timers are super-useful. Kids use them for brushing their teeth, for games, for racing each other, etc.
I usually buy these at the dollar store. Small wall calendars are good for a wide range of ages (my younger kids have learned a lot about numbers, counting, days of the week, etc. by using their own calendars) and pocket-style calendars are also beneficial for older kids who are learning to manage their own schedules.
Fun Bath Stuff
What kind of fun bath stuff you include will depend on the age and preferences of your child, but there are a lot of bath-related items that go well in stockings. Bath toys and crayons, bubble bath, bath bombs, bath salts (skip the eucalyptus with kids under 5 or seizure-prone children), fun sponges, etc.
Toothbrushes should be replaced every few months — especially when kids are hard on them — but that’s no fun. Make the switch a little more interesting by putting a fun toothbrush in the stocking. Perhaps one that lights up, plays music, suctions to the counter, or just has a favorite character on it.
For older kids, who go away to camp, on sleepovers, etc., travel-size toiletries in the stocking can help them be more independent come time to pack. Or travel-size toiletry bottles so they can decant their own before going on a trip.
When I say small notebooks, I’m thinking of notebooks, notepads, and sticky notes. There are the 6×9-ish spiral notebooks, 6×9 legal (and similar) pads, tiny pocket-sized spiral notebooks or composition books, “traveler’s” notebooks, decorative notepads, and sticky notes in more shapes, sizes, and designs than you can imagine.
Check the dollar store for these (or keep an eye out during back-to-school sales if you’re planning that far ahead).
Diary or Journal
This is really something of a variation on small notebooks, but my kids think of them differently. They think of composition books or similar notebooks with dot grid paper as “bullet journals.” (Not familiar with bullet journaling? See here.) There are, of course, the small hardbound or leather-bound books designated as journals. And a diary would be a similar book with a lock.
Tissues or Handkerchiefs
In the winter at my house, we are always running out of tissues. Stuff your kids’ stockings with pocket packs of tissues (with or without covers), and/or with handkerchiefs, so they’ll always have their own.
If there’s any item on this list with endless options, this would probably be it. Bookmarks are so easy to slip into a stocking, and besides the hundreds of images available on basic styles, there are all kinds of novelty bookmarks.
Night lights aren’t just for kids who are afraid of the dark. They’re also for kids who don’t want to stub their toes in the dark. We all need to be able to see well enough to at least get to the bathroom without running into the wall! Go basic, or go cool, or go pretty. Whatever floats your boat — or your kid’s boat.
Batteries are pretty self-explanatory. They’re a particularly useful option if your child is receiving other gifts that need batteries. Older kids only, unless you’re about to put these straight into a gift.
In particular, decorative wooden or paper folding fans are good as stocking stuffers. Small electronic personal fans can be used as stocking fillers, too, but only for older kids. (Keep away from long hair!)
Wallet, Coin Purse, or Pencil Case
Basically, holders — for money, ID, and for various writing utensils (and similarly long, slender things, like crochet hooks).
Cards, stationery, and postage stamps are all good choices for kids of writing age. We like to include thank you notes in our kids’ stockings, so they’re prepared when it’s time to write notes of gratitude for their gifts. Fill-in-the-blank thank you cards are perfect for very new writers. The kids also like having their own return address labels.
Small screwdrivers, hammers, etc. are beneficial for encouraging kids to learn grown-up skills. Don’t forget the safety goggles! If you’re looking for a softer entry into the world of tools, measuring tapes — of both the hardware and the sewing varieties — are excellent learning tools, and low-risk.
Very small children enjoy seeing themselves. Somewhat older children enjoy experimenting with mirrors (playing with mirror writing, reflecting light, etc.). Then they get a bit older and again enjoy seeing themselves — often in a carry-along mirror so they can check that their hair looks okay. That means a mirror is a viable stocking stuffer for almost everyone; you just might need to choose a different mirror for the tween than for the somewhat younger child.
Baby bottles are good fillers for baby stockings, sippy cups are good fillers for toddler stockings…and water bottles are good fillers for older kids’ stockings. You can keep it as simple or as sleek as you want with these. Think about what kind of mouth you want on the bottle though. Does it matter to you if it’s got a squirt top, a straw, just a bare opening, etc.?
An ornament is a fun thing to add to a stocking each year. It helps to build the child’s collection, so when he moves away from home he already has a start on a meaningful set of ornaments. I’ll leave this more-or-less open-ended, because it’s really up to you how meaningful or how “light” you want this to be, as well as what is meaningful for you and your child; I’ll just drop a few here to get your creative juices flowing.
One thing to be mindful of is that highly-fragile ornaments may not hold up well over the years, especially if you’re starting with a very young child.
Letter or Note
A heartfelt letter or note encouraging your child, point out what makes him special, and/or telling him that you love him is inexpensive but meaningful. You can fancy this up, writing it out on parchment with a fountain pen (or a fancy font that looks like it was handwritten), and rolling it up to tie it with ribbon; sealing it with sealing wax, etc. Or just keep it super-simple. The content is what really counts. (Hint: siblings can do this for each other, too!)
Along similar lines, you can includes printed coupons, to be exchanged later for “together” activities. You can buy them, find some online and print them, or make them yourself completely from scratch.
Grow Pellets or Magic Towels
What these have in common is that both are products which, when placed in water, expand to many times their original size. The pellets look much like medicine capsules. When placed in water, they dissolve, allowing small shaped sponges inside to pop out and expand. They’re largely useless, but pretty fun for kids to watch.
Magic towels are highly compressed towels or (more often) washcloths, which expand to normal size when placed in water. We usually get them from the dollar store. Plain ones have become very easy to find online, but they’re kind of boring for kids.