Editor’s note: This year’s a bit different—shop early to avoid lines in-store and get your gifts delivered with plenty of time to spare. Shopping in-store? There might be a line. Join the virtual waitlist from anywhere to save time.
While kids may want us to believe that the best gifts come with flashing lights and a power cord, we know the truth: Time outside is better than anything with a battery. This holiday season, encourage your favorite child to soak in the sunshine or sashay through the snowflakes with any of the 12 items on this list. Each gift is parent approved—and we’re fairly certain Mother Nature likes ’em, too.
We know quite a few adults who refuse to remove their beloved Ember Mocs, and now kids can enjoy the supreme coziness, too. But these are no indoor slippers: The Teva Ember Mocs have rubber outsoles like tennis shoes. We also like the collapsible heel, which transforms the slippers into clogs, making them even simpler for young kiddos to pull on. Best idea? Twinning with your child. $55
If your kid is ready for their first bike, check out the Electra Sprocket. It has 16-inch wheels and a comfortable geometry that allows riders to sit upright but still place their feet squarely on the ground for balance when needed. It also has removable training wheels, so your child can go from rocky to rocket in no time. Best for children ages 3 to 5. $289.95
Cold hands will ruin any outdoor adventure. Prolong yours by adorning your kiddo in these waterproof, windproof mitts from REI Co-op. With silk blend insulation, they’re like sleeping bags for little fingers. A polyester liner wicks sweat away from skin, and a longer cuff with a hook-and-loop closure helps keep snow out. Nice: The poly liner contains bluesign®-approved materials. $29.95 for Toddlers’, $32.95 for Kids’
Bern Nina Jr. & Bern Nino Jr. Bike Helmets
Here’s a two-for-one deal that will make any parent smile: This low-profile helmet from Bern is certified for both bike and snow, so your child can use it year-round. It comes with a removable, padded visor that’s perfect for riding in milder weather, but if you pop it out, your kid can wear a stocking cap underneath and, voilà!, it’s a ski lid. $40
If you want to snag your child a hat that will be the envy of all your adult friends, grab the Fleece Earflap Hat from REI Co-op. Lined with polyester sherpa fleece, this topper is cozy in cool temperatures, but its brim still protects young faces from piercing UV rays. It has a ballcap-style closure, making it easy to adjust. And did we mention how cute it is? $24.95
Kids with warm feet are much happier than kids with cold feet. Thankfully, the waterproof Snow Bank 2.0 boots should allow children to tromp to school, craft magnificent snow forts and roll wicked snowballs without feeling a hint of chill. The secret is 200 grams of Merrell’s proprietary insulation, which is so thin and light that these boots fit like sneakers yet are rated down to -25°F. They also boast a bungee lacing system that’s easier for younger children to navigate. $69.95
At some point, your child will start carrying their own weight. When that day blessedly arrives, consider the REI Co-op Tarn 18 for the job. The main packbag can swallow layers, water bottles and even a stuffed friend who may want to join the adventure, while seven pockets help kids stay organized. It has a padded back panel and hipbelt like technical adults’ packs, plus it’s made with a durable recycled ripstop nylon that’s coated in a DWR treatment to shrug off moisture. Best for children ages 8 to 12. $45
Spillproof water bottles rival the wheel when it comes to ingenious inventions. Not only does this one from CamelBak prevent your toddler from accidentally dumping grape juice in your car, but it also satisfies the pickiest of children with the multitude of design options. The flip-top bite valve is easy to use, and the 14-ounce bottle also has a handle perfect for little fingers. And praise be: The Eddy+ is top-shelf safe in the dishwasher. $13
Give your child the gift of lightweight warmth with the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket—a kids’ version of our longtime favorite. It has 650-fill-power down insulation, which provides furnace-like heat without sacrificing compressibility (it stuffs into its own left pocket). The polyester shell offers some wind resistance, too, and a DWR coating repels light rain. Both insulation and shell contain bluesign®-approved materials; insulation also meets responsible down standard (RDS). $79.95
Is your older kid ready for their first multi-tool? Look no further. The small-but-mighty Leatherman Squirt PS4 has 10 tools, including pliers, screwdrivers, a file, scissors and a blade. It’s less than 2 ounces and just over 2 inches in length—a nice starter tool for responsible adventure kids. $39.95
If you’ve ever heard your child moan, “But there isn’t anything to do!” while hanging out at camp, then this portable bocce set from Outside Inside may be the gift for you. At a mere 12 ounces, the set is light enough to justify bringing on a day hike and small enough to consider for backpacking (it’s the size of a paperback book). Better yet? Bocce is a quick game to learn. $16.95
It doesn’t matter if your kids are 3 or 13, kite flying is always a good time and an easy way to soak in some outdoor time with your loved ones. We like the ultralight Pocket Flyer from Prism Designs for its simple design; a single line makes it easily navigable and the unique split-tail means the kite can handle rougher winds. It weighs less than 4 ounces, too, so your child can carry it to the park all by herself. $25
All photography by Andrew Bydlon.
Need more inspiration? Check out our Best Holiday Gifts for Less Than $50, Best Holiday Gifts for Runners, Best Holiday Gifts for Hikers and Campers, Best Holiday Gifts for Outdoorsy Dogs (and Their Humans), Best Holiday Gifts for Gadget Lovers, Best Holiday Gifts for Snow and Winter Lovers and more product roundups in our Trail Mix series.