Looking for fun toys that children and families can enjoy both in the RV and at campgrounds?
Amy "Independent" (FOTR since 2004) - kids ages 9, 8, 3, 2 recommends:
Tents -outside play tents help extend the RV a bit and make a fun, safe playhouse. Be sure to get one that pops open, or you'll lose the pieces in five different states. Our favorite was a barn tent with pigs and cows and hay bales on it.
If you don't already have them, a good bike/trike/wagon is really handy when on the road, if you have the space. It makes an exciting present and is great in the parks. Our radio flyer trike fell apart, so we're going to try the Kettler trike with the push bar. Radio Flyer has a nice one, with the cup holder on the push bar - very nice, though ours completely broke. They are great about sending free warranty parts, but even that gets old.
Crank radios are lots of fun - no batteries needed, have a light, come in lots of colors, and are very useful. Our son gets world band radio plus local stations - he really enjoys it - and small, too. It takes batteries, if your kid doesn't want to or is too young to crank.
Walkie-talkies, hand-held radios are a must for older/yet not old enough children in parks, and they make a great present - very exciting to get freedom! Ages seven and up....
Bird feeder - almost everywhere we go, there's a place to hang a feeder out, and it's small enough to take with us. Purchase or make the edible feeders and hang them - when you're gone, so are they. Our kids spend hours on cold days plastered to the windows with their bird guides, watching the feeders. They've done this since age one or younger.
Software: Museum Tour magazine has some nice stuff on history and exploration as does National Geographic.
New flannel sheets in their favorite pattern - with only room for a few bedding items, we usually have flannels on - cozy all year-round. A good quality flannel brightens a space and is fun, too. Encouraging the kids to decorate their area makes a big difference in attitude and belonging in a small RV. www.thecompanystore.com has lots, or try a search for a favorite print - i.e. - horses, spaceships, etc. Not boring ones!
Fun clothes - with very little space to pack, each piece of clothing must count, and everyday boring stuff won't do. Try www.cwdkids.com for fun things like horse shirts and butterfly dresses, dinosaur sweaters, train shirts, spaceships - and for top quality stuff, www.hannaandersson.com - really great long johns that last forever in fun prints - super soft, not cheap, but you won't be replacing them anytime soon.
A personalized backpack to carry all of their stuff around - age appropriate -- laptop sleeve for older kids, small size for little kids. LL Bean still has my favorite selection, junior sizes for small backs, and a really nice one for older kids that has a laptop sleeve to protect the equipment. Fill it with art supplies to start, and it's really fun to open.
This year, I've found and am going to try some outdoor cooking things - pie iron and campfire cooking. At www.gooseberrypatch.com, they have RV cookbooks - granted, they don't appear to be as complete as needed for full-timing, but I'm hoping to get something useful. Also, there's a great tablecloth with a map of the United States on it - looks fun. And, they have a funnel cake kit - we go to so many fairs in the summer, and the kids really miss the junk food! So, maybe some funnel cake fun will brighten up January.
I read in a Depression Era cookbook that I have about a mother who cut out little doll outfits and packed them in a tin for her daughter. The idea was for the girl to sew the outfits throughout the year, and she did, thereby extending the gift for many months. For older kids who enjoy the craft of sewing, this seemed great.
And never, ever, forget a good-sized box of Legos!
Quality, not Quantity
Encourage the family to draw names at Thanksgiving for gift giving as a way to keep "stuff" to a minimum.
Space is at a premium when you live in an RV. Most families limit their toy and game space to just a tub or two per child. So friends and family of RVers need to understand that it's not about the "stuff" -- he who has the most presents under the tree does not win! RV families really appreciate gifts with great repetitive value, things that can be used again and again. However, it can be a challenge to find things they'll actually use and not get entirely fed up with by March due to space constraints.
"Our birthday gifts to them are usually taking them to amusement parks and water parks, full on crazy family fun for everyone, that provide lifelong memories (opposed to accumulated stuff they never play with). They all also happen to have summer birthdays, but if they were winter days I would try to find an indoor water park, or even Chuck E Cheese. Gifts are always at a bare minimum, usually only what others send. The gift might even be something area specific and if it is we'll pass it on to another family when we leave the area, re-gifting is a good thing, IMO. So even if they get something inappropriate for living in an RV, they're still able to use it while they can, before heading on.
My son will be turning 10 in two weeks and while asking him what he wants he actually said, "Nothing, I have everything I want." Makes me want to buy him the moon."
~Vicki "FuhKaui" (FOTR since 1999)
Experiences not Things
Memberships to museums, zoos, amusement parks and national park passes are gifts that take up no space, can be used over and over throughout the year and are enjoyed by the whole family. Also consider tickets and passes to attractions such as Sesame Place, children's museums, Hershey Park, American Girl Place, Disneyland or Disney World. And of course movie passes (try to choose ones for national chains like AMC or Regal Cinemas)!
"One of our sons favorite gifts was a kite, which we fly on the beach often."
Lydia agrees with Amy and adds:
We have several medium size plastic tubs that fit in the basement. They're filled with Legos, blocks, cars, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs. I rotate them in and out.
Loved the bird feeder with bird guide book idea.
The best thing we have found lately is the rev-ups cars. Hot Wheels Rev-Ups-Crank & Launch They're magnetic and will go up the fridge, but also have a smaller compact race track. Very cool.
Lots of art stuff.
"We got my 3 year old the Fisher Price digital camera, and it is awesome!!"