The kids have their baskets ready for the big community egg hunt, you’ve bought fancy outfits for their pictures with the Easter bunny (they look so adorable), and you’ve made plans for Easter brunch.
What about the egg hunt at home and the kids’ Easter baskets? Does the thought of stuffing them with candy and weathering the ensuing sugar high give you a headache? If you’re looking for some ideas for filling baskets and eggs without going overboard on the sweets, read on for basket themes, egg fillers, and places in and around Boston to get great little gifts.
To create a basket you’ll feel good about, your child will love, and isn’t overflowing with candy, think “theme”. It can be something your child is really into, like Star Wars, or it could be activity-based, like a craft or a sport. Some examples:
Baking – Items to include might be an apron, rolling pin, baking mix, icing, sprinkles, cookie cutters, and iron on apron kit. Check out Michaels or A.C. Moore for Wilton Kids baking supplies; they have really fun items like a rocket cake pan, icing kits, and stretchy cutters.
Movie Night – The main feature is a new movie to add to your family's collection or movie passes (you can get discounted ones through AAA). Add some movie theater style microwave popcorn and one or two classic theater candies for a sweet treat (if you don't object to a little bit of candy).
Art – Depending on your child’s age, you might want to include crayons or colored pencils, pastels, good drawing pencils, a sketchbook, a set of paints and a couple of small canvases. Our favorite place to find supplies is Artist & Craftsman Supply in Central Square, Cambridge.
Crafts – Last year, I got an e-mail from Art Beat with the idea of filling a basket with a weaving loom and loops for grass. I love that idea, and you can do so many variations on this theme, depending on what type of crafts projects your child would enjoy. Some possibilities: modeling clay and tools, knitting supplies with an instructional book or video, t-shirts or a canvas bag with fabric paints, iron ons and dyes… you get the idea. If you want to get a kit, I recommend taking everything out of the packaging and arranging all the individual items in the basket. For some of our favorite places to buy crafts supplies, check out Crafting With Kids: 5 Places to Get Arts & Crafts Supplies In and Around Boston.
Gardening – Toss in kid-size tools and gloves, seeds, peat pots, and gummy worms – and you're done!. My son got a popping corn growing kit in his basket one year and had a great time growing it. He’s hoping the Easter bunny will leave seeds for him again.
Secret Agent – Eureka Toys in Newburyport has a good selection of Spy Gear and Playmobil Top Agent, and Target has a few small Spy Gear items in their Easter area. Add disguises like stick-on mustaches and a tie. For two siblings, you could get a set of walkie talkies and put one in each basket. You could also include a book from a kid spy series, like Jack Stalwart, Agent Amelia, 39 Clues, Artemis Fowl, The Mysterious Benedict Society, or Gilda Joyce. Jabberwocky Bookshop, which shares a space with Eureka Toys, has a fabulous collection of children’s books.
Bedtime Bookworm – Keep your bookworm cozy with a new set of PJs, a book light or flashlight, a nice bookmark, a couple of books from a favorite series, and some glow-in-the-dark Brain Putty (which can be found at just about any independent toy shop).
Games – Small games work best, like Spot It, Rory’s Story Cubes, Slamwich, Uno, and Gogo’s Crazy Bones. Or, make it a basket of fruit with Banagrams, Appleletters, Pears in Pairs, and Fruitominoes. I have seen most of these games at Henry Bear’s Park in Porter Square, Cambridge.
Building – You might include wooden blocks, soft blocks (for little ones), the pieces to a marble run, Zoobs, nanoblocks, etc. If you do a LEGO theme, you could also include LEGO fun fruit snacks, and if you really want to go big, get tickets to the Legoland Discovery Center.
Egg and basket theme combos – Fill the plastic eggs for your egg hunt with the small pieces of a Playmobil set and include the larger structure in the basket. This would work for LEGO sets as well.
Here are some sugar-free ideas for filling plastic eggs:
Small craft items – pom poms, googly eyes, stickers, ribbon, yarn
Jewelry-making supplies – put beads in some eggs, string in others. You can adapt for all ages: big foam beads for little ones to delicate beads and jewelry-making bits for older kids.
Puzzle pieces – Fill one color with the pieces from one puzzle, another color with a different puzzle.
Balls – Small balls like hacky sacks, water balls, bouncy balls, and mini koosh balls.
Great places to get little toys and other basket goodies
Henry Bear’s Park, Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge
Eureka Toys, Newburyport
Jabberwocky Bookshop, Newburyport
Art Beat, Arlington
Artist & Craftsman Supply, Central Square, Cambridge
Harvard Museum of Natural History gift shop, Cambridge
Museum of Science gift shop, Boston
Originally published March 2013; updated April 2014