12/08/2009 02:42 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Great Gifts for Kids...Under $10!

The second weekend of December is coming, and you know what that means... holiday shopping is about to get ugly. If your piggy bank feels a little light this year, you're not alone. The good news is, there are plenty of great gifts under $10 for all the kids on your list.

We've spent six months combing through more than a thousand contenders to find the best gifts for kids in each grade, from preschool through high school. If you've got more than a ten-spot to spend, check out the full list for best gifts in every price range, from cheapies to splurges. But if you're looking for something compelling for not much cash, here's a peak at some of my favorite gifts under $10, from stocking stuffers, to inexpensive finds that look more ritzy than their modest price tags. Wallets rejoice-- all this seriously sweet loot can be gotten for less than $10!:

Looking for gifts for preschoolers? Focus on things that promote imaginative play. Here are two of our favorite cheap thrills for three-year-olds and four-year-olds:


Folkmanis Finger Puppets
Big puppets can be awkward for small hands. These little guys are a breeze for preschoolers to operate. From black sheep to emperor penguin, all the finger puppets in this line cost $2- $10. Our favorite, the mini mouse; looks so real, you'll do a double take as your preschooler sets it scurrying across her lap. Hours of imaginative play for a pittance. (Folkmanis, $2.50- $10)

My Little Helper Toolbox
Preschoolers love to dismantle things and put them back together. All that practice is good for fine motor skills, which strengthen hands for writing. This retro toolbox is a preschool dream come true! When a screw needs to be tightened or a nail needs hammering, your child can squat beside you, grab her rubber tools, and go at it! (Schylling, $6.49)

Five-year-olds are just spreading their wings when it comes to reading, writing, math, and science. The best gifts for kindergarten slip in a little learning, while remaining hands-on and fun. Here are two great gifts under $10:

Bug Hotel
In kindergarten, kids learn about the life cycle and what living things need to grow strong. Bring the learning home with this swank little bug "hotel." Your scientist can monitor what her bugs eat, when they sleep, and what they look like up close and personal. A wood frame, mesh walls for easy breathing, and a flowery porthole make for a cheerful introduction to insect life. (Sassafrass, $9.95)

Word Dominos
Learning to read can be scary. Turn down the pressure with this game, which introduces rhyming word families in a fun format. Sort of like Scrabble for beginners, each player must build words using a set of cardboard tiles, slapping a "fr" on an "og" or a "w" on a "ow". A major confidence booster for soon-to-be readers and a bargain to boot. (Innovative Kids, $9.99)

First and Second Grade
Looking for great gifts for first graders or gifts for second graders? For six-year-olds and seven-year-olds, look for things that ramp up fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. Here are two great options:

2009-12-08-rocketballoon.jpgRocket Balloon with Pump
Simple, cheap, and an outright joy to use, this toy brings grins to even the most jaded kids on the block. Use the pump to blow up one of thirty included balloons, then stand back as it zips and weaves like a stunt rocket. When it lands, everyone will race to chase it down and bring it back for another run. A pain-free way to get kids off the couch! (Schylling, $8.00)

Hover Hockey
Kids eyeing that fancy air hockey table? Try this much simpler version. This home hover hockey game features a gliding puck that's battery-powered to sail along any smooth surface, from a dining room table to the kitchen floor. A quirky way to work coordination and concentration, and turn a rainy day on its head. (Geo Space, $9.95)

Third and Fourth Grade
The best gifts for third graders and best gifts for fourth graders add a level of intricacy, layering learning and problem solving underneath play. From cool board games to inspiring art projects, there are many ways to crack that nut, but here are two inexpensive gems:

2009-12-08-peanuts.jpgGrow Your Own Peanuts Kit
Got a peanut butter lover in the house? If he's patient, he can grow his own! This simple kit comes with everything kids need to get growing: seeds, planting mixture, and a basic plastic "sprouting house". It takes a few months from sprouting to eating, but this is a cool and delicious way to talk about the life cycle. (Dunecraft, $9.75)

Bison Wood Kit
If your child is a builder at heart, but beyond LEGO, this might be the ticket. Punch out the wooden pieces and follow the directions to turn an odd assortment of shapes into a beautiful 3-D model. Quirky construction, that helps hone spatial thinking and problem solving. (Action Products, $6.99)

Tweens and Teens
Got an older kid on your list? The best gifts for tweens and the best gifts for teens range from electric paper airplane launchers to quirky craft kits, cool gadgets to iPhone apps. Here are two fun finds that won't break the bank:

2009-12-08-rubberhorseshoes.jpgRubber Horseshoes
Hello, retro fun! These rubber horseshoes play just like their metal cousins, but they won't ding your furniture. This is a bare bones set, with two pairs of horseshoes (one red, one green) and two rubber and wood pegs. This toy provides plenty of practice with hand-eye coordination, patience, and gross motor skills. Bargain-conscious shoppers, this one's a ringer! (Schylling, $8.24)

Pocket Japanese Notebook
Your child doesn't need to be Picasso to enjoy the classic design and easy cool of this notebook, which sports 60 pages of Japanese-style zigzag accordion paper. Perfect for anything from quick notes to scrapbooking or drawing, it fits neatly in a back pocket. Ideal for spur-of-the-moment creativity! (Moleskine, $9.60)

So, there it is: 10 gifts under $10. If none of these options float your boat, you can find 50 gifts under $10 here. Happy shopping...and learning!