Gift Guide for Kids

OK, the kids are all quite good at making their own lists, but just in case, here are some ideas for kids, big and small.

From Nathalie

A friend recently shared her family’s gift-giving tradition with me.  Each child gets an ornament to add to the tree every year, Santa leaves one unwrapped gift for each under the tree, and each of the kids gets four gifts from Mum and Dad: “One to read, one to wear, one to play with and one to share.”  It’s a delightful formula that I will borrow for here.

One to read

Check our lists of favourite reads for the year if you are looking for book ideas.

If you are editing your book shelves in anticipation of adding more, please consider giving your gently used books to The Children’s Book Bank.  Every child who visits the Book Bank goes home with a free book.  It is one of the most magical spaces in the city, and I do so admire their mission to help children build their own libraries.  Take your kids for a visit, drop off your donations and go home with one new-to-you book for your child.

Madeleine hanging out at The Children's Book Bank.

Madeleine hanging out at The Children’s Book Bank.

One to wear

Everyone gets pajamas.  I love everything made by Hatley, a company named for the town in Quebec where the founders lived.  These pajamas have staying power: they will last through several kids and live to be handed down again and again.  Also available at Indigo. ($30)

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I like to get snarky t-shirts for Eldest, who is 13.  He loves them and wears them on heavy rotation all year.  This one is from Café Press.  $31.50

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Eldest has also begun to wear cologne, saints preserve us.  I’ve put something that I actually like the smell of into his stocking: 5 Paddles Brewing Company Beer Soap in Lemongrass made by Aide Bodycare from all natural ingredients.  The beer comes from a brewery in Whitby, where my dad now lives.  That’s the kind of connection I love to find for these little stocking stuffer ideas.

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One to play with

I’m sorry.  Here’s where I get boring.  All the Littles want is Lego.  Lego, Lego, Lego.

One to share

I like the gift of experience as a gift to share.  Carol recently wrote about her night out with her three boys at Ross Petty’s Cinderella, and the three of us are taking our boys to see Potted Potter next week.  Two actors, seven Harry Potter books, and one game of Quidditch in 70 minutes.  So excited!

And for a gift to share at home, board game night is always a hit with the boys.  This one is a favourite with them and me: Cathedral.  Position your buildings to best advantage inside the walled medieval city and prevent your opponent from doing the same.  I love handling the carved wooden buildings; the kids love beating me almost every single time.  (Did I mention I’m not so good at spatial reasoning?)  $30.  Available through National Geographic.

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And if you like your sharing to be sweet, check out the hand-made marshmallows from Wondermade.  $7.95 a box.  Delish!

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From Beth-Anne

Bring the 90s back with flower print dresses and Doc Martens, like these from Mini Mioche for $80.00  one of my favourite local, eco-friendly kids’ stores.  (Available in a variety of colours)

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Toting starts early – and anyone with a toddler can tell you that the hoarding starts at this stage.  Why not keep everything together with this bookhou print messenger bag?  Mini Mioche, $34

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Every Christmas list needs a whimsical splurge item and for me, it’s Alfred the Moose Felt Factory Animal Head.  Really, isn’t it just so cute? Mini Mioche, $100.

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Make that two whimsical splurge items . . . I have no little girls to buy for this year but maybe next year I will purchase this Star Bright Pettidress. Indigo, $35.20.

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Constructing and playing in forts and tents has always been a favourite pastime of my boys.  This Camo Frame indoor tent is ideal for hiding out, reading a book or escaping for some alone time.  Indigo, $65.95.

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Lego is a big hit around here but it’s Roominate that has caught my attention this year.  Roominate is designed by Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, two engineers with degrees from MIT, Caltech and Stanford on a mission to show kids, particularly young girls, how engineering is both creative and fun! Indigo, $22.95-$54.95.

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When my boys are not busy building forts or Lego, chances are they are outside.   If we end up with as much snow as last year, the Snowball Blaster will get lots of use.  Indigo, $39.95.

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Boardgames are quickly becoming a favourite with my middle son.  He loves strategizing . . . and winning.  Christmas Story Monopoly, Indigo, $44.95.

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I can’t believe how quickly the years are going by and I need to keep up with these hand imprints as long as their hands still fit on these ornaments! Indigo, $11.60.

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Earphones – I don’t know why but we always seem to need these.  Indigo, $35.00.

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From Carol

Most of my friends are finished having babies, but I’m so glad I’ve got a hold out friends who is due in a few months so I have someone to target for these handmade plush organic cotton animals by Fidoodle.  The ring of the rattle inside is soft and sweet, and baby can chew away at this safe toy with abandon.  The moose is my favourite; there’s also a bunny and a bird.  Available online or at Little House in the City.

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Perfect for older children are Bubynoa‘s handmade toys and dolls created from vintage fabrics – double-stitched because they’re made for use and play, although we’ve known some adults who buy them just to admire.  Little House in the City carries a range of her animal toys.
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For a truly special gift, treat your eyes and your little someone to one of Bubynoa‘s exquisite handmade people dolls.  They take days to make with details lovingly attended to.  And bestill my heart, these dolls reflect some of Toronto’s brilliant diversity, and the boys are just as wonderful as the girls.  Available at Bubynoa’s Etsy shop.

Also gorgeous for the littles in our lives are Hey Pomelo‘s handmade organic baby bibs, hooded towels, receiving blankets, quilts and accessories.  Made to last with fabrics that just get softer with washing, these pieces are truly functional beauty.  Available online and at Little House in the City

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Happy merry-making and gift-giving for the little people in your life!  4Mothers hopes the season is wonderful for you and for them.

In The Wake of The Christmas Tornado

Christmas hit this house like a tornado leaving in its wake a mess of wrapping paper, boxes and lots of new toys.   Before the holiday my boys purged their nest to make room for new loot and to give new life to their old favourites.  The boys readily donated their gently used toys to a local charity that was seeking donations.

The two weeks between Christmas and the return to school passed in a peaceful blur.  With no schedules dictating what to do, we enjoyed spending time together as a family and indulged in several pajama days playing with new toys, reading new books and over eating delicious food.

Some of our favourite gifts from the holiday:

Lego, Lego and more Lego . . . and some Playmobil too!

We spent several hours tediously arranging and re-arranging Lego and Playmobil sets.  The four-year-old has a vivid imagination and readily integrates the sets to create complex battles between swashbucklin’ pirates and the Queen’s knights.  It continues to amaze me how a set of plastic cubes can be the catalyst for learning about medieval history.  Together we spent many more hours thumbing through books about castles, catapults and cannons as well as searching Google for answers to the many, many questions that were sent my way about pirate life, scurvy and Egypt (because the natural transgression from Medieval life is mummies, tombs and pyramids!).

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The Boogie Board

A gift from Nana, these Boogie Boards have seen lots of use since being unwrapped on Christmas Day.  The Boogie Board is an LCD writing tablet that erases with the click of a button.  The four-year-old practiced his printing while the 6-year-old played Xs and Os with any willing (and some not so willing) participant.  I wrote the boys a goodnight message on each of their boards that first night, and since then they have been asking for one every night.

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Two Greedy Italians

I bought this book for my husband for Christmas – a fantastic cook who needs no help in the kitchen.  Tired of all the reality-based Food Network shows (where are you, Nigella?), we started watching Two Greedy Italians on TLN.  The pair criss-cross Italy, highlighting local fare that extends beyond spaghetti bolognese.  The beautifully photographed book makes a welcome addition to our collection of cookbooks (that I rarely use but love to admire).

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Cleaning Set

Remember the saying: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?  My two-year-old son lives up to my university nickname of “Monica” (the cleaning-obsessed, neat-freak character on the 90’s sitcom Friends).  This adult-like cleaning set comes with all the fixings required to give a home a good clean but sized perfectly for little hands.  This gift from his aunt and uncle are the perfect addition to his vacuum.

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Wii

Santa spoiled the boys (and cashed in his Shopper’s Optimum points) with the Nintendo Wii.  Is it wrong that the grown-ups in the house have gotten just as much satisfaction from this gift as the kids?  I never thought that I would say “family time” equals “video game time” . . . but a little bowling and some Just Dance 4 is a guarantee for lots of laughs.

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Clone Love

With two boys in the house under the age of ten, it is rare that a day goes by without the words “Star” and “Wars” being said by one or the both of them.  So it’s probably because I am so deeply immersed in all things Star Wars that I find these pictures so clever and charming.  Star Wars fans will appreciate these carefully-composed photos by photographer Kristina Alexanderson. Alexanderson, a Swedish amateur photographer, has been taking so-called “family photos” of a Star Wars action figure Stormtrooper, and his Lego family in various familiar and sometimes tender poses every day since the beginning of 2011 as part of her CClones 365 project. What’s so remarkable about them is how well Alexanderson has captured the intimacy between parent and child with a couple of pieces of articulated plastic. Have a look:

A Trooper in the air

Is it rebel-missile's or is it ordinary summer weather?

Hiking on the bike

All images by Kristina Alexanderson. For more of her photos, check out her blog (in Swedish) and her Flickr photostream.