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.

Ross Petty’s Cinderella – A Great Gift of Experience

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There’s a reason why Ross Petty‘s holiday pantomimes are a treasured annual tradition (their 19th year!) there’s nothing quite like it for geared-to-children but still lots-for-the-adults theatrical fun.  I was delighted when the Yummy Mummy Club gifted us tickets to this year’s production, Cinderella, The Gags to Riches Family Musical – I knew it would deliver lots of high-energy entertainment and that my three boys would totally enjoy it.

It’s not everyday that a parent can, with complete comfort and a warm sense of welcome, take an 8, 6 and 3 year old to a two hour show at the glorious Elgin Theatre.  This alone was a huge treat, but there’s a lot more to this particular kind of adventure.  If you’re looking for a special holiday present, one that focuses on experiences that last rather than things that don’t, check out the show.  Here’s why:

1.  The show takes the art of silliness to new heights.  There are few tones of distress in the show (which is nice for sensitive viewers) largely because the villains are preposterous.  Patty Sullivan and Cleopatra Williams portray the punky step-sisters as perfectly pestering and Ross Petty himself is in top form as Cinderella’s evil stepmother.  Together with Dan Chameroy as fairy godmother Plumbum, the two actors offer strapping renditions of these maternal characters – their towering, absurd presence on the stage provides a backdrop of humour even when they’re not centre stage.

2.  There’s magic too.  Spoiler alert, okay?  There’s a lot of goofy, slapstick humour in the show, but there is also some stardust.  The apex of these is Cinderella’s transportation to the ball.  Two small white horses pull a spherical carriage onstage, and it really is an apparition, a moment of wonder.

3.  The show is Canadian!  Ross Petty purposely focuses on great Canadian talent, including the inimitable Danielle Wade, star of CBC’s Over the Rainbow and the Mirvish production of The Wizard of Oz.  Also, the show is set in Toronto and full of references to our great city – the great ball is held at none other than Casa Loma.  Lots of jokes poke fun at local politics and culture (pretty sure I caught a poke at Ford Nation, among others).

4.  There’s something for everyone.  In addition to the adult humour just mentioned, there’s lots here for the boys as well as the girls in the audience.  The princess theme is still there but muted, and the gags are for everyone.  Recall the evil step-mother and the fairy godmother when considering the dissolution of boundaries, which the show does left, right, and centre.  Did I mention that Cinderella is trying to save her father’s Farmer’s Market from her step-family’s plans to overtake it with processed hypno-chips?

5.  Children are VIPs here.  Not only do you not have to worry about shushing your kids, you’ll be encouraging them to cheer and boo!  Petty-the-stepmother cannot take two steps on stage without being booed down, and responds to the audience for some direct theatrical interaction.  A few lucky kids climbed onstage and were interviewed for the show.  Some of the younger audience members were flopping around in their chairs, especially after intermission, and it was just fine.  Also, booster seats are available downstairs at the coat check – two of my kids used those (although one ended up on my lap in the end – also just fine (no one’s view was blocked)).

6.  You Get to Introduce Your Kids to the Theatre.  The Elgin Theatre is gorgeous and grand.  It was not designed with children in mind, and the opportunity to expose our kids to that kind of venue is a big thing.  I wish I’d taken more time to point out details of the theatre – the balconies, where the orchestra sits, the way the curtains fall, the art on the ceilings – but I was outnumbered three to one so I’m not going to dwell.  Even so, my boys knew they were somewhere special; their eyes were wide open and took everything in.

I watched my kids during the show (of course).  My favourite moment of the night was when my six year old tugged my sleeve and then clapped his hands lightly together with the tips of his fingers pointed upward.  This is my theatre clap,” he explained.

That moment, along with my eight year old proclaiming on the way home that he’d like to see Cinderella again, holds the essence of the night for me.  It was fun and entertaining, and it was a beginning.  If my boys go to the theatre more often because of it – and dare I hope, maybe even sometimes with me – it really will be the best show in town.

Cinderella, The Gags to Riches Family Musical! will be live on stage at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto until January 4, 2015.  Tickets range from $85 to $27 and are available online and through the Elgin Theatre box office.  Special discount codes available for Yummy Mummy Club members here