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)


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


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.

Aide Bodycare

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.


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


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)


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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




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


Neighbours and Nationalism


We had a magnificent snowfall over the weekend.  The photographs in this post were taken on Friday, but so much more continued to fall, that we were utterly blanketed in white on Saturday.  I think snow is especially in the city, where the beautified natural surroundings is simply dramatic.

My husband went to work with my six year old on Saturday morning, but I got the younger boys dressed and we went outside to shovel the walk.  The sun was high and shining, and even with all the snow, it was a mild day.  If our oldest had been with me, he would have called the snow “glitter”.

Many of our neighbours were out shoveling their walks.  Most of the houses on our street have parking in the alleys behind the houses, so shoveling in the front yard just means a walkway or two.  It’s not a big job, so no one uses a snow blower.  It was all quiet, just the scraping of shovels hitting the pavement, everyone using their hands to clear a path.

I met a kindly neighbour who I haven’t seen for awhile.  ”How are you?” I called.

“I’m old,” he replied.  ”This is the fourth time I’ve shoveled.”

“There’s so much.  This is my first time out,”  I said.

He just shook his head at the white around us.

Then I offered, “Isn’t it beautiful though?”

Almost with resignation, he said, “Yeah… it’s lovely.  Makes you want to sing ‘O Canada’”.


Snow Day!?!

William Kurelek (1927-1977) -- Balsam Avenue After Heavy Snowfall (1972), image courtesy of

UPDATE: I’ve got to hand it to David Sukhin. The TDSB has closed schools for the day, for the first time in (I’m told) thirty years. Me, my office is open — so I’m off. Enjoy the snow day, everyone!


From an email apparently circulating among U.S. Elementary school students this week:

If you want it to SNOW tomorrow, do the following tonight, please.
Wear your PJ’s inside out and backwards.
Lean a paper plate against your window-sill.(It can be anything that’s made out of paper or plastic, if you don’t have a paper plate)
Pull a cat’s tail.(Not too hard!)
Flush an ice-cube down the toilet.
Put a spoon underneath your pillow.
Make sure you do this so we can have a DELAY or NO SCHOOL!

A massive winter storm is forecast to slam into southern Ontario tonight and tomorrow morning, and Toronto is expected to receive between 20 and 30 centimeters of the white stuff. Meteorologists are saying that this is the biggest storm to hit the region since 2008. Of course, this being Canada, the impending blizzard is all any one has talked about since it was first predicted a couple of days ago. The question most parents are asking (as they frantically try to figure out exactly what they’ll do if this does come to pass) is naturally, “do you think the kids will get the day off of school?”

If your children attend a Toronto District School Board school, I send encouragement to you, and my condolences to your children. If my past experience is any guide, you’ll be up early tomorrow to dig out your car. The crunching sound you’ll hear all over the city tomorrow morning will not be from the snow under foot. No, it will be the sound of the hopes of children all over the city (that they too, might possibly stay home like their suburban cousins) being crushed under the treads of a snow plow.

Growing up in the old city of Toronto, I could only wish to experience the mythical event known as a “snow day”. A whole day off from school because of snow? That was something that happened in Simcoe, or Burlington…or Buffalo. But if you lived in Metropolitan Toronto, you were expected to make it in to school, no matter how high that snow might be. I recall being dismissed early “for inclement weather”, as it was described to us then, but to have a whole day of school canceled? Those days were (and are) few and far between, the last during the January, 1999 storm when then-mayor Mel Lastman called in the (yeah, we know, we know…) army to dig out the city.

The decision to close TDSB schools is made by the Director of Education, and notices of school closures and bus cancellations will be published early tomorrow on the TDSB’s website. Local media will report on school cancellations for all Toronto area schools as well.

If you can’t wait until morning to find out whether schools will be open or not, you’ll be happy to know that U.S. grade eleven student David Sukhin has devised a “Snow Day Calculator”, which predicts with complete accuracy (says he) whether a school will close for a snow day. The site relies on weather data, user-determined information (such as the level of hype surrounding the storm) and algorithms of David’s own to come up with a percentage chance of a day off. David Sukhin clearly didn’t grow up in Toronto, as the site gives me a 99% chance of a snow day.

I say, one percent’s good enough for me.

If, as I predict, your children are heading to class tomorrow, my suggestion is to set the alarm a bit earlier than normal (if you haven’t already) so that you can leave with enough time to get everyone where they need to go as safely as possible. Of course, if local conditions where you are make it unsafe to travel, common sense dictates that you stay put, regardless of whether  school is open or not.  Regardless, stay warm and stay safe!