| Stuff We Love

2004 Christmas Gift Guide

Our list of perfect presents for kids, parents, and families  

How many of us have gone to a garage sale where last year's "must have" plastic toy is now up for grabs? We had this in mind when considering what to include in this year's gift guide. We wanted gifts that fostered creative play, that were locally made (when possible) and most of all, had a track record of being something kids would play with, read, or listen to again and again.

(Editor's note: When specific stores are listed, it's because we have confirmed that they carry the recommended items. Readers are welcome to check other stores for availability.)

Infants and their parents

Doula Service -- a postpartum doula is someone who assists new parents. She can help first-time parents learn how to safely bathe their baby. Some doulas even do light housekeeping and prepare meals. Rates range from $20 to $35 an hour. Ginny Bearson, an Eastside teacher and doula, says that most people hire doulas for three or four hours a day for a few days. The Northwest Association for Postpartum Support can connect you with a local doula -- www.naps-doulas.org or 206-956-1955.

Baby Sling Class -- Amy Rueter's business, Mama Lama, sells baby slings and offers classes to parents on how to use them. Contact Amy at 206-660-7007 or imamamalama@yahoo.com

Baby Books -- Your baby will enjoy board books by Leslie Patricelli, including Quiet Loud, Big Little and Yummy Yucky and by Sandra Boynton, including Opposites and Blue Hat, Green Hat available at Mercer Island's Island Books 206-232-6920.

Baby Toys -- Check out The Manhattan Toys collection, including the Whoozit Water Mat, Manhattan Baby Garden and Go Travel Toy. Also recommended: Latitude Enfant soft toys and My First Fish Bowl by Lamaze. All available at Izilla Toys, 206-322-TOYS.

Toddlers to Kindergarteners

Bubble Wands -- Bothell-based Majic Bubble Wand offers giant bubble wands in a set with a pan. Kids will play with these for hours. Find them online at www.bubblewand.com or call 425-486-4884.

Teepees -- Kids love a special place of their own where they can play. Market Teepees offers colorful teepees that are easy to set up and store. Teepees are $49.95 if purchased on the Web site at www.galaxymall.com/shops/tps4kids or $39.95 if purchased at the Pike Place Public Market. For more info, call 206-325-7630.

Melissa and Doug toys -- These Lights, Camera and Interaction toys include letter and number wooden puzzles, pound and roll, and wooden blocks on wheels. Available at All for Kids Books and Music in Seattle, 206-526-2768.

Radio Flyer toys -- These classics, including Walker Wagon, are available at Me N' Mom's stores in Ballard, 206-781-9449, and Issaquah, 425-427-5430. Musical instruments and and puppets available on line at www.themusiknest.com

Musical instruments and Playmobil Toys from Bellevue's Kid's Club in Crossroads Shopping Center, 425-643-5437.

Sturdy wooden doll houses -- available at Magic Cabin: www.magiccabin.com

Books -- The Toughest Cowboy by John Frank, And The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Janet Stevens, How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long. All available at Kirkland's Parkplace Books 425-828-6546.

Music -- Looking for a CD you can listen to all day with your children, without getting a headache? Local musician Doug Fleming Jr. is for you! You can also book him for live performances by calling 206-390-5198. Fleming's work, including Little Square Wheels and Shake, Shake, Shake, is available at Woodinville's Island Disc, 425-415-1060.


Toys -- Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs and Legos still rule. All available at Clover in Ballard, 206-782-0715.

Kids can make their own superheroes using Bionicle Legos -- available at Toys 2 Cool in Factoria Mall, 425-957-1711.

Groovy Girl and Polly Pocket Dolls. Find them at Brat Pack in Redmond Town Center, 425-788-7496.

HearthSong's China Silks, great for dress up or indoor forts, and Beginning Crochet kit -- www.hearthsong.com

Art Supplies -- Try the Scratch and Sparkle Deluxe Kit from Bellevue Art and Frame, 425-453-8959.

Games -- Card games Yugioh, Blink and Slamwich available online from Cardhaus at www.cardhaus.com

Strategy games including Chess, The Settlers of Catan and the Maask game available online at www.areyougame.com

Books -- The Edge Chronicles series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell -- for older elementary kids who've outgrown Harry Potter, available at Lilypad Books in Issaquah's Gilman Village, 425-391-2758.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic Little House series available at Mercer Island's Island Books, 206-232-6920.


Gift certificates -- Gift certificates are always welcome and appreciated by teens. They enjoy picking their own clothes, going to the movies, renting their own DVDs, and treating friends to Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.

An experience together -- Teenagers still enjoy spending time with mom and dad but they would like to be doing something together. For the artistic types, get the whole family a gift certificate to Bellevue's Studio K or a ceramic painting studio like Paint Away in Redmond Town Center and Creatively Yours in Crossroads Shopping Center and Mervyn's Plaza.

Crafts and kits -- Today's teens are crafty and smart. Consider a knitting kit, model rocket set, rock tumbler, pottery wheel or tie-dye kit.

Books -- Under the Sun by Arthur Dorros. How an ancient village in Croatia was rebuilt by a diverse group of young people following the war in Bosnia. The Lord of the Rings Boxed Set by JRR Tolkien. They've seen the movies; now give them the books. Thin Wood Walls by David Patneaude. The story of an 11-year-old Japanese-American boy from Seattle who is forced to relocate with his family to a camp in California. All available at All For Kids Books and Music, 206-526-2768.


Write it Down -- How often do we think a loving thought but fail to write it down? Family Spring is a local company that offers beautiful everyday and holiday note cards that can capture and share those thoughts for your children. They also provide a Family Guide designed to help families think of new creative ways to come together. I Love You Notes for the Holidays retail for $14.95 and can be found at Island Books, Portage Bay Goods and Third Place Books. More information is also available online at www.familyspring.com

Books -- The whole family will enjoy Robert Sabuda's beautiful new pop up book, America the Beautiful, available at All For Kids Books and Music.

Games -- Apples to Apples and Gray Matter games available at Top Ten Toys, 206-782-0098.

Share the Joy -- Consider a gift this year from your family to a local or national charity. Kids enjoy giving to Heifer International, where your family can change the lives of a family across the globe through a gift of animals such as bees, chickens or goats. You can order a catalog or pick the animal of your family's choice online by going to www.heifer.org

Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two.


They can go anywhere they want, yo. They're 10 and 12 years old, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from listening to their album, She Love Electric (2004, Pattern 25 Records). Indie kid band Smoosh -- made up of sisters Asya and Chloe -- plays spare, piano-driven pop that sometimes hints unmistakably at the work of Tori Amos and Ben Folds Five. On the album's best tracks, lead singer Asya's sweet voice alternates between a quavering whisper and a seriously grrrly yelp.

Smoosh has gained a recent following among the grownups; they've opened for the likes of Sleater-Kinney and Presidents of the United States. The sisters' handmade sound (they wrote and performed all the songs on the album) make them a nice alternative to the shiny prefab dreck that often masquerades as music for the tween set, but this incredibly confident CD might make a fan out of you, too.
To order or for more information, visit www.pattern25.com

Our Gift Gurus

All For Kids Books and Music -- Owner Chauni Haslet has been interviewed on National Public Radio regarding her book suggestions for kids. Her charming store is located just north of University Village at 2900 N.E. Blakeley St., Seattle. 206-526-2768, www.allforkidsbooks.com

Bellevue Art and Frame -- offers an extensive selection of kids' toys and art supplies and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Located in downtown Bellevue near Overlake Hospital at 1024 116th Ave. N.E. 425-453-8959 or www.bellevueartandframe.com

Family owned Izilla Toys is in a house with a fenced yard where kids can play. Find them at 2840 E. Madison, Seattle. 206-322-TOYS.

Top Ten Toys -- The locally owned toy store is in the heart of Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood at 104 N. 85th St. 206-782-0098 or www.toptentoys.com

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